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Discovering The Traditional Medicine Of My Ancestors

I am a practitioner of natural medicine with a passion is for simple natural remedies. Often the ingredients we need already exist in our pantry, are growing in our back yards, or perhaps are tools that we have sitting around the house that can be re-purposed. In today’s society, we tend to have two main sources in regard to our health. One, if we’re not too sick, is to hop over to the drug store to get some over-the-counter meds, depending on what the ailment is. The other, for more serious symptoms, is to make an appointment with our doctor and usually get prescribed some kind of drug that has commonly been around in our pharmacies for less than 40 years.

This leads me to wonder, what did our people do before modern-day medicine existed? Many times, even though it existed, modern medicine was often unavailable to our family members living in shtetls and small villages. Yet they survived, and thrived. So what did they do?

My husband’s grandfather (we call him Abie), a survivor of the holocaust, recently had some abdominal and digestive issues while I was visiting him. As an acupuncturist, I face a lot of adversity over my non-tradtitional views on medicine, but after employing over 7 different types of prescription medications to deal with this issue to no avail, he was “willing to try anything”. I gave him a short acupuncture treatment, and after our 30 minute visit, he was completely relieved of his symptoms without the use of any drugs. Abie became interested in the medicine that I practice, and I started to tell him about the different modalities that I use. One, called “cupping”, which consists of using small glass cups to create a suction the skin, and sliding them over specific parts of the body. This promotes a positive flow of white blood cells to the area bring healing to the body and strengthen the body’s immune response. This method can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments.

I was quite surprised to see Abie’s face light up while I was explaining this treatment, and he said, “oh, you mean ‘bahnkes’!” He started to tell me a story about his childhood in Poland. Abie rarely talks about this time in his life, and few family members know very much about his personal history. In fact, we’re not even sure exactly how old he is. Well, he began a story about the small village that he lived in and how they didn’t have a doctor. Every few weeks, a woman would come through the town with a case full of glass cups, and she would perform the “bahnkes” technique on the people of village. He remembered getting treated by this traveling doctor and how her method helped him to recover from a serious illness.

I was amazed to hear this story. I didn’t realize that the medicine that I have dedicated so much time and energy to learning was actually a medicine of my people- the jewish people. It’s fascinating to me to learn how easy natural remedies are, and have made their way around the world from Asia, through Europe, and now all the way to modern-day California. Healing is part of who we are, and often times, we only need to look to our history to find the most effective medicine.

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