As it happens, in most cases, the wisdom passed down by women through the centuries is (gasp!) true. Until very recently, when it came to run-of-the-mill ills such as the common cold, premenstrual cramps, or aches and pains, women were squarely in charge. For example, the first widely available commercial pain reliever, Aspirin, came from willow bark, which was a woman’s go-to source for homemade pain relief.
The traditional nuggets of wisdom that one hears repeated time and again remain part of our cultural currency for good reason. What worked was passed down from one generation to the next. In recent years, science has begun to back many of these old wives’ tales, proving once again that mothers and grandmothers know a thing or two about keeping everyone on their feet.
Five Health Truisms That Have Come Down Through the Ages
1. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Apples are packed with antioxidants and fibre, and are like the chimney sweeps of your digestive tract. A 2013 study found that if all people over 50 in the UK ate just one apple per day, they would actually prevent – or delay – 8500 heart attacks and strokes every year. Organic is your best bet for the fullest health benefits of this wonder fruit.
2. Chicken Soup Cures a Cold
Aside from being packed with nutrients, scientists have discovered that chicken soup reduces inflammation by slowing down the white blood cells responsible for mucous build-up. Doctors studying the effects of chicken soup also admit there’s an unknown element that helps one feel better - it could be that it’s one of our ultimate comfort foods. It’s like getting a food hug!
3. Carrots are Good for the Eyes
Carrots are extremely high in beta carotene, which converts in the body to Vitamin A. This powerhouse vitamin is responsible for immunity, healthy skin, and helps slow the ageing process. As if that wasn't enough, it’s specifically important to eye health. Studies have shown that eating foods rich in Vitamin A (or it’s precursor, beta carotene) really do improve vision.
4. Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever
This falls under the “We don’t know how it works, but it works” file. Typically, during the course of a common cold, we tend to be famished for warm, nourishing food, while in the case of a high fever accompanying infection, our appetites dry up for everything but liquids. There is some science to support this, but at the end of the day, common sense dictates that listening to your body is usually a good idea.
5. Chocolate Helps with PMS
Studies suggest that chocolate contains nutrients and antioxidants that have a calming effect and keep anxiety and moods in balance. Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, which acts as a muscle relaxant.
Folk wisdom, more often than not, is just that: wisdom. It has stood the test of time. So the next time you’re feeling run down, under the weather, or just plain blue, you could do worse than listening to what your grandmother (or mother, or aunt, or friendly neighbour) has to say. Because women of a certain age know a thing or two about how to keep on trucking.