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Grandmother Knows Best
Traditional Remedies

All societies have their folk remedies which are passed down from generation to generation, often through our grandparents. Many are still used today, even though they can sometimes seem bizarre and without any scientific basis. We have collected some traditional British and Polish remedies below. You can try to guess which country the remedy originates from and also work out the possible reason why it was used. To check if your opinion is the same as ours, click on the appropriate place.

REMEDY

AILMENT

POLISH OR BRITISH? + COMMENT

Cover yourself with a warm red cloth

Common cold or flu

Click to check

Rub with a 'Babka' leaf (Latin name Plantago lanceolatah)

Cuts, stings, headaches

Click to check

Cover with wet bread

A cut

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Eat cloves of raw garlic

Common cold (or virtually any ailment!)

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Put a vinegar-soaked compress on the forehead

Headache

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Rub chest and joints with paraffin and cover with greased baking paper

Cold or flu

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Put a sweaty sock round the neck

Sore throat

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Apply mustard compresses or 'plasters'

Chest colds, stiff muscles

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Gargle with salty water

Sore throat

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Take cod liver oil

Arthritis

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Tie a piece of black thread round warts

Warts

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Wear a copper bracelet

Rheumatism

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Eat cloves

Bad toothache

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Put a gold ring on it

Sty

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Spread sour milk or cream thickly on the skin

Sunburn

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Eat a hot curry

Common cold or flu

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Take the 'hair of the dog that bit you'

Hangover cure - you drink whatever it was that first gave you the hangover

Click to check



Follow-up Tasks

Project work

These are only a small number of the many thousands of traditional remedies. Using the model of the table above try to discover others from relatives and report back to class.

Discussion points

  1. 'Old wives tales based on ignorance and superstition' or 'the collected wisdom of nature and experience'. Which of these is closer to your view of traditional remedies?
  2. Why are many of the Polish and British remedies the same?
  3. Why do you think so many people in Poland turn for help to medical practitioners who claim to use their healing energy forces?
  4. As more people move into the cities, what do you think will happen to traditional forms of medicine?
  5. There is much talk nowadays of the 'globalisation of culture'. What does this term mean to you?
  6. Recently drug and pharmaceutical firms have been joining together to form huge multi-national conglomerates. Are we seeing the 'globalisation of medicine'?
  7. 'Some patients recover simply because of their satisfaction with the goodness of their doctor' - Hippocrates. Do you agree?

Produced in Poland by British Council 2003. The United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.