Tag Archives: hiccups

Hiccup Remedy

Having plenty of legends collected, as this is what people usually provide when you ask them for folklore and list examples, I decided to ask a specific question, instead. Everyone I know has a specific remedy for hiccups, so I thought this would be a fruitful question. The informant gave me a funny look, but afterward I explained this was for my folklore project and she understood. GG is the informant, and PH is myself.

PH: How do you get rid of hiccups?

GG: Yeah I breathe in for as long as you can, hold my breath for as long as I can, and breath out for as long as I can.

Sometimes when I have hiccups and I’m doing that people will be like, “Are you gonna cry?” (Laughs)

If that doesn’t work, I drink a bunch of water while holding my nose

PH: Did anyone teach you this method?

GG: Yeah when I was in elementary school some girl told me to do it and it worked.

Curing “deadly” Colombian hiccups

Juliana remembered that if you get hiccups,  you should place a small piece of wet paper between your eyebrows in the middle of your forehead to stop the hiccups. She has no idea why but it will usually do the trick. However, if that does not work, then you are supposed to place the wet piece of paper inside on the roof of your mouth. If that fails, then get some “panela” (harden brown sugar) shave it into a thimble of hot brandy, lie on the bed with your head hanging off the bed, drinking it upside down. If all of that fails, then you run the risk of dying because she knows someone who had the hiccups for one week and died in their sleep. Spooky. I asked the other Colombians there at Easter dinner about the hiccups and they had a few other variations but all claimed to know someone different who had died of the hiccups. Colombians take hiccups seriously and will be on you to take measure to stop the hiccups as fast as possible because you can die.  They say that chewing your food slowly and eating slow is the key to not getting hiccups. Colombians already take their time eating on average twice to three times longer than most Americans. They seem to think that this was common knowledge and warned me against my ignorance because they did not want me to  die.

Analysis: Did not know hiccups were so dangerous. It is something most people will experience and an annoying nuisance and maybe because it is so common out of coincidence someone may die while having hiccups. But I have never heard of anyone in the US dying of hiccups and American mow their food at high velocity. Colombian eat much slower and yet it seems like everyone had heard of someone who has died of it in Colombia. I did Google it and someone on Grey’s Anatomy (TV show) died who had prolonged hiccups but her death was the result of infection from surgery to correct the acid reflux that was aggravating the hiccups. Also, we are talking about a fictional character.

Cure for the Hiccups

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.


No More Hiccups

This informant is a sophomore student at USC.  I explained all the different types of folklore there were and he decided to share his his recipe for getting rid of the hiccups that his mother swore by.

First you eat a lot of grapes, like 6-8 until your mouth is pretty full.  Then chew them up and swallow them quickly followed by a big glass of water.  After the water goes down, hold your breath for as long as possible and only let out small amounts of air at a time.  Finally when you absolutely have to, take a deep breath and your hiccups will be gone!

I really didn’t even know what to make of this hiccups remedy, the grapes seem to be completely out of left field.  However, I have heard before that holding your breath can help.

Hiccups Cure – Sugar Under the Tongue

“If you ever have the hiccups, just put some sugar under your tongue to get rid of them.”

My informant told me this one day when I had a severe cases of the hiccups.  I was just telling him that I had tried many other folk remedies (holding my breath, gulping water, etc.) but none of them worked.  He then told me that one of his friends at work had told him that putting sugar under the tongue can eliminate hiccups.  He also told me that he had tried it before, and it really worked for him.  So, I proceeded to put sugar under my tongue, and sure enough, all my hiccups went away.

I think this remedy probably originated from somebody who was experimenting methods to get rid of hiccups.  While this method works for me, I am still somewhat skeptical if the act of putting sugar under your tongue really is a cure for hiccups.  Part of me believes that this whole thing is probably just a placebo effect.  My informant told me that he also believes that it is a placebo effect.  Despite this, he still tells other people about this cure when they have the hiccups


Original script/version:

“I was told that when I had the hiccups, the best way to get rid of them quickly was to scare them away! It is a little difficult to be scared when you are expecting it, but the idea is to somehow have someone startle me enough to get rid of my hiccups.”

“I was originally told this trick by my older brother when I was about seven. I had a really bad case of the hiccups and I was almost in tears. My brother really liked to give me a bad time, so I think that was part of it. It did actually work the first couple times I had the hiccups. Then I think I expected it too much and it stopped working.”

Kyla said she thinks this might have just been a way for her brother to screw around with her. I don’t know very much about hiccups, and have never tried to have them “scared” away, but it doesn’t seem very plausible to me.

This could be related to a form of shock treatment. Some native Americans would alternate between sitting in a sauna and jumping in a ice cold river because they thought it was good for their body. Likewise, it could be believed that a sudden jolt would cause the body to change enough to stop the hiccups.


Original script/version:

“Another was I was taught to get rid of the hiccups was to eat apple sauce or drink water from a cup while hanging upside down.”

“I must have gotten the hiccups often when I was younger because I have so many way for getting rid of them. Both of these suggestions came from my best friend. We were both 12 at the time, I think. We were hanging out at her house and I had a case of the hiccups. First she suggested eating apple sauce. I did, and it didn’t work. Then she suggested drinking water upside down. I don’t know if the water actually helped or I was so distracted by the whole process that I forgot about my hiccups. I have used apple sauce since then and it has stopped my hiccups.”

“I sometimes wonder if these techniques are successful only because of the placebo effect. Because I believe they will get rid of my hiccups, my hiccups stop.”

Eating foods is not a bad guess for stopping the hiccups. Because hiccups originate in the diaphragm, it is only logical that the first attempts to cure them would be directed at the chest. Drinking water inverted could be a way to change someone’s breathing pattern, or the more forceful swallowing action required to drink water upside down could also account for the effectiveness of this folklore remedy.

Folk Medicine – Milpitas, California

Cure for Hiccups

To cure hiccups take a heaping spoonful of sugar.

The informant was not sure why this particular cure works, but it was passed on to her from her mother, and has, additionally, been passed on to me.  All of us claim that this remedy really works.

I’ve found that this remedy does in fact work for me, but I don’t know why.  There are many cures for hiccups, but I suppose maybe this one is circulating in my family because, not only does it actually work as a sweet solution, but Mary Poppins is a classic childhood film in my family.  I always remember watching it and loving the song about sugar helping the medicine go down.  So perhaps, this idea as sugar being equated with medicine was adapted into my family as a hiccup remedy, though I’m not quite sure.

Folk Medicine – Los Angeles, California

Cure for Hiccups

To cure hiccups, one spoonful of malt vinegar.

According to the informant, “It really works!” but he doesn’t know why.  His guess was that the malt vinegar serves as a shock to the taste buds and that this overwhelming sour taste distracts one from the hiccups and makes them go away.

I think that perhaps Geoff is correct with his assertion that the vinegar works because it shocks the taste buds.  It might work much like the other folk remedy I’ve found common: to surprise or scare someone to make their hiccups go away.  In both cases, the remedy is shock to one’s body that immediately takes the person’s mind off the hiccups.  I think the cure could be both physical and psychological.  Because it physically shocks the body, and psychologically takes one’s mind off the hiccups.