As I’ve gotten older, I have had to face the annoying process of elimination to see what works best when I’m sick, when I’m in pain, or for beauty care. Currently, I have a basket of products, worth hundreds of dollars, labeled “fail.” I have believed commercials, Amazon reviews, and beauty magazines and while some made the cut as my go-to remedies, more often than not a lot of them did not work for me. So, as I battled with myself on which medicines to trust, a few have never let me down. It turns out our abuelas’ crazy healing theories and odd choices of medicines may actually work. Below is a list of some of the most common home remedies our abuelitas swear by:
Agua de Azahar (Orange Blossom Water)
Agua de Azahar is the distillation of the bitter-orange blossoms for their essential and natural oils. While the fruit tree itself is native to Asia, the use of the blossoms has traveled across continents. Agua de Azahar has a variety of properties that are beneficial to our health. One of its most natural properties is that it is a sedative of the nervous system and it is an antispasmodic, which naturally relaxes muscles spasms and heart palpitations. In fact, orange blossom water is widely used in aromatherapy because of the soothing effect it has on nerves and muscles. You can also drink it as water or tea and because of its natural properties to relief stress and tension, it is a great remedy for those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
- Six flowers per cup
- Boil water
- Once water is boiling, add the flowers
- Let sit in hot water for about 10 minutes
- Filter out the flowers
- Drink water
Tela de Araña (Spider Web)
Spider silk is one of the strongest materials on earth. By way of spinnerets, spiders literally spin their body proteins into silk. Besides the silk being extremely strong, they are elastic and can stretch for a while before breaking off. Within the super natural strength of a web, there is also a healing agent that is produced naturally by the spiders’ three or four spinnerets. Back in the day, it was used as gauze pads to stop a wound from bleeding out. Granted, in modern days, we have options for band-aids, but should you ever need a web, you’re in good hands. Spider webs have natural antiseptic and antifungal properties that help keep wounds clean and free of infection. They are sturdy enough to stick onto any wound but can come off easily with a little bit of warm water.
- Choose a clean, fresh web
- Pick out any insects or still on the web
- Ball up the spider web and place it on your wound
- Wrap wound with cloth or bandage (second barrier from infection
- Remove the web with hot water
Bicarbonato de Sodio (Baking Soda):
Using baking soda comes with a long list of health benefits. I remember being a kid and seeing it stored in the refrigerator long before I even knew what it was used for. Besides its common uses as a baking good, whitening teeth, and cleansing agent, baking soda works wonders for healing as well. It is a powerful toothpaste that removes plaque and cleans your teeth and contains antibacterial that has been proven to kill streptococcus mutans, which is bacteria found in your mouth that can contribute to tooth decay. Mixed with a bit of sea salt, and the combination is highly effective in killing bacteria and eliminating mouth sores.
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- Add to 2 teaspoons of baking soda
- Stir and mix
- Wet your toothbrush and dip it in the mixture
- Brush teeth as usual
- Rinse with water
A multipurpose condiment, mustard isn’t just for hotdogs and burgers. This in-home discovery is starting to get more popular but our abuelas knew the magic of yellow mustard since they had to tell us to leave the iron alone. And when we were too stubborn to listen, touched it and burned ourselves, mustard was the go-to remedy. The magic in mustard is that it contains the compound allyl isothiocyanate, which is oil that acts as a powerful counter-irritant. Counter-irritants are substances that can relieve pain or discomfort by producing a lesser pain. Mustard also helps fight scars because it is a vasodilator; relaxing the muscle cells and increasing blood flow to the underlying tissue.
- First run the burn under cool water
- With clean hands, apply thick layer of mustard
- Leave on until pain disappears
We use Vicks for EVERYTHING. I don’t even think there was a time where Vicks did not exist. Ever since I was little, I could remember my grandmother using Vicks every time we were sick. According to all of our abuelas, Vicks Vaporrub has the power to cure anything from a cold to a knee ache. Vicks is most commonly known to relieve cold symptoms including coughing and head congestion. However, Vicks has come to be the hero for many ailments including muscle pain, acne, dry skin, bruises and even cuts.
- Rub Vicks on chest and neck to relieve cough and cold symptoms
- Rub Vicks on aching muscles
- Rub Vicks on dry or irritated skin
Té de Manzanilla (Chamomile Tea)
Every Latina’s go-to simple remedy is Té de Manzanilla. For generations, our abuelas and mothers have prescribed us this tea to help us fight against cramps and menstrual discomfort. The plant contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help us fight digestive problems and reduce the pain that comes with our periods. The tea promotes a high level of glycine, which is a chemical that relieves muscle spasms and can act like a nerve relaxant, which is why it is good to calm our menstrual cramps.
- Boil water
- Place tea
- Let steep
- Take after meals
I grew up watching my abuelita put aloe vera on her face almost every night. It wasn’t until I got my first wrinkle that I tried it myself. For most of my life, I used the plant to treat my eczema, burns, and cuts but the more I used it, the more I realized it promotes healthy, youthful skin. It’s no wonder the ancient Egyptians called it the “Plant of Immortality”. Besides it containing auxin and gibberellins, two hormones that promote healing and anti-inflammation, the plant also contains vitamins C and E and beta carotene which increases the body’s production of collagen and improves firmness in the skin- making its one of the most natural anti-aging regimen.
- Select a large Aloe leaf from around the base of the plant
- Pull gently but firmly (be careful with thorns)
- Use a knife to slice away the thorny edge from one side of each leaf
- Slice the leaves open lengthwise so you have two long halves
- Use a spoon to scrape the gel away from each leaf (place in container)
- Refrigerate any unused portion
Barras De Azufre (Sulfur Stone)
Sulfur is a non-metallic element that has many healing properties. It is used in spiritual rituals to promote protection, mental focus, discipline, and to purify and detoxify unhealthy environments. The Charrúa Indians of Uruguay used it to release the muscles from any pain it was experiencing. Today, it is still widely used in Latin America and considered one of the best natural forms strong enough to handle pain. The stone is smooth and tubular, so it is meant for rubbing. According to research, when rubbing the stone on the surface of the skin, the sulfur decreases the pressure inside body tissue by removing fluids and toxins from cells, releasing the body from pain.
- Rub on aching area
- Massage softly on muscle