Seems like every week there’s a new medical breakthrough in the news. From cutting-edge medications to ground-breaking therapies, from robotic joint replacement to full-face transplants, doctors and scientists are performing miracles undreamed of even a decade ago.
But back on the home front, all those little maladies that tend to make life miserable on a short-term basis are still being treated successfully with the good old home remedies that have been handed down through the generations.
For instance, I can recall many of my childhood pals who were given gallons of homemade chicken soup when they came down with a stubborn cold or the flu. My mother, however, was never a member of the chicken-soup brigade. Instead, she was a devotee of the beef-broth-and-crackers school of home medicine. Bullion was a staple on our kitchen-based medical shelf.
A cup of the hot broth along with a few soda crackers made the queasiest tummy settle down.
Another of mom’s cure-alls was that thick, disgusting stuff known as caster oil. When mom brought out the dreaded bottle, we realized it would be one of those times when the cure was worse than the malady. A big spoonful of the hated remedy was always dispensed with a chaser of orange juice. For years, my feelings about orange juice were colored by the unfortunate association with mom’s yucky caster oil.
One of the strangest home remedies in mom’s little black bag was her wet-and-dry-cloth cure for a sore throat. Whenever one of the family’s foursome of kids began the coughing and hoarseness that signaled a throat infection, mom would break out the Vicks VapoRub and her stash of soft wool cloths. At bedtime, mom would liberally coat the patient’s throat with the Vicks. Next came one of the soft wool cloths, which had been dipped in warm water and wrung out. Then, the whole arrangement was covered with a second, dry layer of cloth.
Though far from fashionable, the results of this odd procedure were surprisingly soothing. To this day, I have no idea why or how this treatment worked, but I can testify that no sore throat could stand up to the strange neck dressing. Inevitably, by morning mom could claim another victory over any germ or virus that had tried to invade the throat of one of her children.
On rare occasions, if one of us developed a really persistent cold that threatened to spread throughout the whole family, mom would bring out the big guns with one of her infamous hot toddies.
This lemon-based drink was laced with some potent kind of alcoholic additive. I never knew what the magic ingredients were, but as I downed a mug full of the steaming brew, the vapors made my head swim. Although it was hard to swallow, it worked miracles in breaking fevers and opening those stuffed breathing passages. And a mug-full insured a long and peaceful sleep.
Modern science has investigated hundreds of home remedies in search of any with real medicinal powers. Those found to have merit have been improved upon and adapted for standard clinical use.
But, if we tell our doctor about the wonders of many of the old-fashioned remedies we grew up with, chances are the medical professional will simply shake his head at our gullibility.
Still, when I have one of those rare bouts of tummy upset, nothing will make me feel better than a mug of hot beef bullion and a few soda crackers. Mom’s medical miracles still have a place in my home collection of cures.