'Belief kill and belief cure'
I’m sick. Last Friday, out of nowhere, I got slapped with the mother of all flus. The kind where your head hurts and your throat burns and your eyes sink in and your fever makes you hallucinate about runaway baby prams and lost parking tickets. That kind of sick.
In a desperate move to quickly get better, I sought the advice of family and friends in finding naturopathic cures for my ailments. From the responses I got, clearly, these people are not my friends.
My best friend and my lawyer (two separate people) recommended I soak ginger and garlic in a white rum solution and then drink it. I peeled a fresh root of ginger and mashed a head of garlic and set them to soak. By day two, the potion had turned green and my entire apartment building smelt like bad takeaway Chinese food – and still, I drank it.
You never truly know how good your gag reflexes are until you drink day-old garlic waters. I will admit, though, each time I took a swig, it gave me at least two hours’ relief from my symptoms. I’m considering stocking a Mason jar of the concoction.
I guess to its praise, good ol’ Wray and his Nephew seem to be a common thread in most home remedies shared with me.
• Soak ganja in white rum and drink it for fever. (Didn’t try this because the herb is still illegal last I checked). This remedy has also been credited with the setting back of broken bones.
• Sop (Yes, sop, call it anything else and no one will understand you). Sop with white rum. (Didn’t try this because I don’t know how I would get the smell out of my mattress).
• Drink white rum and black coffee and wrap yourself up tight under a thick blanket to sweat out the fever. (I am still befuddled by the notion that making myself hotter will cool me down, and so I didn’t try this).
The exercise got me thinking about other odd Jamaican home remedies I have heard.
Uncle swears blind by a thick, flavourful cane piece rat soup to cure whooping cough. I’m still trying to figure out if you are supposed to eat the rat meat or just drink the broth. You may get leptospirosis and die – but at least you wouldn’t be coughing anymore.
When a baby has the hiccups, mothers load thread with the world’s fattest wad of spit and place it on their baby’s forehead. Just great.
For an asthmatic child, apparently curing it is as simple as measuring them against a papaya tree and marking their height on the bark. Why are we keeping this a secret?
Have a crick in the neck? No problem, man! Get a left-handed person to give you a whiplash and you’ll feel as good as new. But it has to be a left-handed person. I’m not sure if an ambidextrous chap would work as well.
And no one can forget the fashionable lime leaf under your tightly tied tie-head to cure a headache.
Lime juice is the miracle cure for any and every STI, and apparently, there’s no pregnancy a hot soda and aspirin can’t handle.
Pinkeye sufferers are encouraged to flush the affected eye with urine – ‘renk’ urine.
Soak a scorpion in white rum and use the mixture to cure menstrual cramps (though I don’t know if you are intended to drink it or sop with it).
Country people say, “Belief kill and belief cure” – and they’re right. Some (most) of the remedies above are not for me. Many I find downright ridiculous, and dangerous, but there are people who hold firm to these traditions and can tell you of a time it worked, if not for them directly, for their friend’s friend.
None of the fixes in the second half of this story would I recommend. In fact, there needs to be some public education to dispel these myths because I am sure these are the beliefs that kill. As for me, three days into my murky garlic potion and I’m feeling a little better. Perhaps this is the belief that cures.
Week before last, I heard our prime minister say, “I am convinced that in this country, we have the cure for every disease in the world.” Perhaps she’s right. Credit where it is due, someone must have been on the brink of suffering to be willing to try just about anything to ease their discomfort. And some of those things actually worked and were passed down through the generations.
Many of our Jamaican folkloric remedies seem like sure kills to the outside world, but every one of us knows at least one remedy you learnt from your granny that sounds absolutely ridiculous – but it works.
What strange Jamaican home remedies have you been taught? I’d love to hear.