Western MA Folk Remedies for Stomach Ailments

Stomach Ailments

" I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger..."

“How I Found my Plant Ally in Marrakesh: My battle with motion sickness all started on a seemingly endless bus ride through the mountains of Morocco. The hairpin turns were countless. I was not the only one throwing up into the plastic bag provided- so were the locals. This was the only bus ride I’ve even been on that had a hired hand to mop the aisles and between the seats. To make things worse, those who were lucky enough to not loose their already eaten tagine* held a cloth saturated with very cheap perfume close to their nose in an attempt to keep it down, or keep the sour smell out. That wretched smell left me with a vivid memory, a memory that goes straight to my stomach the moment I start moving . . . cars, trains, planes, boats, ferris wheels. You name it, I get sick.

“Morocco is the place I found my plant ally. I finally arrived in Marrakesh. I could still smell that cheap perfume everywhere and I felt sick! I had two weeks left. I needed relief. I walked the streets, the narrow foot paths that led to the market place, filled with jewelry, lamps, rugs and scarves, and people who wanted to decorate my white skin with a deep red henna, monkeys that danced, snakes that hissed. It was a mosaic of color and new finds. When the night air blew in new people came to light. In Marakesh the day time does not hold a space for the herbalist, they come out at night, with their promises to enlarge this and increase that. I met many an herbalist in the darkness of Marakash. One particular man sticks in my mind.

“Laid out in front of him was a square blanket, on it every remedy you could possibly imagine. Like all great herbalists his glass jars of every size were filled with unknown powers, flowers, and potions. Everything from dried lizard head to amber resin. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic. So I looked him in the eye, stuck out my tongue and held my tummy. He smiled and searched for something. He found it and held it to my nose. I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger, plain old, buy at the grocery store powered ginger. I bought a small packet and went to my hotel.

From that day on it’s been the first thing that goes in my carry-on bag. I do get strange looks went I ask the flight attendant “can I please have room temperature water” then I reach into my bag and pour a spoon full of powered ginger powder in. I would put in more but the taste is a bit extreme for my tongue. I mix this up before I even start moving and any time during the trip. It really works. I have not thrown up in a long time. I do get nauseous and ginger clears it right up in a matter of minutes. It’s easy, safe and cheap. A true ally to any nauseous traveler.” — D’Arcy Alyse Gebert (Shutesbury, MA)

*Editor’s note: for a great Tagine, check out Amanouz Cafe on Main Street in Northampton, MA. It makes a good warming winter’s meal.

“To treat diarrhea: Barley water with Chamomile. Use 2 Cups cold water and one handful of whole barley pearls. Boil barley for 30 minutes, covered. Strain water into a clean pan. Bring back up to a boil, use that water to steep 2 Chamomile tea bags.” — Kathleen Duffy

“When I was young and had a stomachache, my mother would sit down and lie me face-down across her lap, and she would rub my back in a slow, circular motion, over and over and over again. It was very soothing. My grandmother’s remedy for stomachache was peppermint candy (We loved that!).” — Joanne Levy (Southampton, MA)

“For indigestion I use hot water and saffron.” — Eileen Latshang

“When pregnant and morning sick, my sister found that the absolute best relief she got was from chewing fennel seeds. Not too many, just three or four. For heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, I love to use Meadowsweet. It’s especially nice as an infusion, but the tincture is great, too. Someone I know makes a Meadowsweet formula that also has peach leaves, chamomile and fennel seed. It’s really wonderful.” — Cathy Whitely

“We had the dried chamomile blossoms and brewed a quart at a time, sweetened with honey. I remember loving the taste of chamomile when I was little, and getting almost delirious inhaling the wonderful fragrance of the blossoms in their canister.” — Grace Edwards

“Here is a story about me really having a bad stomach after eating something that did not agree with me. I woke up throwing up, got up and drank many many cups of peppermint tea, maybe 10. In the morning, I was well enough to get up and go to work.”  Fabienne Rouzeau, Epigee (Northampton, MA)

“For all stomach complaints drink homemade blackberry syrup. Sit on commode all day!” —  Mindy’s paternal great grandmother

“If my son has a stomach ache I find that blending catnip, chamomile, and orange peel to make tea works nicely. The catnip as well as the chamomile soothes the stomach helps the nerves to relax and the orange peel will help digestion as well as provide vitamin C.” — Carrie Desmarais


Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offering alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. — A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

(Photo credit: (cc) Jacqueline of sweetbeetandgreenbean)

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