Garden Remedies (wisdom from Babcia)
I believe that everyone should have a grandmother who passes her family’s healing traditions down to future generations. While they are often called “old wives tales,” these healing traditions are usually founded in profound wisdom and have been successful in reducing symptoms for centuries. I am one of those blessed to have a grandma like this in my life. I called her Babcia (“Bob-cha”) and she was from Częstochowa, Poland. While Babcia might not have been able to explain the scientific properties that promoted healing, she saw the healing first hand and passed her wisdom down to her children and grandchildren, and I am actively working to pass these down to my own children now.
While she had her go-to symptom healers, Babcia used fewer acute remedies than people seem to need nowadays. This is because normal, everyday meals were full of healing, soothing, calming, rebuilding foods. When we regularly nourish our bodies well, we tend to have less need for symptomatic care!
Imagine what our society would be like if we could return to the normalcy of daily meals that promoted health, rather than low-nutrient convenience foods that cause us to have to chase symptoms and recover from the deficiencies that these foods produce!
Here are some of the common foods that Babcia used on a regular basis, as well as some of the remedies she used when necessary. Many of these I have grown and recreated in my own garden. You will probably be familiar with most if not all of these foods. It is often easy to want to dismiss the simple and opt for something new and exciting. However, there are reasons why the commonplace exists when it comes to home remedies: they work and they are easy to grow! Hurray for simple health!
Disclaimer: this is a discussion of healing properties of foods and therapies used in Poland, as passed down in my family. The information discussed here also may be based on various referenced internet sources. None of the information here should be understood as medical advice or substitute for a conversation with your doctor. Enjoy this information and be wise as you seek health!
Whenever I smell dill I immediately am taken back to my Babcia and DziaDzia’s tiny apartment where Babcia used dill in just about everything (to my 8-year old memory). I grow dill in my garden and use it every chance I get. In addition to a delicious aroma and flavor, dill is known to have numerous calming qualities and has been used to ease digestive issues including an upset stomach and colic (breastfeeding mamas!), headaches, depression and even seizures! When I asked my father what his family used for headaches, he replied “no one ever had headaches!” This is just speculation, but maybe dill had a part to play in this!
From my experience visiting Poland, it is hard to find a Polish meal that does not include cabbage in some form. Whether as the main meal or a side, dishes such as gołąbki, cabbage pierogi, and sauerkraut are commonly used on the Polish table. My father recounts stories of his aunt (“Ciacia”) making barrels full of sauerkraut, and the men in his family drinking the sauerkraut juice regularly. If you’ve been around Be Well Clinic for any time at all you have seen that we love using cabbage for health! Cabbage is a source of several nutrients especially including vitamins C and K and potassium. It has digestive benefits, and easily becomes an extremely powerful and beneficial source of probiotic when fermented (most commonly as cabbage tonic or sauerkraut). It is one of the main healing foods on the GAPS Nutritional Healing Protocol, so we use it a lot here at Be Well Clinic! Cabbage is not only easy to grow but it is also beautiful and here in Colorado you can find it used ornamentally in numerous locations in the Botanic Gardens. I like to use it ornamentally before cutting it up and turning it into sauerkraut that my family eats every day!
If you watched our garden tour (here), you saw that I am a big fan of calendula for its medicinal uses! I recently learned that in Poland it is commonplace to plant calendula with cabbage because it helps with aphids, cabbage worms and diamondback moths! I wish I knew this earlier – I’m not squeamish but those cabbage aphids make me get out my Rescue Remedy! I use calendula for skin healing. I have steeped dried calendula after having each of my children in a bathtub or sitz bath to promote perineal healing, and I always have a homemade calendula oil that I use straight on cuts, scars, burns, wounds, rashes, bug bits, etc or turn into a salve for the same purpose.
Here is my basic recipe for the calendula oil:
First fully dry the calendula flowers (or buy dried organic calendula flowers). It is important to make sure the flowers are completely dried before using them for a healing oil. Otherwise they can mold and spoil your whole batch!
To dry them, you can either let them air dry or use a dehydrator. Since I live in Colorado, where it is extremely dry, and I have an attic that is not insulated and gets very warm, I prefer to air dry. However, this does usually take about a week to make sure they are fully dry. Place them on drying racks and flip them every 3 days for approximately 1-2 weeks (this fully depends on your climate). If you prefer to use the dehydrator, set yours to 95-100 and dehydrate for 2-4 days depending on the size of your blooms.
Once dried, fill a 16 oz mason jar about ¾ of the way with your dried flowers. Add in about 14 oz of a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Cover, place in the sun and let the oil infuse for 3-8 weeks. It is such a beautiful project, I place it on my windowsill in my kitchen. Once infused, strain into another jar (press through a strainer or squeeze in cheesecloth to make sure you are getting everything you can out of the infusion! Cover with a tight lid and store in a glass jar in a cool, out-of-direct-light location. I put some in a roller bottle and keep in my first aid kit too! This should keep for the lifespan of the oil you use. You can use other oils such as jojoba, avocado, and coconut, but I have always used olive oil. It’s never broke so I don’t fix it!
You can use this oil to turn into a salve using bees wax and essential oils (optional), but I typically keep it as an oil, since it is easy to use as a roll-on, it is such a simple project and it’s easy to do with kids!
For more information about how to harvest, other oils to use, creating a salve, and more, check out the fantastic calendula information at https://homesteadandchill.com/homemade-calendula-salve-recipe/
Widely known to aid in digestive discomfort, this is what my father remembers his mother using with him most commonly. As he recalled, “she grew mint in her garden and dried it in the attic, and then made it into a tea. After drinking it, you’d go to bed, and wake up the next morning without any problems.” Similar to drying my calendula, I usually just pick the leaves, place them on drying racks and stick them in my attic. (Truth be told I have my kids pick the mint leaves because (1) they love harvesting and this is an easy one for them to do, (2) it is so time consuming, that it buys me time to do something else in peace, and (3) it is basically impossible to mess up picking mint!) Once they are fully dried, I stick them in a mason jar, and have them available for loose leaf tea. Use a loose leaf tea infuser, a fillable tea bag or cheesecloth to steep 1 tsp of leaves and make tea as needed for belly upset.
Similar to mint, I grow chamomile in my garden for making into tea to help with calming – whether it is the belly, the mind, or the immune system, chamomile helps to relax and support anti-inflammation. I use the same process of drying, storing and steeping my chamomile as I do my mint. Harvest, dry, store, steep and sip!
No, my grandmother did not grow soup in her garden. However, this was one of her staples so I had to include it. Every single time I went to her home, I was met with the rich aroma of chicken soup simmering on the stove. Babcia had a unique way of making her soup, and she never measured anything so an exact recipe could never be written down. But, amazingly enough, her technique was similar to our healing, soothing, nourishing Chicken Meat Stock recipe! She actually used both beef meaty bones and chicken meaty bones in the simmer, and then removed the beef to use in pierogies! She used carrots, celery, salt, black peppercorns and a fresh parsley bundle. This was served over thin Polish egg noodles. My goodness, my heart is nostalgic and my mouth is watering!
Two other Polish remedies/treatments that my father remembers from his childhood were intriguing and made me smile as I listened to him describe them.
The first was “bańki” which is the Polish form of cupping (a therapy used around the world but most commonly associated with Chinese medicine). My great grandfather was the expert in their area. Bańki specifically used whenever someone was developing a cough. Family and neighbors would call my great grandfather and he would come with his supplies. He would apply the therapy to the person’s back, using special glass cups, alcohol and heat to accomplish suction, promoting blood flow, and stimulating the removal of toxins. According to my father, once the therapy was done, “you would go to bed for a day or two, get up, and be all better.” Apparently bańki can be traced back to hieroglyphics from 1550 BC in North Africa!
The last remedy my father recalled from his childhood was one to use as someone was starting to develop a cough, or cold-like symptoms. While I am not necessarily encouraging this one, I thought it was fascinating! According to my father, whenever a family member started developing symptoms, Babcia would take a dark beer, heat it up, and add chocolate. The symptomatic person would drink it and go immediately to bed, where they would sweat profusely all night, and wake up healed! While I am not exactly sure how the warm beer and chocolate play a role in this, I love the traditional understanding that sweating is good, cleansing, and should be supported!
So much of what I research now when it comes to health is how to support the body on a daily basis to promote regular, consistent, well-nourished health. When remedies for symptoms are warranted, we always want to support the body in healing rather than suppressing the symptoms. I love that the pursuit of natural health simply takes me back to what my ancestors did, not even that long ago!
I hope some of my simple remedies help you in your pursuit of health, and that you are inspired to look into your own families remedies – often we only need to look back a couple of generations to find some amazing powerful healing (and some entertaining remedies too)
This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and does not replace the opinion of a doctor. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.