If you feel ill or under the weather, it makes sense to see a physician, or talk to your pharmacist about the cause of the illness and how to cure it. For centuries, however, people have also turned to traditional home health remedies in an attempt to deal with minor ailments; these are the treatments that your grandma would’ve recommended, and her grandma before that. You may well have tried some of these treatments yourself when you were younger, and even though they may not have worked, at least they made your nana happy.
1. Honey for Sore Throats
There are many reputed home remedies for scratchy throat, and as having a sore throat can be very debilitating, any remedy that works is always gratefully appreciated. Mary Poppins famously sang that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but when it comes to a scratchy throat, a spoonful of honey might be the one to turn to. The soothing stickiness of the honey as it goes down the throat may indeed help to relieve irritation and prevent coughing for a short while, and it has long been thought of by some as one of our natural healers. Other possible sore throat remedies range from popsicles to soup and boiled licorice root (don’t try to mix them all together).
2. Snowdrops for Headaches
Sometimes traditional cures can lead to significant scientific breakthroughs and cutting edge new medical treatments. Take the humble snowdrop; this pretty little flower has long been used in the eastern European country of Bulgaria to cure headaches, with sufferers rubbing the plant on their heads until the pain is relieved. This tradition spread to Russia and then onto other countries where the Russian diaspora spread. Now the snowdrop is looked upon in a different light, as it is from this plant that galantamine is derived, a drug that is at the forefront of the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.
3. Leeches for Bloodletting
When we think of medieval medicine, one image above all others comes to mind: the use of live leeches for bloodletting. For centuries physicians believed that leeches sucking blood from their victims, I mean patients, would cure just about any ill. This practice continued well into the 19th century, with a reported 40 million leeches a year used for medical bloodletting in France alone. What a silly idea, or perhaps not, for the leech is making a comeback in the most exalted medical circles. They are now being used in some of the world’s leading hospitals after microsurgery as they are very good at draining excessive blood without causing infection and help to prevent dangerous blood clotting.
4. Garlic for Cold and Flu
When you have cold, or, even worse, flu, you don’t feel like doing anything, but many believe that reaching for a garlic clove can soon have you back on your feet. There are many health-giving properties associated with garlic, and it’s claimed to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and a natural anti-biotic. If you have cold or flu, chop one or two garlic cloves into fine pieces and then stir into a glass of cold water. This isn’t a drink you’ll want to linger over, so take it in large gulps, and wait for it to work its magic. As an added bonus it’s reputed to keep vampires at bay, although less fortunately it may also have the same effect on partners.
5. Bread for Calluses
If you’ve been suffering from calluses or corns, strap some bread onto your feet. Not just plain bread of course, that would be ridiculous; no, for this traditional health remedy to work the bread has to be stale and thoroughly soaked in vinegar. Use tape to stick the bread onto your foot, and cover with plastic. The longer you can leave it in place the more effective the treatment will be, but it may make a walk to the shops or to pick your kids up from school problematic for a number of reasons.
We’ve taken a light-hearted look at some traditional cures and remedies of the kind that our grandma’s would have recommended, but as the snowdrop connection with galantamine shows, some of these old cures may contain an element of truth to them. There can be no harm in trying these remedies, and they may even make a person feel better because of a placebo effect. Even so, if you feel ill for a prolonged period of time, it’s best to seek professional medical advice and attention rather than reaching for a loaf of bread.