Huddled around a tiny fire in our complex breezeway I had a very interesting conversation about natural remedies and dreaming a few nights ago.
Some of the remedies I discovered according to several Moroccans I spoke to during my service:
Cinnamon, oregano: good for gas
Lemon wedges, onions or potatoes: helps soothe headaches and fevers
Roasted mandarins: subsides an annoying cough
Soot, paprika or bleach: some people put this on wounds to “clean and heal” the wound. This is very terrible and despite all of my nagging they are still convinced these things work. (Thankfully nurses and doctors I’ve spoken to in the area agree with me on this one).
Sleeping in a coating of soap on a sunburn: apparently heals the skin.
Bleach: Many believe that bleach has health benefits—such as purging ingrown nails, curing scorpion stings…
Hot water, fennel seed, drinking cumin tea: subsides Colic/ aids stomach pains.
Coffee grinds and lemon, drinking olive oil: Helps a sore throat.
Some others that I’ve witnessed during my service:
Bleach or toothpaste used as “burn creams” : (
Applying dirt to cuts/wounds: I’ve only witnessed this once, but heard of it from many other Moroccans and Peace Corps Volunteers.
Tying cut potatoes around ones forehead when experiencing a fever, to decrease the temperature.
Drinking ground tea to vomit: Witnessed the aftermath of this at our Girl’s camp (unfortunately) because a girl was suffering from cramps and wanted to vomit to stop the pain. (I don’t think she attended our session on anatomy and menstruation.)
As an anthropology enthusiast, I try not to pass judgment on people’s perceptions of remedies. As a skeptic of Western Medicine, I appreciate herbal remedies and believe they have many benefits. As a Health Volunteer, I feel that it’s my responsibility to try to educate a person if they may be doing something harmful or making a situation worse. However, as an outsider, it’s very difficult to change someone’s behavior, especially when it’s linked to tradition and culture.
After I spent fifteen minutes trying to convince them that bleach should never be used on cuts or wounds, especially considering the fact that bleach in Morocco is highly concentrated, we moved on to discuss dreams and nightmares.
This particular group of women believes all nightmares come from Satan and one must curse Satan and sleep on the opposite side if a nightmare should occur.
One woman described a few dreams she’s experienced recently:
She was walking from her village on the main road to weekly market except the street was filled with money. She explained that she couldn’t resist and began stuffing the crisp bills into her jilaba. (I pictured one of those game show-style glass boxes that people stand inside and dollar bills are blowing everywhere as they attempt to stuff them into their pockets). When she woke up she interpreted it as greed and cursed Satan for causing her to have this dream.
In her second dream she was working in the fields with her friend and baby. They soon realized they needed to cross the river. Just as her friend and baby began to cross, the river filled rapidly, washing her friend away. She told me she woke up crying and felt she had to tell her friend. A week later her friend’s husband died in a fatal butane gas accident and she says this dream had been an omen. She has since vowed to only discuss her “good dreams”.
My host sister claims she only dreams about school.
Another woman shared a dream that she described as prophetic. She dreamt a man wearing a white jilaba, adorned with two large, green buttons came looking for her father one day. When she saw him, she began screaming and crying. In the dream he was coming to tell them they had lost all their money in a bad business deal. Apparently within a few days a close friend of her father’s indeed lost his money in a bad business deal.
She also asked me about “Genies” or gins. She said that sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night with an unbearable feeling of thickness or heaviness from the darkness in the room. According to her this is a genie and she says a little prayer and the feeling—or genie—disappears. She was really surprised to hear that I’ve had a similar feeling—of the overwhelming darkness during the night but that I don’t believe in genies.
I have to say I was thoroughly “creeped” out when I left but thankfully didn’t have any nightmares that night. It was really nice to have a conversation about something other than tomatoes or the weather…it’s just unfortunate it took me nearly two years to get to be able to do so.