Going through Nepali kitchen cupboards, you see not just food but also the ingredients of home remedies that have survived lifetimes. For a culture as old as ours, the results of these remedies are tremendous.
My grandmother once told me she never fell ill when she was my age. I listened to her gabble until the exaggeration was unbearable. “Why did you have those super powers aama?” I asked.
Her answer was simple. It was a different time. The air was fresher. The water was cleaner and people believed in the lessons learned by olders more than they do now.
We’ve changed, believing more in modern medicine as a part of our lives. Our ailments have changed too. We now struggle more with high blood pressure than diarrhea. But what once was, still is. There are remedies in the nooks and corners of our homes that are older than us. No one remembers when it came into existence for there has never been a time we’ve not had these cures.
An essential part of Newari food culture, the strong Newari liquor - aaila - has made its way into the lives of many other Nepalis. There aren’t many who do not enjoy this homemade cure, sometimes referred to as “wasa” (Nepal Bhasa for medicine) for its health benefits. Besides the usual advantages of moderate consumption of alcohol (reducing chances of heart disease, strokes and gall stones), its strong alcohol content has been used traditionally to alleviate muscle pain and upset stomachs.
The Yellow Awesomeness
Turmeric or besar is a base for almost every Nepali dish. Our staple food contains daal (pulses), tarkari (vegetables) and achar (pickle), all of which almost always contains turmeric. I remember my grandfather complaining about its smell not being as strong as he remembered it to be. Nevertheless, turmeric for their proven efficiency against Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma and cancer is indeed a household miracle.
Remember the last time you ate besar outside your vegetable? It could have been in that miraculous drink your mother made you when you had a bad cold? A hot water and besar drink has been used for generations to fight off the common cold. It can also be added to milk to make sure your immunity stays strong.
Honey and ginger
There aren’t many kitchens without honey. In homes with kids or old people, honey is integral. It has been associated with benefits for the entire body. From sharpening eye sight to weight loss, honey is the king of home medicine. But when is it mostly used?
Honey mixed with ginger is an excellent remedy for the common cold. This delicious mixture is sweet with a spike and has the magical smell of childhood mixed with love. I like to call it the best of home medicines, for it is a childhood dream to have a common cold cured with this paste every night until you feel better. The cure is just as successful and popular today in Nepali homes everywhere.
My mother told me this incident from her childhood. Someone was bitten by a dog, and people put some curd on the wound and made the same dog lick it off. That seems a little too extreme and a nightmare if you are a kid, but the incident doesn’t undermine the fact that curd in fact can be an extremely effective cure.
Curd curry or solaar proves an important relief to upset stomachs. They are miraculously beneficial for both constipation and diarrhea. They also count as the basic ingredient of numerous other home remedies. So have some curd around!
Hing or Asafoetida is quite commonly found in Nepali homes. The smell is outrageous to any outsider and the cost is equally surprising. It is one of the most expensive spices we use every day at home and all for what -the pungent smell? Much more actually.
We have been using hing in our curry for a while now. But it is used specifically in case of stomach ailments and common colds. A drink with hing, jwaanu (carom seeds) and besar (turmeric) has been used countless times in many households to cure common cold.
Tymol or Carom seeds
In our culture, jwaanu ko jhol (Tymol solution) is considered one of the most nutritious foods for postpartum women. But then it is used for common cold and as a base for most of our vegetable curries. Jwaanu in hot water, with turmeric is considered extremely good for common cold and ailing stomachs.
These home remedies barely enlighten you. It just reminds you of what you already know. But sometimes it is important to look back and take into perspective what we have always had in order to appreciate it more.
These home remedies have helped generations before us and have been tried many a times, successfully. Looking back at the effort my grandmother puts into making me drink that turmeric milk, I have this sudden urge to hug her – more for the legacy than the immunity.
Did You know?
- A teaspoon of turmeric a day is known to increase the flow of bile and break down dietary fat which is effective in weight loss.
- Black salt or bire noon can help you with your loose motion.