Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Grandma's home remedies
As a young woman, when she first moved to the 'big city' she had worked as an assistant to a woman who owned a Finnish steam bath and massage parlor (no not that kind!). Working beside Finnish "Lena", my mother learned many of her natural healing methods brought over from the 'old country'. My mother learned how to give the best massages - massaging not only your back and feet, but also your legs, arms, hands, scalp, neck and face. Her massages were simply delicious.
From Lena she also learned a unique way to have a sitz bath. We were given a sitz bath if we had a bad cold or flu (it was not to heal any affliction with our derriere!). My mother felt, done properly, the sitz bath would lower our fever and reduce internal inflammation. She filled the bathtub with about three inches of cold water. A low bench was placed in the middle of the cold water and we sat on it. Our bottoms were not in the water. We were given a facecloth to dunk in the water and then pull up over the area where your leg attaches to your trunk/body. Then we would dip the facecloth back in the cool or cold water and pull it up over the joining area of the other leg. Back and forth for several minutes. There must, of course, be pulse points there at the top of the leg and so the cool water would cool the blood and reduce the fever - or at least that is how I imagine it worked to lower our temperatures. Mom knelt down beside the bathtub and talked away encouraging us for being so brave in the cold water - which only felt cold at first. After the several minutes the water had actually warmed up from absorbing the heat of our bodies! Then we would snuggle into our cozy bed and have the best sleep ever - feeling so attended to, relaxed and loved.
My sister would have seizures if her temperature rose too high, so my mother had another trick up her sleeve to keep her from having high fevers: a cold compress. Cold compresses were wrapped around the trunk of our body, from under the armpits to the top of our legs. She would lay an old woolen blanket cut down to fit the size of our young bodies on the bed. She had old cotton sheets cut just slightly smaller than the woolen cloth. She would run the cotton cloth under cold water, wring it out thoroughly and lay it on the woolen cloth. During this time of preparation she would have been cajoling and begging us to just plop our back down on the cold cloth as fast as we could and she would wrap the edges of it over our belly as fast as she could. Eeeeeeeek - it was cold and we were encouraged to scream and groan in her effort to make it fun. Then the woolen blanket underneath was quickly wrapped around and pinned, allowing none of the cold cloth to be exposed.
We were then tucked into bed and left to read, rest or sleep for half an hour. When she came back to take the compress off, the cold cotton cloth would be steaming warm (even hot) depending on how high a fever we had. It had to then be repeated, but this time she would let us sleep through the night with it on. In the morning we usually woke up fever free. And if it did not cure the illness, it allowed us to sleep and my sister to not be endangered by a seizure. Mother would joke: "If it doesn't kill you, it will cure you!"
The cold compress remedy also can eliminate or lessen a sore throat. The same procedure as above is followed with smaller cotton handkerchief and a big wool sock. Repeat the application in half an hour and it will make a bad sore throat go away or at least become bearable. It really works! Now if you have a terrible sore throat, you should have it checked out by your physician - but while you are waiting for the meds you get to take effect you can always get some added relief from a cold compress. Covered properly with the wool sock, it should do you no harm.
"Applying a compress to a stiff joint or strained muscle is a treatment most of us have used, and a very basic, ancient one. Wraps and compresses, often enhanced with essential oils or herbs, have played a time-honored role as remedies, not just for muscle and joint pain, but also for infections, such as bronchitis and colds. This treatment is also a form of hydrotherapy (water therapy), which was popular in the 19th-century spa culture. Today, compresses are applied either warm or cold or are alternated; wraps are always applied cold. Cold wraps and compresses work by signaling the body to warm itself, boosting circulation and inducing sweating.
Depending on your signs and symptoms, you might use a hot compress, a cold wrap or both. A heated compress dilates blood vessels, brings more blood to the skin's surface in the area applied, is relaxing and relieves aching from inflammation. On the other hand, a wrap or cold compress constricts tissues, feels stimulating and reduces swelling, which is why it is initially used to treat sprains and strains.
"Total Body Wrap: This cold wrap, a treatment promoted by Father Sebastian Kneipp, may at first glance seem to be odd or even damply distasteful - until you try it. It has been found to be very effective for stopping a cold or flu in its tracks if it is done when you feel the first symptoms. It spurs immune responses, lessens lymph congestion and is actually very soothing. First, place a plastic sheet over your bed to protect it. Next, take a hot bath. Rinse with cold water, but don't dry off. wrap yourself in a sheet that has been soaked in cold water and then wrung out (to enhance the healing effects, first add a few drops of Lavender or Rose Essential Oil). Then wrap yourself in a blanket, too. Lie down and cover yourself with at least 1 more blanket. Rest for 30 to 45 minutes. You will feel a relaxing warmth spread over your body. Rinse off."
I would love to hear about any of the old home remedies your parents or grandparents used in your childhood home. Please share some in your comments.
Of course, let's remember that this is not a medical site and what I have shared, or what anyone else shares in their comments, should not be used in place of proper medical care. Plus, good old common sense comes into play here too. Just because something is suggested on a blog doesn't mean we have to go out and try it! Now it is your turn to share your parents or grandparents home remedies!