Cultura, Familia

Backyard remedies

On Sunday morning during breakfast, I started complaining about an earache.

“Which ear?” my mom asked.

“The right one. I don’t know why it just started hurting,” I told her.

She got up from the table and went to the backyard. A minute or two later she was back with a little green object between her fingers.

“The right one?” she asked to make sure.

I nodded, and she took the small rolled up green stuff (shown above) and stuck it in my ear.

“Es ruda,” she explained. “It’ll make you feel better. Just leave it in there like that for a little while.”

“You know, this reminds me of a conversation I had with Nancy last week,” I explained to my mom. “We were talking about the backyard home remedies our parents use, like sávila (aloe). My tío Pancho would slather it all over her sunburnt arms and back when she returned from a day-long concert. You know, like you would do when we returned from the beach.”

“Oh yeah, the best is when you cool it down in the refrigerator before rubbing it on. Then it’s nice and cool.”

“I thought it was weird when I was kid. It felt all sticky,” I admitted.

“Yeah, but it helps,” my mom replied.

“I know.”

Over the years, our backyard had provided all sorts of plants for home remedies. We have sávila (aloe) ready to provide some relief from a sunburn. If I have cramps or a sore throat, my mom or grandma will pick off orange (and lemon, I think) blossoms from the trees in the backyard to make té de siete azahares. We also have ruda which my mom has used for earaches for my siblings.

By the time I was done with my breakfast of huevos rancheros, frijoles y chorizo con papa (yum!) my earache was gone.

I love my mom’s (and grandma’s) home remedies.


15 thoughts on “Backyard remedies

  1. Whenever we had a stomachache, my Nana would make us some mint tea. For a cranky baby with gas, chamomile tea in their bottle.
    Always, aloe for rashes, burnes or cuts.
    Olive oil that had been steeped with garlic and then put in our ears.

    Everything else…Vicks and 7-UP would do the trick! 🙂

    This is one of those things I really want to pass down to my children. We do lots of herbs and natural home remedies. If all else fails (or grandma is around), then I will resort to Motrin or children’s Tylenol. But they already know that mama’s pantry is stocked with teas and tinctures.

  2. Té de manzanilla for stomachaches. When an ankle would swell, my parents would always cut rajas de papa and keep them on my ankles overnight with a bandanna. Mi ‘apa también toma té de cola de caballo a veces y pelo elote para los riñones.

  3. I recall mi abuelitas backyard remedies tambien…Manzanilla or yerba buena for stomach aches y el Aloe Vera for burns y tambien mi tia lo use for her stretch marks. Out here in the desert, there is a plant (I can’t remember what it is called) that grows out in the middle of no where that cures athletes foot.

  4. These remedies are the main reason why I probably went to the doctor twice throughout my childhood. Yerba Buena, manzanilla, even canela replaced the likes of Pepto Bismol, NyQuil, Robitussin and company. There is nothing a te de eucalipto can’t fix.

    As I sit at work with Tylenol running through my veins and an eerie buzz in my head, I long for the days where I didn’t rely so heavily on so-called modern medicine.


  5. Beatriz says:

    When I was 10 or 11 yrs old, my mom called grandma Mosqueda and asked what she should do because I was suffering with swollen tonsils, which somehow was connected to me having sleep apena. My mom boiled some red tomatoes and when they were warm enough for me to withstand the heat radiating from them, she placed them in plastic bags and wrapped them around the bottom of my feet with rags overnight. Sadly the next morning, I had forgotten about the tomatoes, but quickly realized it as I smashed the tomatoes walking towards the restroom! I remember it being such a gross feeling but that did not stop me from having to go and waiting for my mom to remove the tomatoes.

    Whether it “cured” my swollen tonsils…who knows? I would have to ask my mom, considering not too long after I had them removed.

  6. What about the ‘set the newspaper funnel in your ear on fire’ remedy. Horrifying. I also remember my mom putting warm wet rags in my socks during the night when I was sick.

  7. My mom used to put wet trapos on my stomach and forehead when I had a fever.
    And of course, yerbabuena, and savila. I think its so interesting that these “home remedies” that are often ridiculed actually have scientific backing…it’s amazing how human beings learned to use the the plants around them, it is this wisdom passed down through the generations despite the lack of “knowledge” in a scientific sense…

  8. Gustavo Arellano says:

    I spoke about this very subject at a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books. My mom’s remedy: when we had gripa o catarro, she’d boil some tomatoes, put them in a plastic bag, and put our feet in said bags. Worked every time–and a Princeton amigo of mine confirmed its beneficial properties!

  9. Carmen says:

    manzanilla=check, savila=check, cola de caballo=check, basically all the teas=check, vicks=check gingerale or 7up=check- when i sprained my ankle and arm i remember my ma’ wrapping a piece of heated nopal sliced open and wrapped around injured area, next day i was walking and playing like nothing happened, she also used this for cuts and abrasions.

    worst remedy my ma’ swears by, for any ailment you take a pound of liver (ewww yes liver!) boil it, then drink the water it boiled in – this is the reason i never would admit feeling sick, she even tried to trick me once by mixing it in hawain punch like i wouldn’t notice – the mere scent made makes me run!

  10. My abuelita makes a tea with the bouganvillia that grows along the side of the house that she swears cures the common cold. I think it’s the brandy she adds at the end 😉

  11. Vero says:

    Ahh, but there’s nothing like my family’s cure for earaches. You make a cone out of a long piece of paper (newspaper or 11×14 printer paper will do). Stick the small end in your ear and light the other end with a match. Yes, a cone of fire. (Do it near the sink to avoid collateral damage.) The combustion sucks the air out of your ear and you can feel a relieving pop. My 40-year-old brother still swears by it. Of course, he’s hard of hearing in one ear. But for some other great home remedies, check out:

  12. My abuela does almost the same thing whenever any of us grandchildren complain about an earache. She’ll take petals from her geranio (geranium) flowers; boil them, squeeze out excess water, and place them in your ear until the petal dries up. I think it works 100% and will defend it to the death 😉

  13. My grandma does something similar for earaches too, but I believe that she heats up some aloe or maybe it is geranium???

  14. Ti de manzanilla, savila, 7 up, whenever we had a nose bleed she would make us lie down and put a banana peel on our forehead ?? for some reason it seemed to stop or at least we thought it did lol. Sore throats gargle with salt water n lemon or squeeze a half of cup of lime juice salt and tequila then drink it
    Moms is always making some new remedio up but now someone got on top of marketing some of these remedios last time she had a white baggies that said Dona Remedios that you buy at the Hispanic tiendas and there is different kinds for different problems, that was too funny when I seen that though.

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