USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk medicine
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Broncollin Remedy

Broncolin is a all natural herbs and honey folk remedy that is used to treat colds and congestion in its folk method, but it’s actually a diet supplement. You apply the honey under your tongue and after that you give a small massage around the Adam’s apple area and you are supposed to wake up healed.


Juan is a Mexican-American from Mexico city. He works demolition, but is super into his religion of being a Jehovah Witness. He has been passing down his traditions to his kids, just how they were passed down to him by his dad and grandpa

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Vapu-Rub Remedy

Vicks Vapu-Rub remedy has been a trend in the Latino community. All you have to do is put the product on the soles of your feet and put socks on, as well as on your back and chest. Doing so, supposedly leads you to be cured by the morning.An addition to this remedy is also provide yerba buena boiled with some vapu-rub and then also massaged on your back and chest.


Juan is a Mexican-American from Mexico city. He works demolition, but is super into his religion of being a Jehovah Witness. He has been passing down his traditions to his kids, just how they were passed down to him by his dad and grandpa.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Vick’s Vapor Rub Cold Remedy

One thing is you put Vick’s vapor rub on your socks and feet. It’s supposed to help clear up congestion. I heard about it when my daughter was a baby, because I couldn’t give her cold medicine. You’re supposed to put menthol on their feet with socks on, because you can’t put it on their chest.

I had not heard of this, but this sounds like folklore that would be shared more with new parents or babysitters.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Cinnamon and Honey Cold Remedy

Cinnamon and honey, eat it with a spoon and it’s supposed to sooth your throat and help you stop coughing. My niece was coughing all the way to school once, and I just gave her a dixie cup of honey and cinnamon and she stopped coughing. And it tastes really good too.

I’ve heard of this before, though I can’t recall where. I haven’t personally had much luck with it, but I can vouch for it tasting very good.

Folk medicine

Football Folk Medicine – Pickle Juice

Knowing sports are highly ritualistic and superstitious I ask my informant, a football player of many years if he had any experience with folk remedies. This is what he said.

“For football, we all drink pickle juice before a game or in the middle of it because it stops cramps, like we fill Gatorade cups full of pickle juice. The salt helps absorb water because of the salt. Or eat mustard, it has the same effect. Our trainer has us do it. Cramps will make a player come out of the game, it sucks to come out, so we try to prevent them or make them go away so we can get back out there. Cramps are a stupid way to leave the game so yo drink pickle juice. You get used to the taste, it’s not great, but you chase with gatorade, but it’s worth it. It also works, I mean if it’s between taking a shot of pickle juice or not playing we would all take the pickle juice because paying is important. And it works”


Usually folk remedies turn into scientific remedies and vice versa. Or often they are placebo effects, and people believe that what they are doing will cure them. Neither are truly the case here. This is simply a long standing practice in sports where there is a lot of quick actions and muscle cramps are common. Salt does help reduce water in a body’s system, but it is unclear whether it truly helps reduce cramps. It may just all be in the mind or it may not. However, the players believe it, the trainers believe it, so it works. It’s a folk remedy that works for this team and many, but is not a part of conventional western medicine. However, someday it may evolve into western medicine or some medical product may be on the market for muscle cramps, but this team uses pickle juice. Pickle juice isn’t sold to reduce cramps, in fact just pickle juice isn’t sold, pickles are sold then the juice is re-appropriated for medical use.


Folk medicine

Rosemary Herb as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the rosemary herb:

Interviewer: “What is one of the main herbs you suggest to your patients?”

Informant: “Rosemary is an herbal staple.  It’s a grounding herb that helps your spirit stay connected to your physical body especially during stressful and challenging situations”

Interviewer: “How do people use Rosemary?”

Informant: “You can rub the herb on any part of your body to make you feel more grounded, especially the forehead and in the palms.  Rosemary can also be ingested which will have the same effect”

Analysis: I have used rosemary and believe it works.  I feel more grounded and able to control my own body when either ingesting or touching this herb however I understand that there is a lack of scientific evidence to back up this claim.  I first heard about this homeopathic method from the informant who heard it from her teacher who prefers to remain anonymous.  She does energy work on both humans and animals and has had great success with her controversial methods.  Using the Earth’s resources as medicine has been around since the beginning of time and the informant is building off of their ancient work to discover more about the undiscovered field.

Folk medicine

Stone Circle Flower Essence as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the stone circle flower essence:

Interviewer: “What are some of your favorite flower essences?”

Informant: “I find the stone circle flower essence to be quite powerful.  It places an aura of solid protection in the energy field so that one does not take on any unbalanced energy from the environment”

Interviewer: “Who do you recommend this essence to?”

Informant: “People and animals under a lot of stress that need balance in their life.  Especially people or animals who are ultra sensitive to the energy around them and therefore have a higher risk of getting hit with negative energy.  They have to be protected.”

Interviewer: “Who is an ultra sensitive”

Informant: “Your sister, for one.  She is very effected by her environment and the littlest thing could throw her off balance.  For example if a big storm came with a bunch of negative energy that could mess up her balance as well as if she got in a big fight with her parents or is stressed about school work.  Anything out of routine could potentially upset their balance.”

Interviewer: “So how should people like my sister take this flower essence?”

Informant: “I make it at home and it comes in a little dropper bottle.  It’s a liquid that can either be ingested or rubbed on the skin or hair”

Analysis: The informant learned all of her practices from her teacher who would prefer to remain anonymous who learned them from a teacher before her.  This folklore is especially important to me because it pertains to my sister.  I have first-hand seen the effects of this flower essence and how it has completely changed my sister’s personality.  She is more patient now and in control of her emotions.  Although there is a lack of scientific evidence, this remedy that has been passed down for generations seems to work at least in the informant’s experience.

Folk medicine

Scarlet Monkey Flower Essence as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the scarlet monkey flower essence:

Interviewer: “Which herbs or flower essences help with emotions?”

Informant: “Scarlet monkey flower essence is one of my favorite flower essences because it addresses the fear of repressed strong emotions, especially those of anger and powerlessness.  It helps one communicate clearly and directly with emotional honesty.”

Interviewer: “Who would you recommend scarlet monkey flower to?”

Informant: “Well your mom currently takes scarlet monkey flower.  She has expressed and I have observed that she struggles with accepting her emotions so she has been using this flower essence for a few months now”

Analysis: My mother claims this flower essence works and has improved her quality of life significantly as she is happier and more in tune with herself and her spirit.  I agree as she has been much better at communicating with me when she is feeling angry or upset instead of just letting her emotions brew until one day she explodes.  This flower essence has been passed down for generations from the informants teacher to her and now to my mother who excitedly tells anyone willing to listen about the miracle essence.  Although the flower essence is ancient, the informant is finding new uses for it in the ever adapting world.

Folk medicine

Cold Remedies

Main Piece:

The participant/interviewee is marked as MG.

MG: “No salgas con el cabello mojado.” (Don’t go out with wet hair)

“If you wet you feet, you have to take a shower.”

If you go to the beach you have to take a shower…a lot of sayings have to do with getting sick.

LJ: When do you get these? Are their remedies?

MG: They’re about getting…catching the cold or a fever. Um…my mom usually gives me some “vaporu” (Vapor Rub). Hahaha. And like, and then again, because I’m really sick and I didn’t listen the first time, I shouldn’t go outside. And then if I DO go outside, I have to cover up, especially the nasal passages.

Ohhh! There’s like certain things. One of the most recent things that my mom told me, she probably learned it from the radio. Its vinger…apple cider vinegar. If you do garggles, then that kinda clears up your throat.

LJ: Do they make you feel better?

MG: Mmmm….it’s not really a quick result. So if you keep doing it, it helps. Hahaha But it might just be that over time you get better.



Participant and I were walking at night on the way to an event. This conversation was recorded then.


Marisol: The participant is a second year student at the University of Southern California. She was raised in Santa Ana, California in a Mexican/Catholic background. She has two older siblings and lives in a two parent household.


There are many Mexican sayings about how to avoid being sick. MG touched on a few of these. However, she received all of them from her mother. Indicating that perhaps her mom is the more caring parent or the one that spends the most time with the children.

Within the interview, MG mentioned “vaporu” an American-made topical gel intended to help with minor diseases, like the common cold. It is common remedy within the Mexican community. There are several articles/memes about how often it is used. The participated acknowledged understanding the context of it by laughing.

Although the participant takes these remedies, she also sees that they may only be helping her mentally–as a placebo affect. This is a way in which traditional/folk knowledge intersects with academic/scientific knowledge. What she has learned as a student in the United States, allows her to question the validity of these remedies.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Fiji Cold Remedy

I learned this from a friend of my dad’s who was an Indian guy living in Fiji when we lived there. We always got sick on the plane coming over, a cold or whatever.  It works—makes you feel much better, makes being sick much less awful, and it tastes good, I drink it when I’m feeling okay, too.
If you feel like you’re getting a cold, you go to an Indian market and you buy these things to make tea  and then I’ll tell you what to do with them.  I guess it’s really an infusion, not a tea, but anyway.

So first you buy whole cloves.  These are the most important and if you can’t find anything else they’ll help some.  They have a slight numbing quality—dentists use eugenol, which is clove oil—and they’re also pretty antibacterial—and then you take like twelve cloves and twelve peppercorns, black peppercorns for sneezing, for your sinuses, a couple of bruised cardamom pods—they make you cough stuff up—and some fennel seeds, like a couple of big pinches, it also, like, loosens phlegm, there’s a thing in it that they isolate to make cough medicine—and a cinnamon stick because I don’t know, it’s supposed to be warming.  I think mostly it just tastes really good in there. You put in some sliced fresh ginger to clear your sinuses and maybe a slice of lemon or a little honey and you pour boiling water over it all and let it sit for a while.  Then drink it.  And you can re-infuse it a few times.  The ginger and fennel make it good for stomach stuff, too.

If you can’t get this stuff, just go order a chai tea with no milk.  It’s a lot of the same stuff.  But this is better.


I had actually recently heard about a similar version of this cold remedy, and it seems the use of cloves and peppercorns in a tea-like infusion is a popular way to treat cold symptoms.