Both my parents are certified quacks who take great pride in their own brand of home remedies beginning with hot showers and mind management.
‘Take a hot shower’, Dad would say.
‘It’s all in your mind, get it out of your mind’, Mum would declare.
Growing up, these were my parents’ perennial responses to any of my maladies.
As COVID-19 continues to rewire our lives, I find myself harkening back to my parents’ approach to illnesses in a bid to avoid a visit to the GP and possible exposure to infection.
Mum’s name is preceded by the ‘Doctor’, thanks to her PhD in Jewish literature – a title she seemingly confuses with prowess in medicine. She is very studied in her approach, constantly reading up on naturopathy or learning from ethnic Indian folklore.
Mama treats and prevents cold/coughs with varied combinations of pepper, cloves, garlic, honey, turmeric, milk and brandy. She once cured my sinusitis by tying warm papaya leaves on my head, coupled with breathing turmeric fumes straight off a hot iron pan – nothing short of divine healing. She uses onions to cure nose bleeds, insect bites and chest congestions.
As a child, I was made to wear a cut onion under my hat every summer to keep heat strokes at bay. Insomnia was managed with fennel. Antiseptic baths were created by boiling neem leaves in water.
Then there is the ultimate piece of knowledge mum gained off her naturopath uncle. It is apparently the elixir for long life and youthfulness – earthworms soaked in water overnight and consumed on an empty stomach. She hasn’t tested the credibility of this theory yet, but who is she to argue with a man turning 103?
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Dad is a different kettle of fish. Contrary to mum’s researched approach, his arsenal is brimming with concocted ideas. Even when he employs a known remedy, he puts his own quack spin on things which truly boggles the mind.
Most of dad’s remedies are aggressive in nature – to torment and scare away the malady. He attacks his liver with supernatural amounts of chilli everyday – attack really is the best form of defence, I suppose. According to him, copious amounts of chilli is also mass murder for ‘germs’ – increasing his intake of chilli and grease during a stomach upset to show the stomach who is boss.
He swears by very hot showers – burning his cracked vertebrae and creaky joints into fluidity. ” ‘Very hot’ also extends to his coffee – sanitising the inner throat to keep it grease and virus free. He even uses heat to hasten the healing of cuts, scrapes, etc – not the traditional sterile cauterization you probably imagine – just a casual dab with a lit cigarette.
The thing that baffles me is that Dad’s remedies work incredibly – for the most part. Those that backfire are nevertheless entertaining for those watching.
I remember sitting on the kitchen benchtop, watching him prepare a healing brew for a cold. He poured himself a stiff shot of rum, added 2 teaspoons of pepper and half a glass of boiling hot water – very promising until he topped it up with ice-cold Coke!
Then there’s the time he treated our dog Spark for a cough. With mum as an assistant, he gave Spark some human cough syrup and a tiny dash of rum. Spark began to act quite strangely straight after. We rushed him off to the vet only to be told that our dog was drunk.
Not to mention, the time daddy washed his face with detergent and Scotch Brite? In his defence, he did manage to get rid of the tan, albeit by replacing it with red patches.
Yes, I have been born into a wealth of quack knowledge. Expectedly, while the scientific world is frantically cracking the code for a vaccine against COVID-19, I will be ‘quacking’ my way into good health.
The ‘unexplainables’ of this world are numerous – some must be tested, some are best viewed from a distance. Nevertheless, I have a hunch my parents’ quack remedies will carry well – even the ones best viewed from afar.
Laughter, after all, is the best medicine!
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