N.No matter how big or small the disease, someone in my family always has a cure for it.
As a child, at the first possible sign of a sore throat, my mother brought water to a boil, poured it into a mug, added vinegar and salt, and then, when it was warm, let me gargle the mixture. She used a similar salt water cocktail when I lost my first tooth. I swirled the warm brew around the rubbery space that once held my tooth to stop the bleeding and help the area heal. If I had a cough, she would slice a lemon, squeeze the juice from each slice into a mug, warm it up, and add a dash of honey. The tart, sweet mixture soothed my throat and chest while mucus was broken down.
Although I didn’t notice it during my childhood, these remedies were evidence that wellness was always within reach. The natural home remedies my mom and grandmother made are a continuation of the natural remedies my great grandmother and the matriarchs before her created to keep their health. As a Garifuna American with roots between West and Central Africa, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Honduras, my family passed on the knowledge of their ancestors and healing traditions that have impacted my own health and wellness program.
While there isn’t much medical research on a range of natural home remedies, many members of the loan family give them the holistic information needed to manage their ailments. “The truth is, if these remedies hadn’t worked, they wouldn’t have been passed down through generations for centuries,” says Suncear Scretchen, wellness coach and energy practitioner. “When you practice a treatment that has been in your family for years, you are drawing on the wisdom of your ancestors that is inherent in the intelligence of your body.”
I did not make the connection between the natural remedies my family passed down and my innate understanding of them early in my life. However, as I got older, I felt drawn to go the more natural route to address certain health issues like stomach pain, skin irritation, or an impending cold with plants like aloe vera and ginger root. I have a number of childhood memories that involve traveling to the market to pick up an item or two and prepare a natural home remedy.
My mom always had anise or anise on hand because we needed its anti-inflammatory properties to treat digestive problems or other purposes. The women in my family also use it to treat menstrual cramps and related pain, a strategy some research supports. When I had symptoms, my mother would boil anise, strain the herbs, and pour me a cup.
Now, almost a year after the COVID-19 pandemic, I have relied on natural home remedies to keep myself as healthy as possible. While information about the virus is constantly changing, I’ve made sure to drink teas made with herbs that – given my upbringing – I believe boost my immune system: echinacea, lemongrass, licorice, and peppermint to name a few. I also start my day with warm lemon water for hydration and increasing the absorption of vitamin C, which is known to help fight the common cold.
The natural home remedies that kept me healthy for 32 years have done the same for my entire family and many black, indigenous and colored people (BIPOC).
The natural home remedies that kept me healthy for 32 years have done the same for my entire family and many black, indigenous and colored people (BIPOC). I pick up the items I use for the remedies at my local supermarket or health food store, but they were all on the land owned by my grandparents, great-grandparents, and ancestors. It was natural for them to get what they needed out of the country. When I think of the millennia that these wellness practices have existed, I am extremely grateful that they have remained intact, as this reality speaks to my ancestors’ inherent understanding of botany and the healing powers of nature.
Just as my own mother and grandmother showed me, I look forward to the day that I can show my own children that healing is available. Then they can maintain and improve their well-being with items from their kitchen.
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