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Add This Health Care Solution to the Debate: Mexican and Latin American Folk Remedies for the Ultimate Do-It-Yourselfer

10/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I am not a curandera -- healing woman -- nor do I play one on TV.

Also, I am not an abuelita -- granny -- old world to me means fax machines.

But seeing how the health care debate the country is having with itself has devolved into shouting matches at town halls -- and the CDC announced last week that any vaccine for H1N1 flu might not be available until maybe mid-October -- I present you with cheap, alternative health care solutions for these troubled times.

They may not be as fancy-pantsy as an IV dripped dose of good old U.S. un-socialized health care but -- for reminiscing and entertainment purposes only -- here's a little something for what ails ya', straight from the legions of associates of the Esther J. Cepeda Rule of Thumb Public Policy Institute, a bipartisan think tank.

Baby colic: When babies get fussy, take the dad's shirt that's been worn and has his "scent" and rub it all over the baby as you say a prayer.

Alternatively, hover a raw egg in the sign of the cross over the baby while praying -- these get rid of the mal ojo or evil eye, according to 80 percent of abuelitas polled.

Also, grains of salt administered orally. Not doing it? Boil one whole, intact chicken foot and let the kid suck on it for awhile.

Burns: administer urine liberally - preferably your own, but in a pinch, I imagine anyone's will do - immediately. Reportedly also excellent for fever blisters and insect stings. According to the pop singer, Madonna, it also works for foot fungus.

Common cold: Vicks Vapo Rub- "VeeVapoRoo" to the uninitiated - and lot's of it! Oh this was also cited as a remarkable salve for sore throat and headache. Alternatively, a shot of tequila with honey and lemon.

Cough: "iron" the chest with a warm - not hot - iron. Lacking that hardware, boil garlic in milk and drink.

Cuts/wounds: apply a fresh spider web, much like you would use gauze. Alternatively, apply the membrane from the inside of an eggshell. In a pinch, pack a wound with tobacco from a cigarette - preferably unlit.

Constipation: mineral water - administer liberal doses both orally and, ummm, rectally.

Diarrhea: Coca-Cola with lemon. Some swear by 7-Up, though all carbonated beverages are highly recommended for any stomach ailment.

Ear ache: Roll up a newspaper into a cone-shape and light the end on fire to cure an inner ear-ache (not for ear infections). Also, a candle or lit cigarette held to the ear opening. "It definitely works!" - or so I hear.

Eyes/ foreign object in eyes: rub (long) hair on eye until soothed. Also, avocado smeared on the eyes to promote long, beautiful lashes.

Fever: take a gordita or other puffy tortilla-like foodstuff and affix to the pained belly area with rubbing alcohol.

General malaise: Vick's Vapor Rub. Smear, sniff, or spread on face or afflicted area.

Headache: two wet leaves of hierbabuena, AKA mint, placed on each temple. Leave on until headache goes away. Also suggested are slices of potatoes affixed to each side of the forehead.

Hangover: a slice of pan Bimbo, a brand of sliced white bread, soaked in pure cane alcohol affixed to the stomach area.

Insect Stings: tobacco leaves affixed to the sting. Of course, there's also urine...see "Burns" above.

Insomnia/sleeplessness: For a kid that can't sleep, bathe in lettuce water, then put to sleep with a leaf of lettuce under pillow.

Menstrual cramps: hierbabuena - mint - in tea form. (Do Mentos count?)

Sore throat: Mash a roasted tomato and, while still warm, place on soles of feet and wrap in a sock. Alternately, roasted tomato slices laid directly on the throat.

Also, a concoction of chopped garlic, lemon juice and honey is common. Less common: fresh-killed lagartijos - little lizards - for a verrrrry sore throat. Slice the lizard's underside to get the organs out and apply to throat. "It worked!" someone swore to me.

One more, and this quote is just too precious to mar with my pen: "And let's not forget the pulling of the hair in just the right spots of each side of the head to reduce the swollen tonsils."

Stomach ache: a hot cup of manzanilla, AKA chamomile, tea. A tablespoon of olive oil is also common. For the really bad pains, rub stomach with a pasty mix of lard and baking soda (not baking powder).

Stiff neck: affix a pair of "worn" underwear - "yours or someone else's" - around neck to straighten out a sore neck. Alternately, get a few friends to roll you around on a taut blanket.

Toothache: Pack the tooth in allspice. Re-apply as necessary.

People please - do not report me to the self-medication police! This information proves only that...drumroll please...the Placebo Effect is real!

Esther J. Cepeda dispenses all sorts of folksy wisdom on www.600words.com