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Kitchen cures and home remedies

Many years ago during a visit to my parents, I saw a covered glass jar sitting on the kitchen counter. It contained a colorless liquid with golden raisins nesting at the bottom. My mother said it was gin (my parents were nondrinkers, so that definitely got my attention).

She indicated my father was soaking the raisins and then eating them as a way to reduce arthritic pain. My mom thought it was “definitely working.”

I queried my dad — and he thought so too. No research to support it, but he was fairly adamant. At this point, it may be important to note my father continued to have late-in-life physical ailments, but arthritic pain was seldom a complaint. Could be that once he had announced he’d discovered a kitchen cure that worked, he did not want to suggest it didn’t. There is that consideration — and this one. I have often wondered whether those raisins played any less-than-positive role in his diabetes management.

Kitchen cures and home remedies can be a tricky topic when you believe it’s always advisable to link health information to a research base as you keep applying common sense. For example, historically there was relatively little solid research involving cranberry juice. But people relied on it. Now research has definitively determined it prevents/treats urinary tract infections. The newest research (webmd.com) suggests cranberry juice can positively impact your system in less than eight hours. But ideally you have to indulge regularly — not just when you get UTI symptoms. And there is a lot of sugar in cranberries.

I think the most powerful food remedy for which there is well-researched benefit is seafood — or more particularly fatty fish that contain Omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Long ago findings from a large study at Harvard School of Public Health indicated just one or two servings each week lowered the risk of fatal heart attack by 36%. And a very recent study (nih.gov) indicated eating Omega-3 foods (along with a reduction in Omega-6 foods) have been found to be a major balm for migraine headache sufferers (think baked salmon and not fried chicken).

How should we approach all this? I suggest watching for replicated studies on issues that address the health challenges closest to your life. Make sure any research has a reputable source. Ponder what fits for you — and apply thoughtfully. Use common sense and curiosity about what is best for you and your family.

You need to be vigilant. Staying with the topic of fish — we had baked salmon basted with olive oil for dinner last night — I trust research that points to seafood as important to heart and brain health. I track that research and know the mercury-in-fish issues are relevant for pregnant women and very young children and not for me. And so, I eat salmon and all its fatty fish friends with thoughtful abandon and the application of a little common sense.

As for the raisins-soaked-in-gin, if that is something you intend to explore further, I should probably mention my father often enjoyed his golden raisins with a side of King Oscar sardines.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gamial.com.