We’ve come a long way from the homeopathic remedies our Hispanic grandmas used to fix from weeds and herbs and spices. Thanks to a government that’s eager to push pills, and medical breakthroughs, we’ve pretty much invented a “pill for everything”. Is it any better, though? I mean, sure we have marvelous ways of alleviating common sicknesses and bothersome icky feelings like colds, headaches and menstrual cramps. But it seems that our nation is almost too quick to prescribe pills for every symptom which don’t always treat the root of the problem. And even though the FDA wants you to believe that this is ultimately better for you, odds are that it isn’t. What makes their drugs any better than the drugs sold on the street? Aren’t modern doctors nothing more than drug dealers with degrees?
I myself am a traditional kind of gal. I’ve turned away from the pop-a-pill-and-feel-better mode. Years ago, while suffering a work-induced nervous breakdown, I opted out of anti-depressants and chose an over-the-counter herbal “remedy” called St. John’s Wort. The effect was not only astounding, but affordable. I knew that it wasn’t a catch-all, however, and I wondered about the long-term effects. Not enough is known about these things and I often fear that in the end it’ll prove to be as harmful as snuff. So, I am always careful to suggest that if you do opt for a root or an herb or an unconventional type of therapy, please research its effects on your body closely. Then, monitor it. Odds are that if the change is hastily dramatic, it may not be so great for you in the long run. So BE CAUTIOUS.
Puerto Ricans are notorious for incorporating nature and its elements in everything. So why not in their healing? The island’s rich plant-life, ancient history, and the ritual-filled religion santeria, result in a host of natural (and spiritual) remedies. Folk medicine and other concoctions often have magical sounding names and seemingly miraculous results. Carried by word-of-mouth, these strange potions and such have managed to exist for centuries. The elders of my family were notorious for always knowing the right thing to use. Here are some of my faves:
- The Aguas – It is no secret that Puerto Rico, being the isla del encanto have an affinity for all things related to water (duh!). There’s agua de azahar (for nerves), agua florida (for spiritual cleansing), and agua rosada (for perfuming & cleansing), just to name a few.
- Alcohol – My grandma loved the multi-use of household alcohol. We used it not just because of its smell, but because it cured headaches (poured onto a handerkerchief and tied around the forehead) and italleviated itchy mosquito bites. Sometimes, we used it to bring down a fever, but it didn’t always work so well for that. But it did smell good. Yummy!
- Vino, Carne, y Hierro – This is great because it helps with anemia and is supposed to take care of iron deficiencies. It also helps with irregular menstrual cycles. Don’t even ask me how I heard about that. Ancient Puerto-Rican secret.
- Hierba Buena – Used as a home remedy for digestive systems everywhere, this is the stuff that grandma loves to give her grandkids. They use this stuff for everything such as pain in your feet, nausea, cough, colitis and other intestinal problems.
- Aceite de corojo – This is a bit on the magical side. Originating from the santeria practice (and a bit of voodoo background), this inherited oil is specifically used in orisha rituals to ward off mischievous and evil spirits which cause various afflictions. Puerto Rican & Cuban Americans, steeped in their familial roots still opt sometimes for the more fantasical world of the unexplained, to ward off illness.
- Rum – If there is one thing the Puerto Ricans are proud of, it’s their rum. We are still the greatest export of rum in the world. Anyone who’s been to the island can visit the Bacardi rum factory which still boasts a strong and thriving business. That being said, rum has been incorporated into our healing. It’s a surefire way to rid oneself of a nagging phlegmy cough and can knock you out much like the American Nyquil.
Those are the ones I could think of at the moment. Feel free to pursue whatever your heart desires, as long as it doesn’t worsen your conditions. But if you feel worse, the doctor’s office is still probably your best bet.
Here’s to your health!