My knees were hurting me the other day due to the arthritis which is such a wonderful family tradition. As I reached for the ibuprofen, I remembered the various remedies that my mom and grandmother used on me for my aches and pains while growing up. My grandmother, Mauricia Carrasco Rivera had a ton of remedies for whatever ailed us. She passed those down to my mom.
As far as they were concerned just about anything I had wrong with me could be solved with 3 primary remedies –
1. Vicks Vaporub
2. a 7-up or
3. a lavativa (enema).
When I mean everything, I pretty much mean anything. All colds, flu, sniffles, muscle aches, headaches, etc. required what seems like 2 inch thick layers of vaporub on the bottom of our feet and all over our chest. If it made you sweat, that was a good thing. For good measure they stuck it in our nostrils too.
If it was stomach related then the answer was to drink a 7-Up. All you had to do was burp and you would feel all better. I remember hearing George Lopez mention this in one of his stand up routines and it surprised me that someone other than my mom and grandmother followed this line of thought.
The final remedy was the worst of all. Somehow my mom felt that the root of all problems that I ever had were the result of toxins and poisons that I carried in my colon. Those horrible toxins needed flushing out with an enema. Today the mere glance at a hot water bottle gives me the chills because I expect a long white hose to be coming out of the end of it destined to go where no man has gone before. My mom would get very upset with me because I kept kidding her that I hoped I never broke my leg because an enema would be her first treatment option.
Other treatments included olive oil (either straight out of the bottle or heated), a big paper cone that they stuck in your ear and lit on fire (seriously, I am not kidding) and copious amounts of Karo syrup. Of course no good Mexican mom would be without manzanilla, yerba buena, epazote and canela. And for good measure, a headache needed some Mejoral and a Coke.
Don’t get me wrong. They never tried to hurt me. Every little bit of treatment they gave me came with a great amount of love. Whether or not it had a placebo effect is unknown. All I know is that when they finished doctoring us I usually felt better.
A big part of what they did was purely financial. Doctors then, as now, were pretty far out of a single mom’s budget for two little boys. It was much cheaper to buy a few herbs that would otherwise do the trick.
My mom was a very smart woman. She became one of the very first Certified Respiratory Therapists in El Paso, despite the fact she never finished high school. Despite all my efforts, however, she would never answer my “scientific” questions that I asked about those remedies. I took a lot of Biology and Chemistry classes and had my doubts about what she did for us. Her only response was “You’re not dead, are you?”
And you know, she was right. I am still counted among the living. I still drink manzanilla when my stomach is upset, and a 7 Up or Sprite never hurts when I have a tummy ache.
Mexican moms, you gotta love em.