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The Truth Behind Kitchen Cabinet Cures

On passing his M.D., Thomas Merino deSouza returned to Goa for his rightful share of congratulations and celebrations. In the ensuring merriment he managed to catch a cold, which he tried to ignore, until his mother heard him sneeze explosively. He was whisked into a hermetically sealed room where his head was liberally doused with onion juice, his feet were thrust into hot water laced with mustard paste, his chest was covered with a boiled rice poultice and he was given a hot feni with honey to drink. “M.D. or not” proclaimed Mama,

“I am still the authority on the common cold” and ignored his feeble protests; next morning the young doctor awoke – somewhat smelly – but without a trace of a sniffle. Despite all the marvels of modern medicine we mothers still cling to the good old home remedies passed down by our mothers who got them from their mother's mothers. Let's look at whether some of these homespun Mother-Knows-Best remedies are froth or substance…

Soda after a heavy meal settles the stomach

No. Effervescent substances only make you burp and cause the acid from your belly to flow back into your throat. Instead, if you've eaten not wisely but too well loosen the belt around your waist, which can cause pressure on the abdomen.

• Don't lie down after you're eaten, otherwise you'll get heartburn because it takes several hours for the stomach to empty its contents into the intestine. Avoid bending over after meals, which can cause the stomach contents to regurgitate (back up) into your throat.

• Pop an antacid — liquid works quicker — before going to bed.

• For acute gas, gently massage the abdomen and apply a hot water bottle or heating pad to cosset the area. Ayurvedic practitioner

Dr. Ashwini Kumar A Raut suggests a mixture of saunf, jeera and rock salt in warm water.

Chew ginger root for indigestion

It works. Even better is a concoction of ginger and lemon juice with a pinch of salt, according to Raut.

Suck a sour lime for nausea

Yes, but only if nausea is combined with acidity, according to Ayurvedic Practitioner Dr. Nayan Trivedi BAMS. For motion sickness try candied ginger instead. Have a light bland meal before leaving and keep your head steady with a neck pillow.

Hot brandy spiked with honey eases a cold

Yes, it seems to work, although nobody really knows why. Perhaps it is the heat that does the trick. For children Dr. Raut suggests fresh juice of tulsi with honey — nice 'n' hot.

Feed a cold with a steaming bowl of soup

Yes. This comfort food helps to open pores, produce sweat and kill the cold. Like chicken broth. Or onion soup with an extra pinch of pepper powder and some ginger flakes, suggests Dr. Raut. Take half kilo spinach, 250 gm turnips with leaves, 250 gm tomatoes, 75 gm coriander leaves, 25 gm ginger. Chop. Boil in 1 litre of water, strain. Add salt, lime and roasted, ground cumin seed (Vithaldas Modi, Naturopath.)

Ginger tea for a nasty cold

Yes. It's soothing plus ginger is an anti-inflammatory. Go right ahead and sip a hot cuppa every 2 hours.

Hot milk with haldi for a throat infection

Yes, says Dr. Raut. Turmeric is an antiseptic; the hot milk makes it go down easier and feels soothing.

Lay off ice-cream/curd/fries if you have a bad throat

Your mother was right. Dr. Raut bans deep fried stuff, curd, ice cream, chilled water, banana, custard apples that thicken secretion.

Gargle with hot salt water to treat a sore throat

Not only does salt water gargling help sore throats but also research shows daily gargling may ward off colds. Dr. Subhra Datta, M.D., author of the Complete Health Encyclopaedia; advises: “Stir one tsp of common salt in a tumbler of boiled water. Cool to the temp your throat can bear and gargle so that the contents stay put for some time in the throat. Then spit out the salty water. Repeat two to three times a day.”

Haldi powder heals a wound

Haldi is an antibiotic, agrees Dr. Trivedi. But Dr. Arvind Pednekar, General Practitioner, is skeptical, because “It is difficult to clean out a haldi encrusted wound, and the efforts may lead to infection.” He recommends pouring some whisky on a cut, if nothing else is available.

Slaked lime (chuna) to remove a wart

Never, cautions Dr. Trivedi. Chuna can infect a broken skin surface.


Raw potato peel to treat superficial burns

This treatment was actually pioneered by noted Mumbai Plastic Surgeon, M H Keswani, who found that minor burns stayed moist longer and healed faster when potato peel bandages were used in place of conventional dressing. Raw potato slices have also been used to treat sunburns and acne with good results.

Milk and flour paste brings a boil to a head

Yes. Dr. Trivedi suggests that you make a poultice and apply it. Regular atta works well enough, but you can also add dried and powdered jattiadhi or champa.

Get rid of a stye with a raw garlic or onion

Never. You'll be left with an unbearably burning sensation, which will certainly not frighten the stye away. Instead use compresses of sterile cotton wool dipped in nearly hot water and then wring out. Apply to the eye for 10-15 minutes several times a day, advises Dr. Datta.

Kokum water to soothe hives

You can drink it or apply it and it works, says Dr. Trivedi. So does my mother's trick of rubbing a brass ashtray on the affected area!

A hot rice poultice for joint pain

Yes. This works on the principle of superficial moist heat therapy that draws out the pain and stiffness.

Clove oil for a toothache

Dip, not soak, a small ball of cotton wool in clove oil, says Dr. Mahesh Lalvani,Dental Surgeon. Apply gently and directly only on the cavity, or you may burn yourmouth, gums and cheeks, as it is caustic. Don't use a hot water compress or gargle because this will cause the infection to spread and step up the pain.

Ice cubes cool a fever

An ice pack can bring body temperature down naturally, says Dr. Arvind Pednekar.Black coffee to stay alert for nighttime swotting Caffeine is a stimulant. It'll keep you awake but also make you jumpy and the effect can last for as long as 20 hours. So don't overdo the java habit because your body needs sleep.

An onion prevents intoxication

Dr. Trivedi suggests that it is smart to down an onion sandwich before you party. And use a lot of mouthwash later.

Fish and milk eaten together causes white patches

No. Otherwise we would have seen a whole heaps of baked fish and sole meuniére with leucoderma (vitiligo), which is an autoimmune condition of malfunctioning pigment producing cells.

A hot honey and lime drink when you wake up helps you to detoxify

“No,” says Niti Desai. “There's no scientific evidence of this. A glass of room temperature water on rising clears out your bowels. That's all.”

An onion helps to revive someone who has fainted

Yes. A person faints because the brain is starved of oxygen. According to Dr.Pednekar, an onion has the same effect as ammonia-based smelling salts, which shock the system into reviving. Follow this up by laying the person down and raising the legs on a chair to encourage more oxygen rich blood to flow to the brain.

Drink water for a headache

Works only if your head pain is due to dehydration caused by heat, exercise, diarrhoea, vomiting, which causes the blood pressure to drop.

If you see a person having a seizures get him to smell a leather chappal and put a spoon in his mouth

No. Making a person smell leather to revive him has no scientific basis. Forcing a spoon into a person's mouth to protect his tongue can do more harm than good because the teeth may be damaged or the person may unintentionally bite the helper as the jaw muscle contracts. Instead roll the person onto his side to ease breathing, away from harmful things, loosen clothing around the neck, and place a pillow under the head, says Dr. Datta.

Eat cooling foods in summer

Not true either, according to Desai. “Although you'll naturally gravitate to fruits and salads, watch out that they are washed and hygienically prepared because water borne diseases proliferate in the heat. Be careful about dahi and milky drinks and coconut chutney, which encourage bacteria.” And remember to water yourself in the summer, to discourage dehydration; down 8 to 10 glasses. Drink juices and clear soups too.

Maize (corn) skin water dissolves kidney stones

Yes. Ten years down the road Dr. T M deSouza, neurologist, MD, prescribed this to his patients with happy results. Crush the leaves. Boil and filter. Drink copiously. It's harmless and it works, according to Trivedi. Limejuice that contains citric acid works even better since it combines with oxalate in the stones and expels it.

Eat heaty foods in the winter

“This has no scientific basis,” says Niti Desai. “What you need to do is to eat more in winter, as you need more energy to keep warm. Enjoy piping hot soups and eat Vitamin E rich nuts to keep your skin supple.”

Article by: TeleLIFE

Posted: May Issue 2009

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