CAIRO: I know it is difficult to imagine, but let’s take a trip back through time to when there were no steam engines, no pharmaceutical companies and no iPods.
A time when people lived primitively but needed, like we do today, to brush their teeth, clean their wounds and blisters, seek treatment for skin rashes and such maladies as diarrhoea, and kill the nauseating smell of rotten garbage and microbes.
And they had to do all that without tooth paste, disinfectants, skin creams or garbage recycling.
The key word during these days was a miracle powder we have come to know through the ages as salt.
Yes salt, that cheap common white condiment we likely have a box of at home just to control food taste.
But the uses of salt go behind the culinary and while some of us may avoid it in hopes of controlling our blood pressure, a lack of salt – in its various applications – in our lives is actually hazardous.
We will leave the medical debate on the pros and cons to the health and nutrition experts and attempt a more practical approach.
Our world is made up mostly of salty water, so salt is an integral and significant part of our physical surroundings.
Practically we cannot do without all the useful items produced by pharmaceutical companies. But salt had come in handy many times those happened to be unavailable for some reason or another. So it is perfectly the ideal remedy during general emergencies.
The first of these came about when one time, arriving late at night to a small hotel following a long trip, I discovered that I had left behind my tooth-paste.
I had been eating enough sweets during the trip that a mouth-wash was necessary. There was no way to find an operating drugstore at 4 am. The memory of an Egyptian Nubian who had managed to sustain the habit of rubbing his teeth with salt suddenly struck me. During a tour in Upper Egypt, I saw many Nubians practising the habit.
Also salt was the only item I could get from the hotel at this unearthly hour of night. I did it and went to sleep with fairly clean teeth.
Interestingly, this is not out of context with modern dentistry, for some dentists would advise a mouth-wash with salty water after you draw a tooth, all with the aim of keeping the resultant injury clean. But the oral benefits do not end here: Many of us still resort instinctively to salt as soon as their throat starts burning in an attempt to nip throat inflammations in the bud.
But back to the briny we should always remember that no one could ignore the miraculous effect of a dip in the sea water when dealing with skin-related problems like boils, pimples and several types of allergies, let alone the positive impact of iodine and iodine-laden salts in curing many diseases.
Salty water is also the ideal protection against bacterial infections affecting toes and toe-nails. What we see in classical movies of people soaking their feet in a bowl of salty water is still rather relevant even if does sound like an old wives tale.
Make that a daily habit to save the cost of creams and your feet lots of trouble.
But this isn’t all. Let aside health care, and focus on one important aspect of household affairs: the garbage, especially one containing the remains of a fish meal or peels of vegetables that could cause odorous chaos within home or at the staircase once you decide to leave the garbage bag at your door to be collected the next day.
With a quantity of salt added to your garbage, preferably one that’s proportionate with the size of the remains, you can kill the bacteria that nourish the reek.
More uses you would discover as you come across emergencies. And eventually you will decide that you have to keep more than one box of salt at home. People suffering from high blood pressure are warned against excessive use of salt especially in food.
But we are told drinking water containing salts is a must today and little wonder the sale of mineral waters has gone up as never before. Don’t give up disinfectant, toothpastes, skin creams; keep using them but be informed that they are not the sole remedies. Look upon them with a pinch of salt, for our ancestors managed quite well without them.