According to Bram Stoker, garlic works a charm when warding off vampires. I am not sure what my grandfather thought about vampires, but he certainly believed in the power of garlic.
My grandfather, pictured, learnt homeopathy and iridology in his middle age. He and his family had sought refuge in Germany during the Latvian War of Independence in 1919, and it was there his interest in alternative medicines began. According to my aunt’s journal, he studied iridology under a Dr Schnabel in Munich. When my grandparents made the decision to move back to Latvia in the 1920s, my grandfather supported them financially with his practice. Until his death, my grandfather used homeopathy and iridology to cure himself and his family, refusing to let them see doctors. This worked well until my father came down with appendicitis, but that’s another story.
My aunt, the eldest of four children, writes that she and her siblings were often ill, and their father would diagnose them and then treat them with his special pillules or droplets. Every few hours during their illness, he would present them with his remedies, and make compresses for their chests, or necks. He also practiced on his extended family, injecting the older females with formic acid or bee venom to cure rheumatism, a method which anecdotally was successful.
Apparently, my grandfather was also determined to prevent illnesses in the family. This was understandable, as my grandmother had chronic asthma and was sick for much of her life. Being an invalid must have weakened her immune system and made her prone to catching anything which went around. My grandfather, unable to cure her asthma with his remedies, tried to protect her from other diseases. My aunt tells a story about his preventative methods which always brings a smile to my face.
It appears that, whenever there was a contagious disease at school, my grandfather would prepare small cloth bags for the children to wear around their necks and under their clothing, next to their skin. In each bag he placed a fresh raw clove of garlic. According to my aunt, “The success was resounding. No one wanted to sit next to us at school because we stank so badly! And we did not get sick.”
Later on, still at school, my aunt contracted a form of tuberculosis. She was feverish and lay ill in bed for nine months, cared for by my grandfather and his remedies. It must have been a worrying time for the whole family. Luckily, with tuberculosis being so contagious, it seems as if she was the only one to suffer.
My aunt grew up and learned nursing, a profession she stayed with her entire life. I often wonder if she and my grandfather had arguments about how to treat illnesses. My grandfather’s obsession with alternative medicine must have had an impact on my father, as he was always suspicious of doctors and prescribed medicines. I too rarely see doctors, preferring to consult my naturopath if I’m sick. However, garlic doesn’t agree with me!