It took more than 2,000 years!
But some award winning scientists may have just explained what made ancient folk medicine work. Recently the two scientists received the Noble Prize for Medicine for their work explaining what makes chili peppers so hot and how using the proteins can help combat chronic pain. Their research also did something else. It helped solve a 2,500 year old mystery and put some renewed interest in women’s ancient folk medicine.
While the scientists are tied to modern times, it’s believed people known as the Scythians once used a plant to help them better withstand the cold.
It’s thought the warrior women could have crushed up the cabbage-like plant they found growing wild close to the Don River and used it for the sensation of warmth. While they wouldn’t have actually be any warmer, their brains would have gotten the message that they “felt” warmer. That’s similar to how applying menthol helps make your skin feel “cool”, but it doesn’t actually reduce your temperature at all. The new scientific research, therefore, helps explain away the mechanics of this type of ancient women’s folk medicine. It’s likely making the plant into a massage oil helped them deal with the cold of the river and possibly even the pain endured from battle injuries.
In a similar way, capsaicin gained from hot chili peppers is now used in creams to help topically relieve the pain of arthritis.
When capsaicin creams touch your skin, they give off a mild burning or warm tingling sensation. For some this means temporary, yet immediate pain relief. Of course, some of us simply choose to enjoy the hot flavor of capsaicin by adding it to our food and experiencing the many flavors of the pepper scale. No matter how you use it today, it seems ancient culture likely laid the groundwork for modern inventions and research with ties to folk medicine.