USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk medicine
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Cure for Bad Dreams

A friend, CB, was visiting me from Texas, and heard me talking with my roommate about the bad dreams she had been having. Camila jokingly proposed that my roommate try this remedy that her mom always made her and her sister do whenever they had nightmares. It is used to remove bad spirits. CB’s mom is very spiritual and uses folk remedies and prayers often.

“So you need an egg and a glass of water and you say a prayer and then rub the egg all over your body in cross motions. After that you crack the egg in the water, put the egg under your bed or near your bed, and sleep. When you wake up the egg has collected all the bad energy and dreams around you and you have to flush it down the toilet to remove the energy.”

It’s interesting that an egg is chosen to soak up the negativity. From reading other sources it seems that the egg would start to smell after some time and the bad smell represented the bad energy that you would throw away. Another blogger mentioned that when it dries it leaves circles that look like the evil eye. I’d be curious to see if any more reasons behind it exist or if there’s anything that has to do with fertility.

Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eating dduk mandu gook (rice cake dumpling soup) on New Years Day

Informant is a descendant of Irish immigrants who married a Korean man so is familiar with certain Korean traditions.

Tradition as told by informant: Every new years Luis (husband) has the family eat the dumpling soup so I had to go online and look up how to make it.

Every new years Koreans eat this soup because they believe that Koreans age one year every new year. You don’t gain a year until you eat this soup so it is important to them that they have it. It also symbolizes good health and fortune for the new year.

The white, clear broth of the soup represents a clean fresh start to the new year and the disc shaped rice cakes symbolize coins for wealth and good fortune.

for more on this tradition see:

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Daeboreum “Great Full Moon Day”

Informant is a Korean born immigrant who went to primary school in Korea and college in Hawaii lives in Los Angeles

Folk belief as told by informant: On Jan 15th ‘Full Moon Day’ – if you go to sleep early on this date, your eyebrow will turn into to a grey color.  So we used to stay up and play believing that don’t happen.

I believe this was one belief that wasn’t upheld once my mom moved to the United States. It was more prominent when she lived in Korea. After doing some more research there a few other things Koreans practice on this day. Some people crack nuts with their teeth because they believe doing so will strengthen their teeth and give them good healthy teeth. People who live on the countryside climb the highest mountain to see the full moon. Apparently whoever is the first to see the full moon is granted good luck for the entire year.

Folk medicine

Ginger Root Cures the Fever

Gale recalls a memory from her childhood when she was growing up in Houston, Texas. Her neighbors, who were from Vietnam, introduced her to folk medicine used in their culture.


G: “When we lived in Houston, our neighbors were from Vietnam, and the dad told us that in Vietnam they didn’t have any aspirins or medicines or anything, so if you got a fever, they would take a ginger root and cut part of it off, and then they would take the freshly cut part and rub it on the bottoms of your feet, and that would make your fever go down. When I heard that I was thinking, “Oh my gosh! What a bunch of Malarky this is, you know!”


“And so then later, I was reading an article. It was talking about how porous the palms of our hands are and the bottoms of our feet. It was saying that stuff will get through it, and so this article was saying that if you cut an onion and rubbed, you know, the freshly cut part on the palms of your hand, within just a little bit you’ll taste onion on your tongue. And so I was like,” Oh! that reminds me of rubbing the ginger root on your foot!” And then later, I was reading this article about natural remedies, and it was saying that ginger root would reduce your fever. Yeah, and so then I decided, well that probably wasn’t malarky after all. That was, you know, folklore that was really true.”


Although I had an idea that the surfaces of our feet and palms on our hands were naturally more sensitive to touch,  I actually didn’t know they were considered porous. It seems strange to me that we can rub a substance on our palms and perhaps later taste that same substance in our mouths. I thought this story was interesting because it tells of a natural, folk remedy apart of the Vietnamese culture. This idea that ginger root can cure fevers is vastly different from American solutions. In America, we don’t seem to have a many unusual remedies. Maybe this is due to our economic stability that has allowed for advanced medicine in the United States that doesn’t require Americans to find alternative therapies for illnesses. Although some certain remedies may seem bizarre or uncommon, they become popular over time, being passed down from generations on because of their effectiveness on patients. I think it is also important to note one of the reasons that many minority groups turn to “natural” remedies is because of a lack of access to health care services in their environment in the first place. For more information on ginger spice as a cure for common illnesses, see

“Ginger to Cure Many Diseases.” - SPICES VIETNAM. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.


Folk medicine

Headache Remedy

Informant-Zoe Virant: 18 years old. From Saint Louis, Missouri. Her mother used to use this remedy on her when she was a child. It was passed down to her by her grandmother and was common in their household. Interview was conducted in person.


Folk Medicine: “When I was growing up I used to get really bad headaches. My mom didn’t like that I had to take so much advil and she said she had similar headaches when she was growing up. So whenever I got one, she would give me hot tea with lemon and then take lavender from our garden, crush it up with coconut oil and apply it to my temples. I would fall asleep and when I woke up my headache was gone. She never bought lavender oil because its not what her mother did with her, she did everything the exact same way. I don’t know, it made it feel kind of special in a way. Maybe it was my mothers touch, but I really think it helped.”


Thoughts: I have heard of using lavender oil to cure headaches but never fresh lavender mixed with coconut oil. I love that it was passed down from her grandmother and there was no alterations even though its so easy to buy lavender oil. Lemon water is commonly used to cure a sore throat or cold and is a folk remedy that is used often and my mother gave it to me when I was sick as a child to make me feel better. Zoe told me this folklore when I got a headache one day and I thought it was worth noting.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Banana Peels and Sore Throats

The informant, my grandfather, is a 67-year-old man who was born and raised in the Sacramento Valley. His mother was also born in the United States, and is of Spanish, German, and French descent. While riding in the car on the way to breakfast, I asked if he remembered any of the home remedies his mother would use when he was sick.

“When I or any of my siblings had a sore throat, my mom would take a banana, peel it, and place the moist side of the banana peel against our feet. Then we had to put socks on. Apparently, whatever was left in the banana peel would heal your sore throat. Maybe it had to do with the potassium or something. I’m not sure if it ever really worked, but we still did it.”

I was a bit taken aback by this form of folk medicine, mostly because I could not imagine the sensation of having a banana peel forced inside of my sock. The informant did not initially tell me where his mother learned of this remedy. After I followed up to determine whether it was an idiosyncrasy, the informant said that his mother learned of the healing properties of banana peels from her mother, who was born in Spain, and that the tradition had been prominent within their community as doctors were scarcely available and most remedies were communicated orally. However, the informant decided not to continue the tradition and pass it down to his children because he felt there were better remedies available for a sore throat. Perhaps the idea of a banana peel having medicinal properties comes from the fact that fruits, and bananas in particular, are rich in vitamins and minerals. Banana peels are cool to the touch, and so may be capable of alleviating skin irritations or abrasions. It is unclear how these properties applied to the bottom of one’s foot would help to remedy a sore throat, but maybe the unfamiliar sensation served as a distraction from the pain that the child felt in their throat by focusing attention to a different area of the body.

Folk medicine

Marking Xs To Heal Mosquito Bites

The informant is an 18-year old student who lived in Louisiana for a few years.

He claims that he was told by family members to indent an X-shape over any mosquito bites and spit on it to keep mosquito bites from being itchy. The informant claims the folkloric medicinal strategy did in-fact cease the itchiness of mosquito bites, but that was without any saliva. Since then, he has spread the tactic to other around him when mosquitos come out at night.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Whiskey and health

My informant was my 90 year old great aunt. She is a wonderful woman that has been a staple in the family forever, providing food, kindness, and wisdom to everyone in the family. I decided to talk to her about my great grandfather because she was very close to him and knew him as well as any body.

Collector: “Was there anything that Harry (my great grandfather) did on a regular basis in particular throughout his life?”

Informant: “Oh yes, he was a beautiful man. Always in such high spirits and had such great health. Well, something that he would do every single day was enjoy a glass of whiskey after dinner and before sleep. He would always just sit in his chair watch the television and drink his whiskey. We were all wondering how he was living so long drinking whiskey like that, but since he did live so long we figured that the whiskey must have been good for him.”

Collector: “He lived until he was 103 years old right?”

Informant: “Yes, he was the longest living person I have every known. And the whiskey couldn’t have hurt. In fact, drinking whiskey every night has been a type of tradition for the boys in the family and they have lived long lives.”

This was a great piece of information to know. That every day my he would drink a glass of whiskey and he lived until he was 103 years old. He must have been doing something right. I decided to do a bit of research on what health benefits Whiskey has for a person. It turns out that Whiskey is probably the healthiest alcohol that you can drink. It helps with weight loss, dementia, heart health, blood clots, cancer prevention, immune steno boost, and even diabetes control. Although it can only help in these areas to a certain extent, drinking it in rational amounts could potentially make one live a little longer.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Chicken noodle soup as a cold remedy

My informant was my 52 year old mom. She has always told me to eat chicken noodle soup when I have a cold. Every time I would even be remotely sick, chicken noodle soup would be fuming around the house. My intention behind this interview was to gather information about where she heard that and why that is true.

Collector: “Why have you always given me chicken noodle soup when I was sick? Does it actually work?”

Informant: “Well as I was growing up my mom would always give me chicken noodle soup when I was sick, and I know that my grandmother would always give my mom chicken noodle soup when she was sick. I think it does work, when all those fumes go up your nose and the hot liquid goes down your throat it must help something. At least it tastes good and that alone can just make you happy.”

I decided to do more research to see where this started and if it was truly good for your health. It was nearly impossible to find out where it originated from because practically every country and culture has their own recipe and way of making the soup. From Poland to Pakistan to the Unites States, the recipe changes but most cultures do drink it when ill. Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha took blood samples from volunteers and showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, which are the most common types of white blood cells that protects the body from infection. This inability to move, makes them stronger and allows the body to fight off viruses more easily. This was very interesting to learn because I will now know why chicken soup affects me in such a positive way when I get sick.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Gogel Mogel

I interviewed my 94 year old grandfather about things that his parents taught him growing up. He is a man that has had many experiences throughout his life but one thing that brought him fondness was something called a Gogel Mogel which is something his mother would give him when he was feeling sick. This is the first time I have ever heard about it but apparently it is something that has been passed down in his family for generations.

Collector: “Is there anything significant that your parents taught you as a child or throughout your life?”

Informant: “Hmmm.. well there was one thing that my mom would do for me whenever I would get sick. She would always make me something called a Gogel Mogel. She would have a hot cup of tea or milk, add honey, and then crack a raw egg into the cup. Every time I would get a cold or the flu, she would make me drink this.”

Collector: “How did it taste?”

Informant: “It was bad at first, but after the fifth or sixth time I actually started to like it.”

This was very interesting to me because this is a remedy for a cold I had never heard before. My grandfather ended up making me one and it was surprisingly refreshing. The drink became known by this name among Jews during the 17th century in Central Europe. It is actually even mentioned in the Shulchan Arukh which is the Jewish code of law where it states that one can eat sweet syrup and a raw egg to sooth one’s voice. It is a drink still served in many Jewish households and is still popular in Eastern European countries such as Poland.