Part one: Medicine from my childhood
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
Growing up in an immigrant household garnered me my fair share of confused looks from my more Canadian friends in school. I often heard the phrase “You’re so Polish” after doing something I would consider normal. Many home-style remedies and old bits of knowledge have been passed down from generation to generation and remained in my family for years, including potions and concoctions to aid in health and beauty. These remedies may be the reason I was called a gypsy for a brief period in high school—or maybe it was the waist-length hair and the old Grolsch bottle I drank my orange juice out of. Some of these work better than any product on the shelf, and some, I must admit, I have never dared to try. Some are mundane practices I don’t even notice anymore, and some still amaze me.
Cure the hiccups. This remedy has amazed me ever since my sister passed it along, courtesy of my grandma. On a spoonful of sugar, pour just three drops of bitters cocktail flavouring and ingest. Your hiccups will go away instantly. Forget asking your friend to scare you or drinking a glass of water upside down; bitters cocktail is your only guarantee. I don’t know who thought of it first but the effect is just incredible.
Soothe aches and pains. Now we get into a more traditional remedy. Take a 1/4 cup of small amber bits and cover them with spirits. Let sit for a month. When the mixture is ready, rub it on your muscles or head when you have aches and pains. Another remedy for pains such as headaches, or even general feelings of sadness and depression, is a chestnut. Just carry one in your pocket. My mother claims they have “good energy”—and mother knows best, so try it and see!
Cure a sty. If you have a sty on your eye, rub gold on it… yeah. Even my grandma doesn’t believe this one, but when I was eight years old I rubbed my father’s wedding ring on my eye for 20 minutes anyway.
Fix a hangover. When hungover, my dad says there’s nothing better than pickle juice! By this, he actually meant the juice from the jar of pickles in your fridge. I have never tried this, but go for it—this one likely works, because pickle juice contains a lot of sodium, and the sodium can help replenish electrolytes.
Finally, a cure for the common cold. Something that I still do when I’m sick is mix a minced clove of garlic into a warm glass of milk along with a spoonful of honey. You will stink, but I firmly believe in this recipe’s healing properties.
Solve sleepless nights. Whenever I had problems falling asleep, my mother would tell me to have a glass of milk and a banana. This simple combination of calcium and potassium is not only tasty, it’s also a wonderful pre-bedtime ritual.
For more stressful occasions, my mother might recommend something a little more intense: valerian. I only used it once, in Grade 10. I was stressing out the night before my provincial math exam and my mother advised me to take a few drops of the herb (in liquid form). After taking the drops of Valerian, not only did I toss and turn for hours, I also had auditory hallucinations. Algebraic equations tormented me for a few hours. Don’t try this at home kids—it wasn’t as fun as it may sound.
Lavender is a safer bet for sleepy students. The properties of this fragrant flower were discovered by Canadian hippies long ago, so this may not be news to you. Place a bundle of lavender by your bed for a calming effect, or crumble some into a potpourri pouch and keep it in your closet to keep clothes smelling lovely. And best of all, lavender, much like many of these other remedies, is easy to find and totally natural.