Holistic Healing Practices From Around The World

licorice rootNowadays, it seems like there’s a pill or shot to cure every illness. But do we really know how safe these unnatural remedies are? Throughout my travels and by talking with locals from other cultures, I’ve learned there are many natural treatments that are also effective in promoting good health. For those who’ve ever wondered about the holistic secrets of other cultures, here are some answers.

Turkey

In Turkey, the trick to staying healthy is mesir paste. The concoction was invented in Manisa during the Ottoman Empire, when the wife of Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim and mother of Suleyman the Magnificent became very ill. No doctor was able to find a cure, until one created a unique spice blend that seemed to bring the woman back to life. The mixture is a blend of 41 different spices that form a thick paste, and is used as a general cure-all and tonic. Some of the paste’s ingredients include black pepper, cinnamon, licorice root (shown above), coconut and orange peel. The country is so proud of their natural remedy, they celebrate a Mesir Festival in Manisa each year.lemonUkraine

One effective yet simple remedy that can be learned from Ukraine locals is eating a lemon slice – peel and all. Apparently, the zesty flavor of the peel and citrus of the fruit can help aid digestion, reduce bloat and help breathing maladies.

Singapore

According to Cecilia Soh, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Specialist at Singapore’s Eu Yang Sang, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees “food as medicine and medicine as food.” Since 74 percent of Singapore‘s population is Chinese, TCM is widely used. For example, many Asians will boil chrysanthemum flower tea to clear “excessive yang” from the body. This includes symptoms like sore throat, indigestion, constipation and excessive eye mucus. Peppermint is another herb used as tea that alleviates these symptoms as well as headaches and upper respiratory infections.

perilla leaf Another common remedy is Perilla leaf (shown right), which helps alleviate seafood-poisoning symptoms. It is often cooked with seafood in order to stop the problem from happening in the first place. For cough, healthy digestion and smooth peristaltic movements, Apricot seeds are used.

The most sought after of all holistic medicines, however, is ground up pearl. During ancient times, royal families and wealthy merchants were the only ones who could afford this ancient health and beauty secret. The power can either be ingested or applied to the face for clear skin and anti-inflammation, although a doctor should be consulted before consuming.

honey Australia

The indigenous ingredient used by many Aussie’s to promote health and beauty is not only natural, it’s delicious. Ligurian honey, found in South Australia‘s Kangaroo Island, is very rare and powerful. In fact, it is where you can find the only strand of pure Ligurian bees left in the world. When I visited Kangaroo Island, I actually visited the Ligurian honey farm where they sold an array of honey foods, products and treatments. For beauty, the honey contains Vitamin E to help lighten blemishes and promote clear skin. Moreover, in terms of health, pure honey – like the Ligurian variety – is naturally anti-bacterial, and can be used to treat everything from minor wounds and inflammations to ulcers and arthritis.

There are also many natural remedies discovered by the Aboriginals in Australia. Tea tree oil, which is still common today in many parts of the world, is created by crushing up tea tree leaves and either applying the paste to wounds, or drinking as tea for internal ailments. The concoction works wonders and is thought to be more effective than over-the-counter prescriptions. Moreover, washing cuts and wounds with Emu bush leaves has been found to be just as effective as antibiotics, and more natural.

lizard Aruba

In Aruba, there are two very natural remedies used to cure asthma. The first makes use of the aloe plant. Cut a piece, remove the skin, and slurp up the gel. While it may not smell or taste wonderful, it will help your respiratory system and promote good digestion. The other treatment involves boiling gecko lizards, and drinking the hot broth. According to the locals I’ve spoken to, this holistic trick cures asthma permanently.

Bolivia

Because a common problem experienced in Bolivia is altitude sickness, locals use their cash crop of coca leaves to help cure the ailment. You can either chew the leaves, or boil them for tea. Coca leaves are high in calcium and other nutrients, and can also be used to treat illnesses like malaria, asthma, headaches, wounds and even a low sex drive.

barkBelize

According to Joshua Berman, author of Moon Belize, the people of Belize still use many traditional herbs and plants to treat various illnesses, especially the Maya. Travelers can find “medicinal herb trails” throughout the country, and Maya healers are found in the Maya Centre and in some southern villages in the Toledo District.

Herbal medicine, often referred to as bush medicine, is a big part of Belize’s cultural heritage. Plants are used to treat everything from everyday headaches and coughs to more serious ailments like diabetes and infertility. One popular cure for digestive problems and upset stomach is taking allspice tree leaves and making them into a tea. Moreover, the native scoggineal plant is helpful for relieving headaches and fevers by tying it to the forehead. For the common cold or flu, contribo vine can either be made into a tea or soaked in rum. And, if you’ve got itchy or burning skin ailments, like sunburn or bug bites, relaxing in a bath prepared with gumbolimbo bark (shown right) is very helpful.

Colombia

In Colombia, natural remedies are very popular. For instance, using Rosemary by itself will help clear your lungs, while mixing the herb with ginger, half a lemon and honey is a cure for the common cold. If you want improved blood circulation, combine garlic and honey, and if you have swollen eyes you can put manzanilla (camomile) on your eyelids.

aloe veraTo help alleviate a strong cough, there are two remedies you can borrow from Colombian culture. One treatment is to ingest drops of eucalyptus. The other is placing half a potato near your pillow when you’re sleeping, which will not only help your chest, but will also put you to sleep. Furthermore, for times when digestive problems arise, Colombians will often boil an aloe vera plant (shown right), drink the water, and eat the plant with sugar or honey. Apparently, this cure is very fast acting, although not the greatest tasting.

Mexico

flowerIn Mexico, holistic healing practices are very common, as there is a lot of indigenous heritage there. Before actual medicine arrived, people used many fruits, vegetables and herbs to cure ailments. One very common natural remedy is eating seedless prickle – the fruit that comes from cacti – for diarrhea. For constipation, papaya and prunes are helpful. If you’ve got a case of conjunctivitis, many locals will make a “chicalote” infusion. This refers to a type of flower with thorny leaves, so you must be careful when picking it. Simply saturate cotton balls with the mixture and dab the eyes. In a few days, the problem will be gone.

acaiBrazil

In Brazil, there are many natural remedies used to treat ailments. First there is açai almond (the actual fruit), which provides a dark green oil commonly used as an anti-diarrheal. Found in Pará in northern Brazil, it is thought to have strong energetic properties. The juice has an exotic flavor and is high in iron – excellent for people with anemia. Guaraná powder is another ingredient that is widely used to help intestinal problems, stop bleeding, relieve headaches and improve brain function. To use it, mash up a guaraná until it turns into a thin, reddish powder. The substance is extremely high in caffeine – four times more than regular coffee. There is also sucupira seed, which contains alkaloids used to help fevers, arthritis and acne. In fact, some pharmacological studies have found the oil from the seeds to be effective against schistosomiasis.

cloveMorocco

In Morocco, where Berber Pharmacies, or herbalists, are popular, many locals seek medical help the holistic way. For example, pavor seeds are used to help soothe nasal congestion. Simply put them in a piece of cloth and knot it to form a ball. Then, place the sack under the clogged nostril while covering the other, and sniff. When having a toothache, Moroccans will put a clove on the tooth that is experiencing pain. These are the dried flower buds of the Myrtaceae family tree (shown right).

If dealing with insomnia, one popular holistic remedy is infusing red poppy flower into a tea. And, for fever or itchy eyes, locals will saturate a clean, white cloth with rose water and place it over their eyes or forehead, depending on which ailment they have.

India

In India, it is popular to use turmeric for acne. Grind it into a paste and apply it directly to the skin. You can also do this with sandalwood for the same effect. For an upset stomach, shaved ginger is often put on salads and other foods and ingested. Moreover, congee, or boiled rice with water, is eaten like porridge to promote general wellness.

Are there any natural remedies you’ve learned about along your travels?

[photos via avlxyz, dearbarbie, titanium22, Siona Karen, kthypryn, cyanocorax, Adrian Nier, Pixeltoo, borderlys, Koehler Images]

Budget Vacation Guide 2012: Kiev, Ukraine

This summer, soccer fans from around the world will flock to Ukraine when the country co-hosts UEFA Euro2012 with Poland for the very first time. There’s no better time to visit the capital city of Kiev, which has spent the past few years beefing up its tourist infrastructure and recently unveiled a completely redesigned Olympic Stadium in preparation for the final match of the quadrennial European soccer tournament.

If you’re not a soccer fan, or don’t want to shell out the big bucks to ticket scalpers, Kiev offers plenty of cheap diversions. In the warmer months, the city comes alive with flora and fauna, not to mention a packed agenda of free outdoor activities. Lie on the beaches (yes, beaches) of Hidropark in the Dnieper River, or take a cultural stroll through Andriyivskyy Descent, advertised as the “Montmartre of Kiev”. You can even try scaling the Moskovskyi Bridge (but please don’t).

While Kiev has experienced inflation in recent years, it’s still a bargain compared to other European capitals. To keep things cheap during the games, try a short-term apartment rental instead of a hotel; check Airbnb or 9flats for listings. Food-wise, traditional Ukrainian cafeterias are a cultural experience as well as money-saver. Specialties like potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, and dumplings will provide more than enough fuel for the games.

[flickr image via Matvey Andreyev]

Gallery: More travel sketches from BBC’s Tim Baynes

travel sketches
We wrote yesterday about Tim Baynes’ delightful travel sketches from around the world on BBC and liked them so much we came back for more. You can (and should!) get lost for hours looking at his drawings on Flickr with fun anecdotes and scribbles bringing depth and humor to his slice-of-life artwork.

Check out some of our favorites in the gallery below, from a look inside the BBC Starbucks to the madness of Dubai immigration during the ash cloud to a quiet barbershop in Tripoli.

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See more of Tim Baynes’ work on the BBC, his personal Flickr stream, or order a copy of his book Doors to Automatic and Cross Check, direct from the artist.



All photos courtesy of Tim Baynes.

Illegal animal smuggler busted in Thai airport

An illegal animal smuggler was busted in Thailand yesterdayA man identified only as a citizen of the United Arab Emirates was arrested in the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday for the illegal smuggling of animals. At the time of his arrest, he had several suitcases which contained two baby leopards, two panthers, two macaque monkeys, and an Asiatic black bear.

According to this story from our friends at AOL Travel, the 36-year old was preparing to board a plane to Dubai (Where else?) when he was taken into custody by anti-trafficking agents. Those agents had been reportedly monitoring him since he had made the purchases on the black market a few days earlier, and were simply waiting for the best time to nab him, and safely recover the animals.

The man’s smuggling operation was described as quite sophisticated. Prior to leaving for the airport, he had drugged the small animals to put them to sleep for the flight back to the UAE. He then placed them into flat cages and slid those cages inside the suitcases, which he would have used to get the animals through the airport had he not been caught in the act.

The illegal trade of exotic animals is becoming a bigger problem throughout Asia and especially in Thailand. Wealthy collectors will visit the country to purchase rare, and sometimes endangered, animals, to add them to their own personal zoos, although it is unclear if this particular smuggler was picking up the animals for himself or to be sold after his return to Dubai. Officials say he seems to be quite well connected however, and he had already posted bail just hours after his arrest.

It is difficult to decide which is worse; the illegal animal smuggling in Asia or the terrible problems with poaching in Africa. Both are highly unsavory acts and I applaud all efforts to put a halt to activities.

[Photo Credit: Associated Press]

Knocked up abroad: second trimester travel

second trimester travel

Not far along enough for second trimester travel? Read more about pregnancy in a foreign country, Turkish prenatal care, travel in the first trimester,Turkish superstitions, and foreign baby names on Knocked up abroad.

A few years ago, before the word staycation foisted itself into the travel lexicon, babymoons were all the rage. A babymoon typically referred to the last getaway for expecting parents, often a deluxe resort vacation replete with couples’ massages, room service, and lots of pampering. I’ve spent my my pre-baby travel slightly differently, exploring post-Soviet museums before needing a stroller, eating at restaurants that have never heard of kids’ menus, and learning what non-alcoholic drinks are on offer in local dive bars. Living abroad in Istanbul has also changed my short-haul destinations considerably. In the first trimester, my husband and I traveled to Kiev and Warsaw, Russia in the dead of winter, and to Frankfurt for the Christmas markets, and I don’t regret having gone without the his-and-hers massages. For second trimester travel, I found Singapore to be nearly ideal: the food and shopping are epic, the street food is safe, and the people polite and helpful. Though the hotel prices and high temperatures can be hard to deal with, the Southeast Asian city-state is a nice balance of relaxation and city exploration.

Ask any new parent or doctor and they will tell you that the second trimester is the best time to travel, after the early days of morning sickness have passed and before you get so uncomfortable that a walk around the block feels like a marathon. Given the relative comfort level, the second trimester is also the best time for longer trips further from home. I flew 10 hours home to New York (my first trip back to the US in 10 months) in late February at 20 weeks, and just returned from a week in Malaysia and Singapore at 27 weeks. Today I hit the 28-week mark of pregnancy, a big milestone as it means the end of unrestricted air travel. For many international airlines, including Turkish Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas, you are required to bring a doctor’s note certifying you are fit to fly overseas. We all want to avoid childbirth on a plane, even if it could mean free flights for life.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from travel in the second trimester:

  • Travel when you are showing: Part of what makes first trimester travel tough is that no one knows you are pregnant other than you and your travel companions. Exhausted and need a seat? Tough luck, lady, we’re all tired. Need to make sure that foreign drink is non-alcoholic? Better stick to (bottled) water. While my friends cooed over my five-month baby bump, not a single person gave me a seat on the NYC subway in a week of rides, even when I unzipped my winter coat and looked longingly at strangers. Two months later in Singapore, I barely stepped onto a train before several people offered me a seat and every car has a few reserved seat for passengers in need.
  • Don’t skip the creature comforts: Even if you skip the traditional resort babymoon, you should still give yourself a break when traveling. When booking air travel, if you can find a way to upgrade yourself to business class, you’ll be glad to stretch out even if you can’t sip that free champagne. Coming from rainy and chilly Istanbul, a week in tropical Southeast Asia seemed heavenly, but walking around in humid 90-degree weather felt more like hell. I must agree with my food blogger friend Kate over at Savour Fare who said that “swimming pools are God’s gift to pregnant women.” Staying at a hotel with a pool gave me much-needed relief in between wandering the historic (but seriously hot) streets of Penang, Malaysia.
  • Bring documentation: As noted before, many airlines require a doctor’s note for women to fly between 28 and 35 weeks. But how do you prove how far along you are in the earlier weeks? At my last doctor’s appointment before flying to Asia, I asked for a note allowing me to travel just in case, having heard that Malaysia sometimes restricts entry to pregnant women in later months for fear that they will give birth in the country. Good thing I did as nearly every Turkish Airlines personnel asked me for my medical report: when checking in, at the gate, and on the plane. If you’re traveling internationally after 20 weeks, play it safe and bring a note.
  • Do half as much: For first trimester travel, I noted that you should realize your limits have changed. Though energy levels may increase in the second trimester, jet lag and extreme weather still take a major toll. I had a long to-do list in Singapore but could barely manage half the things. I scoffed at paying for the tram at the zoo, but in hindsight, it would have been much easier and more comfortable to get around Singapore’s massive animal park. Even if you normally avoid overpriced museum cafes, they might provide the break you need to stay a little longer. Taxis are another friend of pregnant women, especially when they are air-conditioned.
  • Buy local snacks: Pregnancy is a double-edged sword when it comes to eating: your hunger is greatly increased but you have to watch what you put into your body, whether you’re in a foreign country or not. Often flights arrive late at night or you mistime your lunch break when all the restaurants are closed, leaving you without many food options. Penang is known as Malaysia’s food capital but I had to make different choices for safety’s sake and avoid some of the famed street food, though Singapore’s hawker centers are quite hygienic even when you are eating for two. A visit to a supermarket can provide an expecting traveler with a range of unusual but safe food. Each night in Asia I tried different bottled drinks, from the tasty calamansi juice to the vile lemon-barley drink. Having a stash of local snacks made me feel better about staying safe with street food while still enjoying products only found in Malaysia. America needs to get with the Kit Kat drumstick ice cream cone, though I’m not so sure about the blueberry-and-hazelnut Pringles.
  • Dress for comfort: Nearly all pregnant women experience swelling in the hands and feet, particularly in the last few months. Air travel, salty foods, and humidity exacerbate this, so halfway through my vacation, I worried I’d burst out of my shoes like the Incredible Hulk. If you’re traveling to a hot place, pack shoes that give you a bit of room and remove your rings before flying (good opportunity to find a nice necklace to wear them on). Also be sure to dress in cool clothing that still provides coverage to avoid (or protect) sunburn.

With three months to go, there’s still more Knocked up abroad to come, stay tuned for more on pregnancy travel.