USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘herbs’
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.

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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.

Childhood
Legends
Narrative

Herbal Drug Reinforcement

Item:

Me: “Wait you seriously don’t take Advil or Motrin or anything?”

Informant: “No not that I know of haha. I drink really bad tasting herbal concoctions instead.”

The informant grew up with her parents telling her the story of Shennong, who was once a ruler of China. He extremely influential in Chinese agriculture, and even more so in herbal drug creation. He apparently held many closely guarded secrets in this regard. She received a book as a gift that was an illustrated version of a story based out of the Shennong legend. The book detailed the importance of herbal medicine, but at the end, the main character consumes yellow flowers at the top of a mountain and dies. The yellow flowers represented herbs not to be used, and were associated with Western Medicine to stress the importance of genuine Chinese herbal medication and drugs.

 

Context:

Painting Western Medicine in a negative light was something the informant says her parents did / do a lot, especially when she was young. Things like telling a story that subtly puts non-herbal medicine at a lower tier is something that many Chinese-born parents do, according to the informant. And while she recognizes the necessity of a lot of modern medicine for severe things, she still completely avoids smaller things like ibuprofen or allergy medication. It’s not for any reason other than she says that’s just how she was raised.

 

Analysis:

This was actually sort of surprising! I know the informant very well and finding out that someone doesn’t take any western medicine (again the exception being treatment for serious ailments or injuries) caught me off guard. To think that something rooted in someone from their culture, despite not being raised in the country from which that culture is born, would lead them to make a not-insignificant choice like that is very interesting. Also finding out that the parents deliberately used a legend to reinforce their ideology is fascinating. Proverbs seem like a very good platform for this, but at first thinking of a Chinese leader who specialized in herbs, I don’t immediately jump to marking that as a good potential education device.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Healing With An Egg

This is one of the weird things he (my stepdad) actually did when we were kids…

So he would grab and egg and if we were sick, he would rub us down with alcohol and then rub us down with the egg wherever it was aching/hurting… focused on that one spot. So like for a headache, a stomachache, or if they had a leg injury—like issues where they couldn’t walk, and then he also had sage and a lot of other plants (that’s the only one I can remember by name), that he would burn, so it was kind of like incense and the smoke from that would also be spread over your hair and body. It was an actual like clump or branch, not small—but a bundle of sage, yerbabuena (I don’t know what the name of the plant is in English, but it translates from Spanish into “good herb”) and a few others. He would get a glass, usually like a taller glass, so you could see the different densities of the egg, and the cloud—the whites, and… depending on the shape of that, he could see what made you sick, like he would “read” it. I told him people did that during the Salem witch trails and died for it, but he really (thought) he could read it.

 

How did you come across this folklore: “I refer to these as “sketchy stories from my (step)father/sketchy things he did when I was a kid…”

Other information: “My dad has a lot of stories like these, but my mom was big on not sharing them, or letting us hear them—so I heard this in my teens, when were allowed (finally) to ask and he would actually answer… my mom said it would invite bad people/things to us or something…”

The healing comes from the idea that the egg will absorb the pain/sickness, which will then be transferred into the contents of the egg, and then be revealed in the glass to tell a reader the source of the pain/sickness. There are a number of groups that link eggs and healing, especially by way of transference. Folk medicine, although not based on any empirical scientific evidence, can still be effective, which is why many traditional practices are still practiced.

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