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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

What's in Your Acifidity Bag?

     My Dad, born in 1907, used to tell about how as kids he and his siblings wore acifidity bags. 
     An acifidity bag was a folk remedy most commonly found in the Appalachian region in the 18th or 19th century. 
     Basically, it was a bag of pungent herbs, often including ginseng, pokeweed and yellow root, garlic, rosemary, onion and mint. However, the exact ingredients varied by practitioner. The vapors were supposed to ward off the flu, disease and as some believed, evil spirits. 
     The bag had to be made of muslin and when filled was about the size of a silver dollar (an inch and a half). You couldn’t just cram the stuff into the bag. The pokeweed had to be picked just as the sun rises while the plant is covered with dew and the smallest pokeweed leaves were the best. When it started to smell like rotten leaves the ingredients were about right. 
     If the bag failed and one got sick, my grandmother would smear bacon grease on the soles of the kid’s feet, sit them in a chair with their feet in front of a hot wood stove and bake the flu out. At other times a poultice of onions was placed on the chest and that would loosen up the croop so all the stuff congesting the lungs could be coughed up. My dad also had another remedy for getting rid of a chest cold...a mixture of coal oil and lard would be smeared on the chest and a big woolen scarf pinned around the neck.  In my day things had progressed to the use of Vicks VapoRub.  I remember being slathered in that stinking stuff and having my chest covered with that big woolen cloth.  I couldn't wait to get better just to take a bath and get the smell off of me. History of Vicks
     According to the book "Healing Spices," asafoetida was endorsed by the US Pharmacopedia as a remedy for the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed almost 100,000,000 people globally and claimed tens of thousands of American lives per week for two years. The putrid smelling spice was stocked by pharmacies to be draped around the neck inside acifidity bags in an attempt to deflect the deadly influenza. 
     Flu struck terror in the hearts of those that either heard about or lived through the epidemic to the extent that subsequent generations of babies and school children were forced to wear acifidity bags during outbreaks of polio, measles and during the winter to stave off influenza. 
     Asafoetida, a native of the higher altitudes of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Central China, Iran, and Afghanistan, and is a primary imported spice to India, an essential ingredient in curries and used as a medicine for centuries (noted in ancient reference dating 400 BC) is actually a resin derived from the four-year-old roots of the Ferula asafoetida plant, a member of the fennel species. 
     The plant is cut back at the ground to make a slit in the top of the root for the resin to ooze out, then covered to protect from the elements. This is repeated until enough of the hardened resin forms a walnut-shaped brown ball for harvest. The brown clump is ground into a powder and mixed with flour and other ingredients for market. 
     Use of plant's resinous root juice has appeared in writings of Alexander the Great, medical practitioners in the first century, noted in the histories of ancient Rome, and used as a medicine into the Middle Ages. 
     The strong sulfurous odor of asafoetida mellows in cooking, yielding a strong sweet onion-garlic flavor to dishes. Very little of the spice is necessary so a small container lasts a long time. The potent powder is best fried in butter (ghee) to dissipate the smell before adding the remaining ingredients to the pot.
     The storage of asafoetida requires an airtight container enclosed in a sealable bag (or two) to prevent the smell from contaminating other pantry items. 

The powdered resin was thought to be useful for many things: 
* epilepsy 
* hysteria 
* whooping cough, bronchial, and asthmatic issues 
* antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant 
* cure for intestinal worms 
* toothache relief 
* breaking addictions 
* contraceptive and causing abortion 
* antiflatulent that eases digestion and constipation 
* meat preservative and pickling 
* lure for fishing...coat the bait 
* repels evil spirits and potential disease-infected strangers 

    Don’t laugh! During the swine flu pandemic in 2009, scientists worldwide were tested natural home remedies and lab reports proved that asafoetida resin lived up to its historical hype as a cure. The test results found multiple strong antiviral constituents and additional properties much more potent than some of the modern drugs. Further testing of asafoetida's, researchers also discovered the powerful antioxidants in it were successful in fighting many forms of cancer and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Country Cures and Doctoring

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