Abuela's Remedios

StoryYvette Marquez-SharpnackComment

My maternal grandmother passed away at 98 years old. She lived a long and healthy life. I never heard her complain of any aches and pains. She was a very strong woman.

Whenever I was sick as a child, my mother did not take me to the doctor. Instead, she took me to Grandma’s house. There my grandma diagnosed and healed me with natural remedies or remedios. If I had a stomach ache, she would brew some manzanilla or yerba buena tea. The herbs she used were fresh from her garden—no tea bags. If I had a cold or a fever, she would smear Vicks on my chest, then soak a towel in homemade rubbing alcohol and rub it on my body and forehead. The homemade alcohol had herbs floating inside the bottle, marijuana and yerba buena. If I had a cough or a sore throat, she would make a tea of dried oregano, she would have me gargle with salt water, and for dinner I knew delicious caldo de pollo would be on the menu.

Sometimes, if I was sick for no apparent reason, my grandma would say, “Alguien te dio el mal de ojo.” She would sweep an egg over my body and begin to pray, then she would crack the egg in a glass of water and place the glass on the floor under my bed. In the morning she would say the evil eye was gone. Magically, I felt better.

There were other times that she blamed an illnesses on empacho, literally meaning an “impacted stomach.” She would crack a fresh egg on my tummy and roll the yolk back and forth, until it broke. Then she would smear mayonnaise or Vaseline on her hands and massage my legs to work out the knots. It was a deep tissue massage that was quite uncomfortable as a child. I remember her doing this, when I accidentally swallowed my chewing gum. She would say the gum would go down to my legs and needed to be worked out, before it caused other stomach issues.

Then there were the common cuts and scrapes that were treated with fresh aloe vera squeezed from an aloe plant accompanied by the incantation, “sana, sana, colita de rana . . . 

Of course, if I was really sick, like when I had the chickenpox in the second grade, I was taken to the doctor. I remember the doctor recommending some pink calamine lotion for my itchy body. My grandma ended up making her own concoction that relieved the itching far more than the pink stuff. I’m not sure how she made it, but it worked.

No matter what remedy Grandma tried, I knew she would always make me feel better. Now, as a mother, I make herbal teas for my kiddos and rub their chests with Vicks, and make them chicken soup, if they are sick. I even bought my children some evil eye bracelets to keep el mal de ojo away. I’m all about trying the tried and true first, before running to the doctor. My children love the extra attention, and I love using the simple old fashioned remedies my grandma used. I’ve always thought that I could write an entire book on all the home remedies my grandma had for our ailments.

She was such a wonderful healer, in many more ways than she knows.

Yvette's Abuela's Recipe for Chamomile Tea and Recipe for Cinnamon Tea.