Informant: That was my situation, I got married at 18 and at 19 I had my first daughter. That is when all of the wives tales emerged. All of my family members shared with me their tips and tricks. My first daughter was very colicky so the first one I remember was feeding her Yerba Buena. It was very hard because Doctors told me not to give her anything, but my family was telling me to. From a science perspective I knew that was ridiculous, but at the end of the day I did it because what harm could be done?
Interviewer: Can you guide me through what they told you to do?
Informant: First of all every woman in the family had Yerba Buena, so my Mom called me and told me to come over when I told her my daughter was colicky. She gave me my own little sprout, and a pot to plant my own because she told me that I was gonna need it. First you wash them really really good because they’ve been out in the dirt. And then you put 2-3 leaves and boil it and it’ll turn a light brown, but don’t let that scare you. You have to cool it before you put it in the bottle. I tasted it, it tastes like mint and water. No sugar. You don’t put sugar, you just let the leaves lose in the water.
Interviewer: How much would you feed her?
Informant: No more than an ounce, I would give her more as she grew up but usually just an ounce.
Interviewer: Did you see it work?
Informant: Yes, I saw it work. You have to burp the baby after they drink. When they have colic they are tense and crying– usually that’s how you know. You will see the relief in them, they will start relaxing- at least she did. She was able to calm herself.
Interviewer: What does this practice mean to you?
I think this is where the conflict between Americanized medicine and, I’m forgetting the word, what do they call it now? Alternative medicine. We used to call it home medicine, back in the day that is how we had to go about treating it when medicine was new. People knew this stuff, and even today some of it is true.
Any other comments?
No. I just think when you are a young mother you just want your baby to be happy. I was skeptical when my family told me about this, but I saw the proof in my own eyes. So, I guess I started to, um, trust the remedies more.
The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.
My Mother and I often joke about how horrible babies we were, and she often tells us the stories of the different practices that my Nana would teach her to calm us down. My grandmother lives in our house in San Diego and still practices many forms of folk medicine and plants her Yerba Buena in our garden to this day. Over the phone I asked my Mom about the different practices we would talk about to understand the context better.
As the informant points out, this is a perfect example of folk medicine as it can not be proven with “science” but has passed down in our family for generations. Since the informant has worked in the healthcare industry for most of her professional life, she is often conflicted with following these home remedies even though they work because she is around medical professionals on a daily basis. However, I believe that she still practiced many of them and tells my sister’s who now have children of their own to practice them not only because they work, but to preserve our Mexican culture and roots.