Cultural remedies to help you get through this evaluation period
As exam season dawns, late nights turn into wee mornings and the dreaded fear that cramming won’t be enough to land a pass becomes all too real. In addition to the usual exam habits of getting enough sleep and eating well, trying a cultural remedy or two can’t hurt.
Baadaam: blanched almonds
This Indian tradition sums up every morning of the week at school when my grandmother gave us peeled almonds to chew on during the car ride. “Chew them until it becomes like toothpaste and swallow it; it will make you smarter, ”my father told me.
To remove the skin from the almonds, pour lukewarm water over a handful of almonds in a bowl and let them soak overnight. The next morning, remove the skin and drain the water. As tradition dictates, eat seven almonds a day and you will get smart!
Puasa Mutih: White fast
Traveling to Indonesia, puasa mutih will ward off evil spirits and awaken your inner spirit to strengthen your mind for the exam block. Literally translate to white fast, this diet consists only of white foods and liquid before an exam, so it is best to stock up on rice, hard-boiled eggs, white bread, and milk. Its origins go back to the spiritual Kejawen beliefs in Java, where fasting purifies the soul and ward off evil. This concept of fasting to cleanse and purify the body has been taken in a modern context as a way to prepare for exams.
Miyeokguk: Seaweed soup
In Korea, students avoid seaweed soup, miyeokguk, before an exam because its slippery consistency is believed to let knowledge escape your mind. However, seaweed contains minerals that support cognitive functions and are excellent due to their nutritional value. It has become common practice for mothers all over Malaysia to feed their children seaweed soup before taking exams. So you might have to try your luck with this one.
Keep the devil away
If the devil on your shoulder tells you to excessively watch a TV show on the night that an appraisal is due, you might want to spit over your left shoulder three times and hit wood. The idea of spitting on the devil is prevalent in many cultures and religions, namely Russians, Jews, Islamics and Greeks.
Za’atar: Spice blend
For centuries across the Middle East, parents fed their children za’atar, mixture of spices with dried herbs, before exams, because it was believed to make you smarter. This belief has been proven to have some accuracy. The nutrients, oils, and antioxidants in za’atar are effective in improving memory retention, energy levels, and your overall mood. Mix za’atar with olive oil, spread it on warm flatbread, and you can take your exam in a good mood!
In Sri Lanka, barley is believed to have a number of benefits, ranging from soothing sore throats to preventing ailment. Cooked barley is not only believed to make you smarter, it is also said to give your face a natural glow. Prepare barley like rice, bring it to a boil before lowering the heat and simmering, covered, for 20-40 minutes (depending on the type of barley you are using).
Buddhi Vardhak: yogurt and sugar
Just before taking an exam, eat a spoonful of yogurt with sugar. Ayurveda (a medicinal system in India) suggests that sugary foods help long-term memory and cognitive abilities, also called Buddhi Vardhak. So if you take a spoonful of yogurt, don’t skip the sugar!
If these remedies have worked for hundreds of years across the world, I think we can all benefit from a little za’atar, boiled barley, and boiled egg. But, just before you write an absurd grocery list to prepare for this exam season, I’m going to share my grandpa’s advice; study thoroughly.