An Ingenious “Remedio”

One topic that is always of interest to expats in Mexico, are the various cures and “health warnings” that our Mexican friends suggest to us.

Our loved ones will look at us with wide eyes and say things such as, “Don’t take a shower now! Since you just got all wet in the rain you’ll get sick from the shower!” or “Don’t eat an avocado, you just got mad. It’ll make your stomach hurt.”

We look at them, mouths hanging open, and see that they are quite serious. We must quickly close our mouths before our feet go right in. (Then, to be honest, we always tell our expat friends all about it… and… (**shhh** Don’t tell anyone.) we laugh.

I have more on this topic in my book, but my blog today focuses on a home remedy that I think beats the pants off of my own culture’s options.

I got the flu. A bad flu. Make that THE FLU.  After an unbelievable number of days with said flu, my left tonsil swelled up to the size of a tangerine. And it hurt.  I had a fever, despite taking ibuprofen, and I was toying with the idea of going to a doctor for antibiotics.

My lovely Mexican husband sprang into action. He called my mother-in-law, of course.

Guess what she suggested? Warming tomatillos on the comal… and holding one against the painful area.  I wasn’t sure how this would help, but we tried it.

It was lovely. The warm, smooth skin of the tomatillo radiated into my painful tonsil from the outside in and I sighed in comfort.

So my tonsil was (is) still so bad that the tomatillos went on and off the comal like old fashioned irons on the wood stove on pressing day.  I warmed the painful area all morning long.  Once he learned not to heat them so much that the skin broke, my husband was able to make each tomatillo last for hours. One skin broke, but who cares? It was still better than a soggy rag on my neck and clothes.

Of course, this is just a hot compress, but it’s a DRY one, that stays warm a lot longer than a wet rag.  The tomatillos never get clammy. They just drop to body temperature, and back onto the heat they go.

Here’s an Americanization of the remedy: we started using a toaster oven set at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It made it easier to avoid splitting the skins.

Well, now that you’ve read it here on home-sweet-mexico, you don’t have to wait until you retire in Mexico to try it. Tomatillos are available in most northern grocery stores (or you could just use tomatoes, if you are willing to part with hundreds, maybe thousands of years of practical experience).

Of course, I hope you never have to get to know either of your tonsils as I have.

Mexicans Know Home Remedies

One of the really fun things about living in Mexico is learning all of the great home remedies that people know. Some of them will positively make your eyes roll — especially if you are new to Mexico and still going through culture shock, like how if you eat an avocado and then get angry, it will make you sick. Both my dear friend and dear husband swear by this one. Since I don’t get made often 😉 I can’t say if this is true or not.

I find the tea remedies to be actually useful. I mention the one for diarrhea in my book, but there are two others that I personally love because they work for me.

For insomnia:

Make yourself lettuce tea and drink just as you are heading to bed. I feel this wonderful wave of relaxation wash over my body when I drink it. (Note: I’ve only used leaf lettuce and don’t know if it works with iceberg).

For an uncomfortable tummy:

Basil tea. Ahhhhhh.

See, retiring in Mexico can improve your quality of life. (I know, you are thinking, “now I know why I’ve been sick so much. I’ve had avocados just before getting mad lately.”)

Don’t Let the Bad Press Stop You. Mexico is a Great Place for Canadians to Visit This Winter.

It’s getting cold in Canada, very cold. It’s going to be cold for a few more months. Warming up and relaxing in Mexico probably sounds good.

If you are like many Canadians who consider Mexico, you may also ask yourself how safe it is, especially after some unrelated and terrible things happened to Canadians in Mexico in the past year. I personally think that Mexico is a safe and fun place to visit and encourage you not to rule it out just as you wouldn’t avoid Toronto just becuase someone from your province was killed there this year.

John Youden’s article in the Ottowa Citizen on April 29, 2008 titled Don’t Take Risks helps to put the issues into perspective.  Writing from his current home in Puerto Vallarta, he says “I’m an Canadian ex-pat. I feel much safer walking the streets of Puerto Vallarta than I do the downtown streets of my old hometown of Vancouver!  You need to take into consideration the chance you may be taking or situation you are putting yourself in, no matter what country you are in.”  He goes on to explain that risky behavior is risky behavior no matter where you are and adds that it is foolish to take risks in a country other than one’s own. (Source:

While I cannot comment on the specific circumstances of any incidents involving Canadian citizens in Mexico, I can say that I agree with Youden. You should not be too afraid to travel in Mexico. The benefits of traveling to a country as different from Canada — and as vibrant as Mexico is, are many and are often hard to specify.

To be safe in Mexico, be smart. Don’t indulge in over consumption of alcohol, don’t participate in any illegal activities, don’t stay out alone late at night, and make wise decisions about where you go, when you go there, and what you eat. (By this last statement I don’t mean to imply that you should stick only to the touristy areas. Some of the best experiences in Mexico are to be had in the places frequented by Mexican tourists and I personally feel even safer in these areas because of the community of good people that surrounds me while I am there.)

Enjoy Mexico!