Rub Yourself with Cabbage & 6 Other Health Tips from Polish Grandmas
small, Rub Yourself with Cabbage
& 6 Other Health Tips From
Polish Grandmas, Photo: Value / EastNews, babcia-z-lekami-fot-value-en.jpg
Garlic for the flu, vinegar for bruises, cabbage for ulceration… Poland’s home remedies passed down from generation to generation make up an entire universe of alternative medicine. Because some of these methods may seem odd, let’s discuss them one by one so that you know which suggestions to accept or reject if you happen to feel unwell in Poland.
The list of home remedies presented below ranges from purely traditional applications of herbs and vegetables to more sophisticated use of modern, over-the-counter drugs. Their popularity is unquestioned and is traditionally carried on by grandmothers, who are the keepers of these time-tested methods.
One thing to remember is that grandmothers usually play a very significant role in Polish families, and it can be a diplomatic disaster not to accept their advice on health and wellness. They are respected not only as the most noble, oldest generation of the family, but also – due to Poland’s troubled history – as experts at getting through tough times. It’s hard to confute the argument that a certain home remedy worked well during World War II or during the most severe periods of poverty under the communist regime...
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Calcium for allergic reactions?
In the event that you have visible symptoms of allergies or experience something that can cause an allergic reaction happens to you (such as a bee sting), Poles will immediately prescribe you calcium. This often-mocked procedure turns out to be quite reasonable at a closer look.
Calcium alleviates allergic symptoms and can be successfully used as an adjuvant medicine to a more serious pharmacological treatment. Even though there is already a lot of calcium in the human organism, it is released slowly, so taking a bit of calcium right after being stung by a bee or eating something that can cause an allergic reaction can be helpful. Furthermore, long-term allergies can cause a deficiency of calcium ions, and taking calcium prevents decalcification of the skeletal system.
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Vitamin C & rutin for… almost everything?
Some Poles are absolutely convinced about the combination of vitamin C and rutin being almost a nostrum. It is supposed to be irreplaceable for strengthening the immune system, treating the common cold and flu, as well as more serious diseases such as anaemia. Unfortunately, scientists have been researching its real effectiveness for 70 years now, and the results are not so much in favour of this medicine.
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For example, the Medical Journal of Australia performed a typical placebo versus active agent experiment on a group of 400 patients diagnosed with the common cold. Two hundred of them were given a placebo, while the other half was given vitamin C with rutin. Results were as follows:
Patients taking placebo experienced alleviated cold symptoms comparing to those given vitamin C and rutin.
Even though every human body desperately needs vitamin C and its deficiency can lead to diseases as serious as scurvy, the necessary amount of it is provided within a regular balanced diet. An abundance of it is simply removed from the organism and has no effect on the human body.
Why are Poles so crazy about eating extracted vitamins? Because they were discovered by Poles – Dr Kazimierz Funk and his successor Dr Tadeusz Reichstein.
Solution of peroxide for a sore throat?
Peroxide, very popular as an antiseptic used for disinfecting flesh wounds, is sometimes recommended as the best thing for gargling in case of a sore throat. However, according to doctors, it is not. Moreover, even its antiseptic properties are being questioned, as it can be harmful to the more delicate tissues of the human body.
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All in all, we don’t recommend gargling peroxide – even though you might be asked to swallow a raw egg instead. This method is no less popular in Poland, but also not safe. It can bring on serious consequences, like contracting salmonella.
Coca-Cola for gastric problems?
Coca-Cola is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of obsolete Polish home remedies. Surprisingly, almost every grandmother will persuade you to drink a glass of flat Coke to alleviate vomiting or nausea… and it works, at least in some specific cases, according to Researchgate.net:
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[Drinking flat Coca-Cola] can help if vomiting and diarrhoea is caused by phytobezoar – pieces of undigested plants such as seeds or fibres that stick in one's stomach.
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Honey & onion syrup?
Finely chop two onions. Put a layer of chopped onion in a jar and cover it with honey. Then, put another layer, etc. Leave it for 24 hours to form a syrup. Have a tablespoon of it 4-5 times a day. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for two days.
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Honey is believed to have antiseptic properties and strengthen the heart muscles. It was a favourite medicine of Hippocrates, who lived for 111 years and always credited honey for his longevity. We won’t argue with Hippocrates, aka the ‘Father of Western Medicine.’ The added onion is just a vitamin C bomb. It doesn’t necessarily help, but it won’t hurt.
Rubbing your nose with garlic?
Garlic is often called ‘a natural antibiotic’ in Poland. No matter how odd it sounds, there is more than a grain of truth in it. Thanks to allicin and allistatin, garlic has great antibacterial properties. Volatile sulphur compound effectively fights pathogenic fungi and viruses that cause colds and flu.
Cabbage compress for ulceration & bruises?
Cabbage is quite a healthy thing when eaten. It is low in calories and has lots of vitamins C, B and A, as well as a bit of sulphur, which is good for your hair and nails. Polish home alternative medicine recommends it as a compress for ulceration and bruises. It reportedly alleviates symptoms, but does not combat their source.
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No matter how effective it actually is, covering yourself with warm cabbage leaves isn’t so gross or dangerous that it’s not worth a try… and surely it is much less stinky that the common alternative – a vinegar compress (which, according to doctors, has no effect on bruises).
Drinking beer to stimulate lactation?
Last but not least, beer is recommended to nursing mothers in some parts of Poland. This time, it’s grandfathers whoare more likely to assure you of its great effect on lactation. Unfortunately, this treatment is entirely based on conviction, or even wishful thinking. Beer stimulates lactation just like any non-alcoholic drink, and the downside of choosing it is that it can be harmful to the child, causing bloating or colic.
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Written by Wojciech Oleksiak, 19 Aug 2015