You should never say “I don’t feel good” around elderly Bajan women. Not only are they likely to say, “I know wha wanna shud tek fa dat”, they probably will have a dose in their purse!
At a party that I recently attended, a young lady cut her foot. She asked for alcohol and a plaster (a Bajan name for a bandaid). An older lady said “wait, wait, wait” and pulled a small bottle out of her purse. She said “here, nuse summa dis.” The young lady dabbed the liquid on her foot and put her slipper back on. Later, I asked the older woman what was in the bottle, she told me it was “English Plantain leaf and Witch Hazel that had been steeped in the sun for 6 weeks.”
I can’t speak for any person reading this blog, but I personally would question anyone that sent me for an oil leaf and coconut oil to wrap my head as a cure for a headache. Can you imagine being told to rub candle grease, not to be confused with candle wax, on your cheek and to put a clove either on or in your tooth for a toothache? Beryl, Sandra’s cousin, said it worked, then smiled and said, “At least we believed it worked!”
Women had it especially bad! If they were having a baby, there was no trip to the hospital or doctor, “Wasn’t much doctors bout de place den”, Sandra’s 85 year old aunt NaNa told us. Back then mid-wives delivered the majority of babies. If a woman was having cramps she was told to rub her belly with kerosene oil. If anyone “got the belly” (diarrhea) they were told to drink flour water. If the opposite was true (constipation) a trip to the sea ensued to swallow 2 mouthfuls of sea water and a cup of fresh water to loosen the bowels.
In the case of an open wound, they would pack it with salt or pepper. In fact, a worker at my house here in Barbados had a pretty severe cut while building our gazebo. He asked for some salt and told me to pour until he said stop. I poured and poured until he nodded, he then went back to work without asking for a bandage or anything else.
A puncture wound was treated differently, NaNa said “Dey woud ge a rock and pound de area til it bleed den pack it wit cob web.
A bump or a lump on the head was very painful but the cure was sweet, they would run to get a drink of sugar water with no ice. However, ice on the forehead was for nose bleeds along with pinching the nostrils.
Of course there were some really bizarre treatments such as for thrush which is a white film on the tongue, they would drink urine, I assume it was their own. Watts’ and Kernel which is a swelling or bump in the groin area was treated by peeing on a hot rock. When kids were playing in the water and accidentally stepped on a sea eggs (sea urchins) someone would pee on their foot.
Tourist are warned by signs and red painted bark around the island to stay away from Manchineel tree because they can cause blistering and severe irritants to the skin and eyes. If the eye was infected by the poisonous plant, the cure was breast milk in the eye. Since families were much larger back then, finding breast milk was no problem because “There wa nuff pregnant women bout de place,” NaNa told me.
I have been told that Buckleys, which cannot be found in Barbados or in the United States, is the cure-all fix for whatever ails you. That is, if the taste doesn’t kill you first. They even ran a bad taste campaign that said “Open wide “@#$%&!*”
Sandra’s aunt said that they used to have something that worked better than Buckley’s ever did! “Ya tek sum Leaf o Life* wid sum salt en pound it, den put it in de white cheese cloth. ” She also said it worked even better if you kept the leaf pressed in the Bible until it was ready to be used!
If you can think of any additional old Bajan cures, please add them to the comments sections at the bottom of the post. I would also be interested in cures from other nationalities.
Until then, stay healthy my friend!
*Benefits of Leaf of Life (Bryophyllum Pinnatum) A succulent plant used in folk medicine, it is a good remedy for hypertension, bronchial problems, colds, bruises, boils, ulcers, insect bites, ear-aches, sprains, swelling, arthritis, tay-tay worm, and cleans bladder.