Magic Guava Leaves
There are many things one hears about as old wives remedies in the Philippines. If the baby chokes or coughs, old yayas cough themselves and say ‘ahem, ahem’ as if to absorb the baby’s cough. Old fashioned yayas put a damp piece of cotton on the baby’s head when they have hiccups. This actually works, but I have no idea why. I had also heard that boiling guava leaves and using the water as a rinse after giving birth was good for you. Again, I had no idea why…I had also heard that when boys are circumcised in the province ( a right of passage at 8 years old) that they were made to chew on guava leaves and as soon as the deed was done, spit out the chewed up leaf on the wound. Women who give birth in the province normally are asked to sit in a tub of boiled guava leaves to close the wounds and to speed up healing.
Giving birth to my second baby was a more painful ordeal than my first. For some reason it took me longer to get back on my feet, the post operative pain as worse ( I delivered via C-section) and contractions while breast feeding hurt more. I was also having problems with the way my scar was healing. For some reason, a part of it stayed wet- not infected, but it never dried up. For weeks I tried the doctor’s order of Betadine and Bactroban on the wound. Every time it would almost form a scab, the wet part would stick to the gauze or my underwear and pull it off again.
I was complaining about my problem to a friend when she mentioned she had the same problem. Her yaya had told her to boil guava leaves and use the water as a final rinse after bathing. She claimed that within 3 days, it dried up. I thought I’d give it a try. When I mentioned this to my helpers at home, they looked at me and gave me a knowing smile. My cook said that she had used that remedy when giving birth to all 4 of her children. Even my driver knew of the remedy, offering to bring me guava leaves the next day from the tree in his house. I texted my doctor to ask her if it was okay to try this. To my surprise she said that there is actual medical evidence to prove that this remedy works because of the anti bacterial properties of guava leaves.
My lovely driver brought the leaves the next day as promised. Not just any leaves would work, they have to be newly sprouted leaves, closest to the fruit. I had them boiled and used the murky brown water it became as my final wash. For extra good measure, my cook suggested placing the leaf on the wound directly for a few minutes. The next day I had forgotten about the guava wash. But as I was dressing up I noticed the wound had dried up. I couldn’t believe it. The depressed part of my scar, covered in weird white wet stuff had dried up. I showed it to my husband and he couldn’t believe it either. I saw my doctor the next day and showed it to her, she allowed me to continue using the guava leaf as a final rinse until the wound had dried up. In 5 days proper scabs and formed and after two weeks, the scabs fell off revealing the neat pink scar.
I found out from a tita of mine that my grandfather, who was her gynecologist had told her to use guava leaves as a rinse when she had her babies in the 60’s. I couldn’t believe that that advise had come from him, as he was known to be forward thinking in the field of ob-gyne in the Philippines. There is a very good reason traditional remedies are still around- they really do work. Of course before trying this remedy, its best to consult your doctor. Don’t discount the wonders of age old remedies.
May 3, 2012 by Juana Manahan-Yupangco