This morning I was distressed to see that one of the crew at the McDonald’s location in the 1400 block of West Broadway had accidentally poured boiling hot water on her left hand. The distressing thing was just how bloody and disfigured the top of her left hand looked through the thin plastic of the disposable glove she was wearing.
But what looked, at first glance, like a raw red wound was actually three or four slices of tomato that she’d laid over the burn.
This, she explained, was a home remedy she’d learned growing up in the Philippines.
For my part, growing up in the developed and enlightened country of Canada—specifically in Saskatchewan, the home of medicare—I learned no such thing. I was taught to put butter on a burn.
In this case, the Philippines knew far better than the Canadian Prairies.
At the risk of being inflammatory, I say many natural remedies are better
The best way to treat a burn is by running cool water over it—not ice water and certainly not by packing it with ice. Just running cool water over the affected area to gently remove heat is the right thing to do.
Putting tomato slices on the burn after running it under cool water can be really helpful as well. The naturally-occurring lycopene in tomatoes soothes the pain of burns, reduces inflammation, prevents blistering and promotes healing.
On the other hand, putting butter on a burn, as I was taught, actually does more harm than good, because it serves to insulate rather than to dissipate heat from a burn.
My friend Maurice, who was seating beside me in McDonald’s this morning, wasn’t surprised by either the use of tomato on a burn or by my inbred ignorance of do-it-yourself healthcare.
Maurice grew up in El Salvador, which means that he grew up knowing about putting tomato slices on burns and about sprinkling ground or instant coffee on cuts and wounds to stop the bleeding and promote the healing and probably hundreds of other effective home remedies that I haven’t a clue about.
People in developing countries, like the Philippines and El Salvador, generally haven’t the luxury to be careless about their own health care. Citizen heal thyself would probably be an apt proverb in the Southern Hemisphere.
People like myself, on the other hand, are the product of a decades-long dumbing-down campaign carried out by the pharmaceutical industry, wearing the guise of modern medical science.
People in the highly developed and industrialized Western nations have been largely lulled and flattered into believing that forgetting how to take care of themselves is actually proof of their modernity and progress. Home remedies are old-fashioned and “unscientific”—little better than superstitious beliefs.
Of course, knowledge of home remedies hasn’t completely disappeared in Canada, any more than other skills of self-reliance, such as cooking, canning, and sewing.
It’s just a fact that, in my personal experience growing up on the Prairies, most of the home remedies I was taught or subjected to were every bit as useless, wrong-headed, or actually counterproductive as the aforementioned example of putting butter on a burn. The use of baby oil and iodine as sunscreen is another example that comes readily to mind.
And as for the application of a hot spoon on a bee sting? I now read that this is only effective against insect bites and that running the spoon under hot water is more than sufficient to heat it up. There was, it turns out, NO need whatsoever to heat the spoon up on a red-hot stove element!
Honestly. If there was way to get a full refund for a childhood I would have applied long ago!