The informant is a 58-year old woman from Trinidad, who has lived in the United States for 45 years. She was raised by her parents in Trinidad and lived in a house with her parents, grandparents, and nine siblings. She attended primary school, and then began working as a housekeeper and nanny. She loves cooking, mainly without recipes or set amounts of any ingredients, having learned her recipes “from my mom and aunts and from trial and error.” The following is a cure for hiccups that she shared with me.
Informant: “When you have the hiccups, take a piece of cotton—you can use a cotton ball, that works well, or you can even use tissue if you don’t have any cotton—and get it wet. Not soaking, but wet enough. Then place it on your forehead, a little above your eyebrows.”
Interviewer: “And that’s all?”
Informant: “Well, you hold it there for a minute, or even a few minutes. And the hiccups should go away.”
Interviewer: “Where did you learn that?”
Informant: “My grandma told me to do it when I was younger. And it worked. It always worked. So I kept doing it. And it always works, I don’t know why but it does.”
The power of belief is amazing! I have actually tried this remedy to alleviate the hiccups and it has worked all three times I have tried it. I doubt it is from the wet cotton but rather from my belief in its potency that stops the hiccups. This is something like the placebo test in its effective nature despite lack of “scientific” evidence.
Hiccups are a sort of naturally occurring phenomena–it makes sense that there are such a vast array of remedies for this common ailment, so to speak. While homeopathic magic often seems silly at first glance, or roundabout, it was so interesting to read about how so much modern medicine — 80% of it in fact–comes from remedies known to indigenous people; a lot of the medicines that cure ailments and illnesses, even diseases as pervasive and previously considered deadly as cancer (such as the rosie periwinkle plant native to Madagascar is known to be able to do with Leukemia), come about from bio prospecting folk remedies.