Boricua medicine… Part 1

Yes damas y caballeros… I’m back. After a two week hiatus, the Boricua blog writer is here. Why was I out? Different stuff in my life right now, other than the fact that I felt that I was out of material to write (interesting material at least). But as any Boricua would do, I turned to my parents for advice and I think I have enough material for a year, or at least two weeks. I sat with my parents and they were reminiscing (I even learned bigger words, you see!) about childhood and the remedies that were used as pain relievers and to cure cuts and minor injuries.

Helps cure everything
Helps cure everything

In my time growing up, and that I continue using to this day, is Vick’s Vapo Rub (they should pay for this mention). Not only is good to clear sinus and chest congestion, it works for almost everything else. If you get a mosquito bite, rub on some Vicks. If you get a chichón (head bump) rub on some Vicks. If your muscles hurt, some Vicks will help (definitely I will charge for this. Sounds like a commercial.). But how was life when these recognized brands were not available for the poorest part of society? I don’t know in Unites States or around the world, but in Puerto Rico families had to cure everything with what was available. This is where my parents’ stories begin.

When I was around seven years old, I used to be in the floor too often. I fell even walking, and it was just because I was not careful at all (has nothing to do with me being a dumb little kid). Elbows, knees and hands were cut all the time. My parents had to treat those cuts and, after removing the dirt from the cut, they used a red product that really felt bad, like a burn sensation, called Zefiran. I hated the damn thing! When I got cut I tried not to cry because I knew my mom would spray some Zefiran (I know my brother feels the same). What did it do? I guess it cleaned the area or kept it from getting infections. But I was with a red knee or elbow for a couple of days.

Coño, qué dolor.
Coño, qué dolor.

Something else that my mom used to help reduce the size of a head bump was mixing butter and salt and spread it in the affected area (there are many pictures of my childhood to prove this). How does it work? I have no idea, it does not make any sense for me. I mean, butter and salt??? Really?? Does it work? YES, IT DOES WORK. Maybe the salt absorbs something in the bump and the butter is just so it can stick to your head. But there are studies about this and it can work. Doctors from nowadays could say its nonsense but there is no better doctor than a desperate mother trying to calm a kid.


How many of us parents had to deal with a baby having hiccups? It’s not fun to have a newborn with hiccups. To some people is really disturbing. My sister, for example, is one of those. If any of her nephews and niece had the hiccups when they were babies, she just gave them to someone else and ran somewhere where she could not hear the poor baby and hiccups (love you sis!). Some remedies for that are: to drink water upside down (pretty dangerous to do to a baby), a tablespoon of sugar (babies should not be eating sugar), scaring the hell out of the person with hiccups (c’mon… don’t even try this with a baby) and many more that are not safe for babies. If you find yourself in this situation, stop and think for a minute, “What would a Boricua do?” Find a piece of a cotton string, put it in you mouth and make a ball of it. Then take it out of your mouth and stick it to the baby’s head. Yes, you read the right thing, use a string with saliva and stick it to the baby’s head (Clean process, right?). Why does it work (because it does work)? It could be that the change in temperature in the baby’s forehead helps stop the hiccups and the saliva is just to help it stick (because using gum or glue would be cruel). So, if you see a baby with a string stuck to his forehead, it must be the son of a Boricua.

Yeah... it hurts!
Yeah… it hurts!

Sports are amazing. They help develop many things for kids including self esteem and respect sometimes. But you can get hurt, and many of the times it is not because something you did. Usually is just an accident, something that could be prevented if you stayed on the bench (and no one wants to stay on the bench). My brother was a great basketball player when we were kids. I mean, he still is but the story is from our childhood. He hurt his ankle a couple of times to the point of almost breaking it (scary stuff at the time). Many people would take you to the doctor and wait there for a couple of hours, and go to the orthopedist the next day. My parents did that, but it was so common with him that in the times where he could walk without much pain and the ankle looking like a big ham, my dad would take him (and he did to me too once) to this old lady that could cure that just by rubbing it. La Curandera sat there is her old house and rubbed something in the ankle and started talking to you. Then, while you were distracted, she pulled your foot and you screamed full of pain to the point that you could even see God laughing at you. And a second or two later, you were better, much better. Manteca de ubreThen just apply some manteca de ubre (udder balm) and you are as good as new. With the pull, the ankle and everything in there, goes back to its original place. And the udder balm is just to help reduce the inflammation. This remedy helps you save a couple of bucks and some painful time in the ER.


 As you can see, Boricuas can solve problems and save some bucks in the process. I know that science may have not been used when these remedies were made. But if it works, it works. Do I have more? You bet I do! But I would like your comment about this and many other remedies used by us Boricuas. And if you are not a Boricua, I bet your folks or grandparents had some weird home remedies too. Let me know about them. You can comment in this post or email me at I even have a Facebook page: Next week is part two with even more weird remedies that were proven to work (or so I’ve heard). Until next time, cójanlo suave!


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