Looking at an old issue of Mother Earth News an ad caught my eye. In big letters across the top it read: “Is your doctor too lazy to read about honey, garlic and vinegar?” It made me smile.
Not long ago we went to a gathering of friends, farmers and homesteaders in a nearby county. It was a potluck supper followed by a discussion of home remedies. There was a lot of talk that night about the benefits of honey, garlic and vinegar.
Home remedies aren’t always sensible, of course. From my research of medical care and folk medicine in 18th Century England I’ve learned that there were plenty of “cures” being used and promoted that are ludicrous to a 21st Century reader. A red hot poker under the nose is not a sensible way to treat nosebleeds, sticking orange peels in one’s nostrils is not a good way to treat a head cold, and lying with a kitten on one’s stomach will ordinarily not cure a stomach ache, for example. But there are some tried and true folk remedies that do continue to make sense, but aren’t likely to ever be recommended by a physician. Chicken soup is good for colds. It just is. Local honey helps fight seasonal allergies. Garlic helps cure all sorts of ills.
For most of human history, of course, there wasn’t a CVS or Walgreens on every corner. I’ve heard my mother talk about going out into the mountain forests with her mother when she was a child, as her mother gathered the herbs they would use for household medicines during the year. For most of our history people depended upon nature and the wisdom of preceding generations to supply the things they would need to treat illnesses.
We’ve mainly been growing culinary herbs but Cherie (the herbalist of our household) plans to add more medicinal herbs this year and she’s also been learning how to identify and use the remedies which grow all around us.
While the disappearance of absurd folk remedies is no great loss, we ought not toss out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. When honey, garlic or vinegar can do the job as well or better than any expensive synthetic pharmaceutical, then the choice should be obvious.