Health services and treatment for Latinos are frequently lacking. These resources are severely underfunded and inaccessible forcing Latino folks to seek alternative treatments. Others simply mistrust US doctors and the rest of the medical community. In Mexico, my family did not have access to doctors or medical professionals and instead relied on a curandera, sobadoras, religion, rituals, and home remedies like herbs to treat folk illnesses.
As a child, I had frequent stomach aches commonly known as empacho. To relieve my pain, my tia made me pray to El Santo Nino Doctor. Then, I was instructed to lay on my stomach and my tia would pull and pinch the skin of my back. This treatment is known as jalar el cuero and is commonly performed to relieve empacho. My family swears by natural remedies and I have adopted a few into my life. Here are a few of my favorite natural remedies and herbs I use daily to treat my mental and physical well-being.
Jalar el Cuero is a common practice but mint can also be used to cure impacted stomaches. You can either chew the mint by itself or add mint leaves into the hot steaming water and you got yourself a tea. Another infamous remedy is taking a spoonful of aciete de olivo. This is meant to cleanse your stomach and help you go to the restroom.
It’s the time of the month and you are experiencing strong cramps and aches. Many professionals recommend you take painkillers such as Tylenol or Advil. Or you can drink a hot tea de manzanilla and place a heating pad on your belly. Manzanilla is a natural herb with multiple healing properties.
Sore Throat or Bad Cough:
During my few sick days, my mom made me a caldo de pollo or sopita. She also has me drink a tea de Miel con Limon. We heat up water chop a Limon and add natural honey to a cup. Ginger is also added to heal and soothe the throat.
Evil Eye (Mal De Ojo):
Mal De Ojo is a folk illness known caused by admiration or an envious stare. To rid your body of the bad energy, an egg cleanse is performed. First, you must coat the egg in rubbing alcohol. Next, you say a prayer and roll the egg gently from head to toe. Then you prepare a glass cup with room temperature water. After rolling the egg, you crack it inside the glass cup. Allow it to settle and then read the egg yolk and white.
Vapuro is a life savor. My family and I use vapuro to treat headaches, sore throat, and congestion and can help relieve muscle tension. To treat headaches, I rub vapuro on my forehead and sides. For sore throats and congestion, I place vapuro on my chest and between my upper lip and nose. After a long day of work, my body aches so I rub vapuro on my body to relax my muscles and soothe clotted stress in my body.
When I get a fever, the first thing my family does is soak a cloth with rubbing alcohol. That cloth is then placed on the forehead and patted throughout the body. Another common practice used to alieve fever or cold is by filling a bucket with rubbing alcohol and salt. The person then places their feet inside the bucket.
Anxiety and Stress:
Latino communities are no strangers to high levels of stress and anxiety. Living in a pandemic has heightened these levels. A remedy I use to recenter my body and mind is mint leaves. I add mint leaves in room temperature water or boiling water. I usually drink mint tea with lemon before bedtime to help me sleep.
Agua de Jamaica:
Our favorite agua fresca has multiple healing properties as well. Unhealthy eating habits can make you look bloated, and cause stomach pain and weight changes. Agua de Jamaica WITHOUT sugar is said to clean your stomach by ridding itself of all the junk food and unhealthy food we consume.