USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘medicine’
Customs
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.

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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

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.

Folk medicine
Protection

The Story of the Tenrikyo Miracle that Saved My Grandfather

Nationality: American/Japanese

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Japanese

Age: 23

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Sammy is a 23 year old man, born and raised in New York who is a representative with the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York City.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. I never heard of Tenri, can you tell me something about it and a tradition associated with it.

 

Informant: “Ok ok. The teaching of Tenrikyo (sp)”

 

Interviewer:  Can you spell it please.

 

Informant: “that’s T-E-N as in Nancy R-I-K-Y-O, Tenrikyo, ah basically we are taught that our bodies are something that is lent to us from G-D something that we borrow something from G-D The Parent and uh just our minds are our own ah our own. And basically depending on the way we use our minds G-D The Parent will ah show ah us ah the proper way to mature spiritually hum which means basically is to become selfless and in order to do that we basically have to keep our minds from becoming ah or getting rid of our egos basically. And ah what we are taught when we use our minds in selfish manners it is like we are accumulating dust. And when we accumulate dust, we are unable to see our goals as human beings um from what it should be basically. Um and so what we do in the Service the Tenrikyo Service is we ask G-D The Parent to sweep that dust from our minds ah but we are also responsible for our own, you know, how we use it individually. So we have to continue to keep ah fighting ourselves almost not others and fighting ourselves to not to be greedy or arrogant or selfish or anything like that. Ah but if you ever get the chance please read up on and the teachings of Tenrikyo ah it is native to the country of Japanese ah the country of Japan and there is a small town in Tenri where we call our home.”

 

Interviewer: When did you first become aware of this?

 

Informant: “Ah actually I was born into the church.  Ah My Father he ah he was I am a third generation Tenrikyo and basically my father he came to New York to spread the teachings of Tenrikyo and he so started at a church in Bayside Queens, and that is where I was born. My my original, my grandfather was the one who kind of started the faith and he ah he has suffered from ah tuberculosis and he was saved miraculously ah through ah missionary who was walking in Japan, a Tenrikyo Missionary and he was taught the same thing what I actually just said.  And ah realizing that it was his own mind that was the problem he kind of replaced his mind and ah decided that even though he was going to die from tuberculosis he might as well die you know saving others.  And when he, he firmly resolved that mind ah, he was saved from his tuberculosis in some way. My father was born and also I was born after that. So it is kind of nice.”

 

Thoughts about the piece: 

Faith healing belief systems exist in many cultures and modern medicine placebo testing is one way that the power of thought to promote health is being investigated. Tenrikyo is a matriarchal religion founded on miraculous healing. Background can be found here: http://what-when-how.com/religious-movements/tenrikyo-religion-of-heavenly-wisdom/ Another testimonial is: http://tenrikyology.com/343/36-firm-resolution/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Re-birthday

TO told me about an unusual holiday her family celebrates:

“When I was maybe ten, I used to go rock-climbing at a YMCA in San Antonio with my family, and one day when I was on one of the walls, I realized all the people below me were rushing around and that something had happened. When I was finally able to get down, I saw my dad on the ground, and he was performing CPR on another man. He ended up saving his life, and so every year since our families have gotten together on January 18th to celebrate “re-birthday.” It was kind of weird the first couple years, but now are families have gotten really close, and even when we moved to Carmel both of our families have travelled back and forth for the holiday. Their family has three kids that are the same age as my sister and I, and we’re all really good friends.”

I asked TO if she thinks the tradition will taper off over time, especially as she and the other kids get older:

“I don’t know…so far we’re going strong though. When something like that happens, it can make people really close really quickly, and that’s definitely what happened to us. They’re like, practically family now.”

My analysis:

While this is a relatively new tradition for TO’s family, I think it has the potential to be a holiday – and piece of folklore – she shares for a long time. Her father, a cardiac surgeon at Stanford University, has inspired her to pursue her own career in medicine, and at a young age watching him save someone’s life clearly had an impact on her. Every tradition started somewhere, and “re-birthday” may become a story or full-fledged holiday TO, her sister, and this other family share or celebrate for generations to come. At the very least, TO can pinpoint it as a meaningful experience that influenced her to become a cardiac surgeon herself, and a story she passes down to her kids about the heroism of her father.

It’s also an example of a tradition threatened by geography, and while the families are now in other parts of the country, they still make an effort to come together.

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 Beliefs
general

Don’t Stand Too Close to the Microwave

The informant is a 20-year-old college student. All of the informant’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from South Korea, but both of her parents have lived in the United States their whole lives.

While I was heating up some leftover pasta in the microwave, the informant commented on the fact that I was standing too close to the microwave while it was running. I told her that I’d never heard of this being a bad thing to do, and she replied that her mother has always told her to stand far away from it, or else she will develop a chronic illness and die young. A second woman who was in the room confirmed that her mother has always told her the same thing. The second woman also has a South Korean mother whose parents were immigrants born and raised in South Korea.

While I had never heard of this belief before, I do not doubt that there is some truth to the idea that prolonged or continuous exposure to microwaves can create a higher risk of developing chronic illnesses like cancer. However, the risk is most likely rather minimal, considering that microwaves are lined with material that prevents radiation from leaking and affecting anyone in close proximity. It is interesting that both of the individuals who held this belief are of South Korean descent, which may highlight a prominent difference between Eastern and Western views on health and medicine. I asked the informant whether her mother had a specific viewpoint on keeping cell phones in close proximity to one’s body, since they are known to emit radiation similarly to microwave ovens, and the informant replied that her mother did not. This seems, then, to be a belief isolated to microwave ovens as cooking appliances, and may also reflect a more traditional viewpoint on food handling and preparation.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Humor

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.

Folk medicine
Magic

Walczak Family Remedies

Context:

I was discussing with my mother via skype about home remedies that she knew of, or that her mother used to do for her and her siblings when they were sick.

 

Interview:

Me: I remember you once saying that your mother had a couple of home remedies that she would use with you when you would get sick, yeah?

Informant: There were certain things –

Me: Yes?

Informant: M’kay. There were certain things that mom did when we were sick, especially when we were sick to our stomach. First of all, she would give us 7-Up.

Me: Okay.

Informant: Cause 7-Up she believed would settle our stomachs. To this day I despise 7-Up.

[Laughter]

Me: And, why 7-Up?

Informant: And another thing she did, was to put us to bed with a bath towel.

Me: Okay…

Informant: And the whole idea of that, well the idea behind that was actually quite practical because my bedroom was pretty far from the bathroom, and if I had to throw up and I couldn’t make it to the bathroom, mom wanted my to be throwing up into the towel. But, for me, that towel ended up being very very comforting; and I used to kind of snuggle that at night when I wasn’t feeling good and it made me feel better just having it.

Me: Is that where I got Magic Towel from?

Informant: That’s why you got Magic Towel.

Me: Huh.

Informant: From my memory.

[Laughter]

Informant: Because when you were little, you had an upset stomach one night and I didn’t have any medicine that either you would take or I could give to you. And so I gave you that towel and I told you that it was a magic towel and that if you hugged it real, real tight all night then you would feel better in the morning.

Me: Hm.

Informant: And the next morning, you felt better and you looked at me and said, “I have a new B.” ‘Cause that’s what you used to call all your blankets. And you put it at the bottom of your bed and Magic Towel stayed with you longer than any other B.

Me: Despite having lost it multiple times and having to replace it.

Informant: Well you’ve only lost it once I think

Me: No, it was more than that. I think it was at least twice.

Informant: Could be. I remember that it got left in the Dallas airport once.

Me: Yeah, I remember that one.

Informant: Not on my watch.

Me: Not on mine.

Informant: It was daddy. Daddy help – let you forget it. So does this help?

Me: Yeah, mama. Thanks.

 

Analysis

When hearing this story, and especially about the taking the bath towel to bed, I realized that there is a reason why these folk remedies are passed down. It is because they work. Whether they are born from practicality or herbal medicine, if they work, then they are remembered and passed down to the next generation. Now, 7-Up, like many other sodas (including Coca-Cola), was originally created as a medicine, and it is highly likely that my grandparent’s generation believed such sodas to actually do what they were advertised to do. With the bath towel, though born of practicality, it was the belief that my mother had that it would work to cure an upset stomach that made it work. It is an example of the placebo effect. Also, the fact that my mother used this remedy for me, and that it worked, shows that such remedies, over time, can become family traditions, or traditional remedies within a family. I still sleep with magic towel, and I have never gotten sick in bed since my mother first handed me a towel. We may have had to replace the actual towel a couple of times, but it wasn’t the towel that was important, it was the concept of the magic towel and the belief that it worked that mattered.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Soda Cure

Click here for video.

“So this is something I’ve noticed whenever I have a headache or when I just feel bad, I’ll just go to 7-11 or wherever sells soft drinks and I’ll get a coke and drink a whole bottle of coke. So just a habit. Makes me feel better.”

Soda has been used as a folk remedy of sorts for quite some time now. It seems popular enough that it has been featured on the show South Park in an episode called “Red Man’s Greed” in which people drink chicken soup and Sprite to get over SARS. This is a fitting folk remedy in the United States as we consume more soda per capita than any other country. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that carbonated sugary drinks have become a part of our cultural tapestry.

However, recent research claims Coca-Cola can aid in the dissolution of gastric bezoars. The acidic nature of soft drinks can serve as a first-line treatment for indigestible substances.
Perhaps my informant once had a stomach ache and drank coke, only to realize his symptoms lessened. As a result, he associates coke with a minor remedy for various pains.

See:
Ladas, S.D., Kamberoglou, D., Karamanolis, G., Vlachogiannakos, J., and I. Zouboulis-Vafiadis. (2012) “Systematic review: Coca-Cola can effectively dissolve gastric phytobezoars as a first-line treatment.” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 37(2):169-173.

Folk medicine

Folk Medicine: Cobwebs

Note: My informant was originally born in Mississippi.

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My informant told me a story of his mother healing his injuries. He said that when he was 16 or 17 he was shaving off a corn on my foot and cut to deep. Blood was squirting out and I was mashing it trying to stop the bleeding but it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Then his mother comes. He went to his mother for treatment. He says that his mother took a cobweb, took out a match, singed the web slightly, and then placed the cobweb on the wound. The web stopped the bleeding. He thought there some sort chemical in the web that stopped the bleeding

She only used that remedy once on him. He has never used it on himself because not that severe has happened to him again. He doesn’t know where exactly she learned it. He did mention that she grew up on a property in the country part of Mississppi and they didn’t have access to doctors in those days.

I think this story is kind of interesting. A lot of the time folk beliefs are considered superstitious and inaccurate. This brand of folk medicine was born out of necessity an actually works. It’s a shame I can’t talk to the woman herself. I’d really like to know where she learned this from and what sort of trial and error it took to figure this out.

 

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