Myths: Fact or Fiction

A reader shares old wives’ tales she believes, such as chicken soup being the perfect cold and flu medicine.

| Appeared in March/April 2015 Issue of GRIT Magazine

  • An illustration of a man in bed wearing a night cap, regarding the belief that a person loses most of his body heat through the head.
    Photo by Lyn Wellsand

Adages: Are They Fact or Fiction?

Through the years, I’ve learned that not all old wives’ tales are nonsense — or not entirely nonsense anyway.

Take chicken soup, for example. My mom made the most wonderful chicken soup. She would use old hens we had butchered and frozen, and simmer them for broth. Her broth had the richest, most savory taste and aroma, and even sipped alone, without anything added, it was delicious. However, Mom would usually add some parsley, onion, celery and carrots to the broth, along with bite-size pieces of chicken, and then she would let it simmer slowly for hours. Near serving time, she would add the noodles and let them cook. This soup was the remedy for head colds and flu bugs in our household. It was delicious, and it always seemed to make us feel better. It was the ideal comfort food for both body and soul, and the perfect cold and flu medicine.

I also remember eating carrots when I was younger, and being told that they were good for your eyesight. Having worn glasses since I was in fifth grade, this was an experiment I hoped would be successful. However, although I know carrots are good for me, I’ve had to continue getting stronger eyeglass prescriptions as I’ve gotten older. So, now that I’m in my 50s, this adage is a little disappointing — and possibly misleading.

Another old-fashioned belief was that a person loses most of his or her body heat through the head — a belief that supposedly originated back in the day when people wore night caps to bed to keep warm. However, this old wives’ tale has been said to be false in more recent years. For me, though, my warm hat is an absolute must when I go outside in winter. My coat, gloves and boots help, too, but my hat just makes me feel toasty warm.

How about the one about a person catching a cold by sleeping in a cool, drafty room or by going outside with wet hair? In later years, it was said that this was not the case. I’m not convinced, though. I can remember several sinus infections hitting after running outside in the cold air with wet hair to feed the animals, walk to the mailbox, or take out the garbage. On the flipside, though, our farmhouse always seemed cool and airy in the winter months, and I don’t remember our family being sick any more often than the neighbors. Or maybe those sinus infections originated from the drafty house. Who knows!

One adage I strongly disagree with is that eating chocolate causes acne. I’m a chocoholic, and throughout the years I’ve only had sporadic issues with acne. Even if this one is legitimate, isn’t chocolate worth it? I think so!

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