Growing up, my mom knew more than all my doctors. At least that’s what she’d tell me back then, and still does to this day. She insists that American doctors only push pills they’re paid to prescribe, and that those pills valen pura madre. So she has always used her own style of medicine, much of it passed down to her from her own mom.
When doctors tell her she shouldn’t be messing with medicine, well, let’s just say she isn’t having it.
Every time I’ve gotten sick with anything from a cold to viral meningitis, my mom has come to the rescue with her Mexican mom remedies that somehow, and seemingly magically, got me back on my feet in no time.
There were, of course, the staples of Mexican medicine cabinets.
“Ponte Vicks en las patas y en el pecho. Y mas te vale que te pongas los calcetines!” Totally normal, right? Well, my mom also added banana leaves to the Vick’s foot wrap. Why? Because that’s her mom did, and that’s reason enough.
Even then, she took it a bit further, making me eat a chunk of Vicks she would scoop out with her fingers and shove into my mouth.
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I have no idea where she heard that this works, but my stomach would feel weird for hours after. I’m also pretty sure this could have poisoned me. By the way, Vicks doesn’t taste good. Luckily, there was always caldo on the way to get the flavor out of my mouth.
Lemon also made its way from the kitchen to the medicine cabinet.
Along with gargling lemon for a sore throat, my mom would make me put it on my arm pits instead of deodorant, rub it on my elbows to get rid of dark patches or use it on my face when I broke out. Lemon fixes everything.
Fear of needles was not allowed in my house. If I acted scared, my mom basically called me a wimp.
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When my anginas were swollen or if I came down with a fever, my mom went to the pharmacy, bought a fresh pack of needles and the serum needed to cure me. When she came home, I knew what time it was.
CREDIT: Pulp Fiction/Miramax Films
And it was going to hurt.
There was no messing around. It was “bajate los pantalones, chamaca” and then…
It worked though, and fast! I rarely missed a school day.
And it went both ways. If she was sick, I was tasked with injecting her despite having zero medical training. Because I was a teenager.
To say stabbing a needle into my mom’s butt cheek made me nervous is an understatement.
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But I didn’t have a choice. Mami was sick and I had to help, because she does it for me. Now as an adult, I’ve got it down. Well, better than when I was 16 at least.
“Tronando los cueritos” is another one of her go-to remedies.
While it sounds pretty gross, and sort of like a norteño song, tronando los cueritos meant pulling the skin on my back and stomach until it cracked. Yes, cracked. It’s not fun, but that was her cure for empacho, or a uncomfortable blockage in the stomach or intestines. Sexy, right? She’d cap it off with a teaspoon of olive oil and orange juice down the throat, which she said would unstick food stuck to my stomach. Again, sexy, right?
While my mom didn’t use lard in any of her cooking, she would mix it with sugar and slap it on my head if I got a bump.
It seemed to get the swelling down pretty quick too.
Trust though, she would rub it on while reminding me that’s what happens “por andar de vaga.”
“A ver si así aprendes.”
Burns happened in our house all the time. It’s unavoidable when most of your time is spent in the kitchen. That’s where mustard came in handy.
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The burn would kill, but the mustard soothed it every time.
My mom truly had a cure for anything, and it didn’t dawn on me until years later that some people might think her remedies were strange. They worked though, and I still use many of these years later.
And no matter how old I get, any time I’m sick, I know exactly what I want.
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And maybe a spoonful of Vick’s.