My Mother's Health Remedies

Originally written in 2018 for submission to Adeline Hocine for an article on Home Health Remedies

When I was younger, no matter what illness afflicted me—fevers, stomachaches, hay fever—the first thing my mother prescribed was a piece of ginger. Before the thought of paracetamol or cough syrups, I would be led to the kitchen where my father sliced away at a large piece of ginger. Standing in the kitchen, howling in discomfort and irritation, I would watch as he sliced away the rough brown skin, cut the large plant into chunks and crush them into a consumable paste that my mother would then cram into the corners of my mouth. Stubborn and ill, I would hold the ginger in my mouth, refusing to chew and swallow the bitter remedy. Finally, with the not so gentle urging of my parents, I would quickly and unhappily chew and swallow the ginger. And while the ginger was always a first step, and never the end-all-be-all remedy, it felt like a necessary first step to healing. It was as if I would never get better if I didn’t have some ginger to soothe me. And even the taste made me feel more horrible, I always felt better after the fact.

As an adult, I have yet to go back to this remedy that my mother depended on for so long. But the experience has left its mark. Whenever I find myself feeling poorly, I automatically reach for something that contains ginger. Long winter months and finals seasons has me drinking 4-6 cups of ginger tea, a day and when it comes to nausea, there’s nothing that feels as healing as some ginger-spiked kombucha (GT’s is my favorite). And while the ginger content in these drinks aren’t as potent as chewing the plant itself, consuming them always comforts me and makes me feel a little better (even if it’s a placebo effect).

I don’t know why my mother was drawn to ginger as a remedy. It might be the fact that is a common plant that has been used for centuries for healing, from China to West Africa, which is where we are from. I just know that despite her medical education (she’s a nurse) and the promises of “modern medicine”, it was ginger, an ancient remedy, that was her tried and true. As I reminisce of this experience from my childhood, I have a strong desire to go back to that sort of healing. Simple, raw and comforting.