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Essay

Home remedies

By Tan Ying Zhen

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Of all the uses I could possibly have imagined for a hair dryer, relieving an itch was definitely not one of them.

Surprisingly, it worked.

I had gotten a mosquito bite from a nature walk, and my colleague who saw it suggested, "If it gets itchy, just blow hot air at it with your hair dryer."

He said he'd been doing it from a young age, and the advice had come from his grandmother.

When the bite turned itchy, I suspended my skepticism and did what he suggested. Feeling a little foolish, I blew hot air at the bite for about 20 seconds.

It worked. The itch disappeared.

I was intrigued so I asked around. A few friends had heard of this unconventional remedy too but no one knew why it worked. Everyone said it was advice passed down from their parents or grandparents.

Some friends began proffering other home remedies for various ailments. Can't stop coughing? Try this remedy: Soak an orange in salt water and slice off the top. Put it in a bowl and steam it. Then eat the fruit and drink the juice that collects in the bowl. Got a sore throat? Gargle with salt water. Toothache? Rub some toothpaste for sensitive teeth on the tooth and gums.

As my friends explained the specifics of each home remedy, they also shared their memories of how their grandparents and parents would care for them when they were unwell. Many home remedies had been passed down from generation to generation, so even though no one knew how a remedy worked (or why it did not work), they dutifully did what they had been taught to do.

Why do we stick to remedies that we may not understand? Especially with so many advances in modern science, perhaps it may seem quaint to rely on these "natural" solutions. After all, we can see a doctor or dentist, or simply pop by the pharmacy.

Then again, if a home remedy works, then why not try it? Maybe there really is a scientific basis to it. Maybe it's just the placebo effect. Do we really need to know how it works, as long as it proves effective?

I think about how my mother would boil up some barley water for me whenever I had a sore throat, and how I've begun to do the same for my husband.

The special thing about home remedies is precisely that they originate in the home. Perhaps the beauty of these remedies is not so much whether they work, but that they are a common knowledge and experience that binds family members together. Most importantly, there's one ingredient that's never missing from these home remedies: love.

家庭療法

虫さされ、咳、喉の痛みといった症状に、代々受け継がれた家庭療法で対処することがある。家庭療法はどうやって効いているのか不明なことも多いが、なぜ多くの人が実践しているのだろうか。

The Japan Times ST: April 13, 2018

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2018年4月27日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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