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Traditional Baltic Remedies

When your eyes hurt, then you must cut out of freshly baked bread a round crust from the end, and place it on top of a glass. When the glass has fogged up, smear your eye with the condensation.

When your ears hurt, you put geranium leaves in them, or you can also wrap garlic in black wool with pepper and stick that in your ear.

While some older people in the Baltics might still abide by these 'remedies' the most commonly used ones today are far less intense, but still considered by most as commonsense cures. Centered around natural products (teas, honey, plants), the people of the Baltic's have earned a reputation through history as wizardly and magical people. Even now, and certainly in the past, folk doctors and formally trained doctors often work side by side, or refer patients to one another, legitimizing the craft.

Many similar remedies are found throughout the region: peppermint tea as a remedy for stomach aches, currant juice and honey for coughs, dill for high blood pressure.

Also, understandably, a highly popular medicinal drink is… vodka! In addition to killing germs, the Balts have been known to have the ability of reading the future in glasses of vodka.

However similar the simple cures may be across the Baltics, there are several regionally specific cures and herbal traditions.

Latvia has a rich tradition heavily rooted in using specific types of honey (ranging from mildest to strongest) for various ailments as well as for maintaining overall health.

The hierarchy of honey is as follows:

- Apple blossom- good for general everyday use.

- Linden blossom- Specifically for colds and illnesses.

- Forest- Stronger, good for cold days to warm you up.

- Heather- Strongest, only a tiny amount is used for sweetening tea and hot beverages, good for a shot of energy as well as extra iron.

Currant juice together with honey is used to cure a strong cough. Diluted juice is used to shorten the duration of the common cold.

Lithuanians use many dried herbs in their traditional cures. Periwinkle for male health, blueberries for eyesight (and if eaten everyday, blueberries ensure a long life). Lithuanians also focus more on heat and saunas. Although saunas are popular all over Northern an Eastern Europe, some Lithuanians will even go as far as to give birth in a sauna! The most prevalent belief was that illnesses were beings, separate entities and had to be treated accordingly. As many illnesses related to natural causes, it made sense that they should be treated with corresponding natural remedies.

In Estonia, many people still believe in the evil eye, hence why many are not apt to talk positively about their lives and situations, in fear of having the evil eye cast upon them. Salt has been a common remedy (taken within moderation internally) for centuries. Taking herbal infused baths are also quite popular and the herbs used are similar to those in teas, maintaining the belief that the skin will soak in the healing properties. Sage is especially popular to reduce sweating and odor (common for fishermen) and leaves the bather with a pleasant scent which lasts for days.

These natural products (as well as sage advice from the people peddling these goods) are available throughout the Baltics in their famous open air markets such as Keskturg (central) market in Tallinn, Centralais Tirgus in Riga and HalÄ—s Market in Vilnius.

By Monika Tomsevica