Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 03:23:17 AM EST
Folklore has it that if you have a tapeworm, you can entice it out with a bowl of warm milk. This is one of those things almost everybody has heard, but no one knows where it came from. The origins are presumably lost in a misty past. Or a wormy past. Definitely a past in which the tapeworm figured large.
Anyway, there are two schools of thought... well, thought isn't exactly the right word in this discussion... let's say factions. There are two factions in the warm milk theory of enticing a tapeworm -- whether or not to place the milk in front of your mouth, or behind your... well, your behind.
In either case, the thought that someone would welcome a worm crawling out of either orifice just goes to show the lengths people are willing to go to when they're sick and just want to feel the hell better.
Not that tapeworm is a big problem here, currently, but with millions of folks in the US without health insurance, I figured there'd be more of this kind of 'wisdom' being passed around and, having some experience in the folk remedy arena, decided I'd write this handy guide to curing what ails you, without benefit of a doctor.
Sadly, in researching this post, I found a dearth of reliable sources willing to go on the record about how to doctor yourself at home. This was, perhaps, to be expected, since the reliable sources in this field are doctors and other sciencey, medical-establishment types. But they are most definitive in stating what doesn't work. In fact, they've helpfully provided a top-five worst home remedies list.
These are ear-candling; whiskey for teething babies; butter on burns, colloidal silver; and colon cleansing. These are to be avoided at all costs. I've experienced three of them and pretty much agree, except for the whiskey thing. I mean, sure, there's a so-called expert quoted as saying "First of all, children shouldn't be consuming alcohol." Which, on it's face, seems reasonable enough, but would he say the same thing if trapped in a room with a screaming, teething baby? And how's he defining 'consuming' here anyway?
Speaking as both a parent and someone raised with no health-insurance by old Scottish women whose home remedies ALL involved whiskey, I'm loathe to take a strong stand on this one. I mean, sure, I had a wildly misspent youth, but there's no definitive proof that a steady diet of whiskey cures throughout childhood had anything to do with my early career as an out-of-control punk. Plus, as a mother myself, I know there are situations that occur during the child-rearing process where one of the parties needs a bracing shot. Not that I'm advocating getting your baby drunk, I'm just sayin'... a handy bottle of whiskey isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Oh, and it probably doesn't need disclaiming, but for legal purposes of this post: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Obviously.
That said, I can state with authority that antibiotics work. I know, I know -- you think you need a prescription, which can't be obtained without going to the doctor. This is not entirely correct. I once cured a quite hideous, swift, and painful infection of the gums with antibiotics made for aquariums, bought quite cheaply at a local pet store. The dosing can be a bit tricky, given that humans don't measure their weight in gallons, but with some basic math skills it can be worked out. My infection was cured practically overnight, and I only have a couple of very small holes left in my gums.
Frankly, the other online advice isn't nearly as practical as my fish-tank antibiotics thing. People seem to only want to go out on a limb about minor things like bee stings and mildly upset stomachs, which, let's face it, most people don't bother a doctor about anyway. Still, this site had some handy advice and I think that next time I have a sprain, I'm going to try the warm water and potato thing listed in the remedies for minor bruises, sprains, bangs and pains:
Many people suggest adding a grated onion and potato to a bowl of warm water for soaking your sore hand or foot. Pro athletes use the potato trick to relive minor swelling and soreness of injured fingers. Simply cut a large enough hole in the potato, plunge in your sore digit, and watch the starch in the potato do the trick.
And perhaps I'll also try flailing my arms around to cure a headache, but only if no one's looking.
There's a more complete list here, but it seems a bit overly broad to me. I mean, for tooth grinding alone, they recommend calcium and/or vitamins and/or having your stool tested for parasites and/or yoga. Still, one never knows what unearthed gems await in a website that advises "After showering use a blow-dryer set on cool to dry your vagina." That advice, of course, was for something else, not the teeth-grinding problem.
But there's just no real advice out there for real do-it-yourself healthcare. I tried googling home surgery. Nothing but horror stories. There's a mole I want rid of and, back when I had access to healthcare, a doctor once removed one just like it with a razor blade. So I admit I've been tempted, but without the numbing agent, would ice be enough? I need answers.
I did find this site where you can order your own home surgery kits, plus the "Emergency War Surgery" book for instructions in 'no doctor' situations. I realize the unlikelihood of a step by step guide to mole removal in battlefield conditions, but perhaps there's basic numbing advice. Or at least something about stemming inadvertent profuse bleeding.
In any case, further investigation seems called for in these troubled times. Still, I'm looking forward to the day when we can all go to an actual doctor here in these United States. In the meanwhile, I suppose it couldn't hurt to place some bowls of warm milk on the Capitol steps and see what crawls out. As folklore has it: have a hammer ready.