Mankind has tried to protect himself from both external and internal troubles, sicknesses and diseases throughout history. As it is impossible to identify or limit the number and variety of illnesses and diseases, people sought protection from mother nature herself before the discovery of modern medicine. However, some natural remedies have stood the test of time and continue to be used centuries and millennia later.
Skeptics often question the efficacy and healing ability of natural remedies and dismiss them as "old-wives tales" yet there is enough scientific evidence through peer-reviewed research to prove that many naturally occurring plants, herbs, even animals and their products, have healing properties.
Natural remedies have long been used in the Middle East to treat a range of health problems. From Riyadh to Muscat, Doha to Sana’a, whenever you step in a local souq or herbal market (atta’ar), stands full of colorful piles of aromatic spices, dried flowers, bark, twigs, rocks and salt welcome you. Each has its own fascinating story to tell. These items are widely used for culinary, cosmetic or medical purposes. Historically, these goods were brought from the Far East, Africa and other exotic locations and introduced to the Arabian Peninsula long ago through ancient trade routes.
The people of the Arabian Peninsula have, for centuries used these herbs and local plants and created a rich heritage of folk medicine. Even today, these remedies are believed to benefit us in conditions ranging from acne to serious diseases.
We decided to share with you some of the most popular natural remedies from Arab folk medicine. Also, to dispel any doubts about the efficacy of these treatments, we have also provided links to peer-reviewed research articles published in scientific journals which proves that even modern medicine accepts these treatments to be legit and effective.
Looking like pile of stones, alum is widely used in the Middle East to control bleeding and to clean and heal wounds. Mixing Alum with henna powder acts like a natural deodorant. It is also effective against mouth ulcers.
Tip - Never use alum in cooking or try to ingest it.
Anise is a popular member of Islamic folk medicine. You can boil, chew or grind these magical seeds to overcome abdominal pain, colic, indigestion, menstrual cramping, coughs and headaches. Anise has an aromatic taste and is a diaphoretic, relaxant and stimulant, Few drops of anise water are good for newborn babies for a good, tight sleep routine.
Famous ingredient of the well know ancient Roman gourmet Apicipus and a common ingredient in Indian cuisine, asafoetida is a natural pain- reliever, digestive system booster and a natural cough medicine. Although it has a sulfurous smell asafetida when cooked, it gives a surprisingly pleasant flavor to many foods too. Modern research has proven that it also has anti-carcinogenic, anti-obesity, neuroprotective and memory enhancing properties.
4. Black Seeds
Arabic: Habba Souda
Perhaps the most beloved and well-known of all natural remedies in not just the Arab world but also the wider non-Arab, Islamic world, black seeds are known as the “seed of blessing’’ among Arabs, According to tradition, the Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) described black seeds as a cure for everything. Black seeds work as an expectorant, stimulate the body’s energy and help overcome fatigue. Recently, Taibah University in Madinah conducted a research and successfully treated Covid-19 patients with a mix of black seeds, camomile and honey. You can eat black seeds plain or mixing them with honey as they have a slightly peppery flavor. You can also boil the seeds with milk and drink. Burn black seeds with bakhour for a pleasant, aromatic odor.
Native to India and Sri Lanka, cardamom is a generously used spice in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, it is a valuable ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, in beverages, sweets, pastries and main dishes. It is a must with the Arabic coffee. Cardamom warms the body and helps relieve indigestion and gastritis.
Having a mildly pleasant taste, frankincense is helpful to eliminate bad breath on chewing. It is good for motion sickness; when you suck on a granule it relieves nausea. Due to climatic reasons, the best frankincense is produced on trees growing in Dhofar region of Oman. Charred frankincense is used to make kohl by many women in the Middle East. Recently, it is also proven to possess anti-cancer properties.
Myrrh water is an excellent mouthwash and is helpful for mouth sores or blisters, sore throat and other conditions requiring an antiseptic astringent. In Bahrain, myrrh oil was wiped on a new baby’s naval. It is also used to treat sores and pain after appendicitis surgery. It is helpful for healing wounds and minor burns.
Apart from being widely used to promote healthy hair, henna is also a precious gift for healing. Henna flowers cure headaches caused by the heat of the sun. Henna leaves rolled into a ball with water, placed in the hand will help bring temperature down. Chewing on henna leaves is said to reduce the risk of gum disease and treat mouth ulcers. If you consume henna water or seeds, it relieves stress and lowers the blood pressure.
Photo credits - Wikipedia