Context: My informant spent most of her childhood playing outside at her grandmother’s house in the early 2000s. She tells me she remembers there being a lot of ant piles at the house, and it wasn’t unusual for her or another kid to stand in one without realizing. Whenever someone got an ant bite, her grandmother would collect dirt and water from the yard and rub the mud on the bites. She says it would always stop the pain, and they wouldn’t itch after you took the mud off.
Remedy: For ant bites, spread wet mud over the affected area. Let the mud dry for about 30 minutes, then wash off. This soothes pain, itching, and swelling
Thoughts: Soil tends to have a lot of nutrients in it like magnesium, potassium, and other minerals that are good for your skin. Even now, clay face masks are becoming very popular for treating skin ailments. I’m sure it has a lot of healing properties for bug bites. It could very well have been a placebo remedy; putting mud on the bites would distract a child who just stood in an ant pile. Either way, the impact of the remedy seems to be strong, as she says her grandmother still uses this treatment for the children she takes care of.
If you have a wart, cut an onion in half, rub it on your wart, and bury it in the backyard on a full moon.
The informant learned this remedy from her mother and said that it was a very common one that she fully believed in when she was a kid. She said that not only did all of her friends know about this trick, but her husband who grew up on the other side of the country knew of a very similar remedy growing up. She believed it when she was much younger and practiced it frequently as she struggled with warts, but as she got older, she realized that it didn’t actually do anything
The informant is a woman in her mid forties who grew up in the small town of Garner, Iowa (population: 2,000 as of 2018). She attended public school and grew up in a very rural area where she worked on the farm that her parents owned.
Warts are certainly unsightly and could even be embarrassing for a young child. Children can be mean and a child may be teased for having something that made them stand out in a negative way like a wart. Warts are also something that happen for seemingly no reason at all and are uncontrollable. Freezing off warts is possible, but the informant may not have had access to a doctor who provided this service being from such a small town. Because of all of these reasons, it makes sense that the informant practiced this remedy even though there seemed to be no scientific reasoning behind it. It gave her a feeling of control over this fairly uncontrollable blemish.
I asked what I should do if my ear is starting to hurt and I have a slight cold:
Response: “You don’t want to get sick and get an ear infection…especially if your ears are already starting to hurt. You need to go grab the garlic drops we have…they will prevent you from getting an ear infection, but won’t be any good if you already have one. Go grab the bottle and then run the dropper under hot water so it warms up then grab a paper towel and set it down on the table and lay your head down on one side so the drops don’t get on anything else. Just put a couple drops in and let it sit for a second. And make sure it really feels like it gets in there. And then do the other side, you’ll be good.”
Background: He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He attended Santa Clara University and now lives with his wife in Los Angeles. He is a father of two.
Context: He shared this home remedy with me in our kitchen when I was beginning to feel sick.
Analysis: In my opinion, believing in home remedies is entirely dependent on how you were raised and the home remedies that your parents practice. My dad told me this remedy, which immediately gives it validity in my worldview. Remedies are such a cool thing that gets passed down through familial lines, and I think is an interesting thing to analyze family to family. You never think about where, when, and from whom you first heard a home remedy once it becomes part of your personal belief system. One home remedy could sound completely ridiculous to someone whose own family holds different beliefs. Who it is that shares with you their home remedy is extremely relevant to whether or not you will try it or accept it as your own folk belief as well.
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.
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
Longan – a fruit like lychee
Slow cook everything together in a pot on the stove so the beans would turn mushy. Serve either cold or hot.
The informant’s mother used to make red bean soup (in Chinese: 红豆汤 [hong duo tang] or 糖水 [tang shui]) with dates in it — it was supposed to help with period pains and overall health. Her mother make the soup from scratch in huge quantities.
In general, it was served cold in the summer and hot in the winter. The informant actually didn’t really like the soup that much, but her mother made it with such care that she couldn’t refuse.
The informant, one of my housemates, shared this recipe and background with me in conversation.
Many traditional foodways also doubled as remedies, and are often paired with other “practical” advice such as “don’t talk a lot in cold weather after eating a meal or your stomach will get upset.”
I was also raised by Chinese parents, and find that much of this kind of upbringing information could be corroborated with my own childhood. I think it’s super interesting that even though our parents came from different regions in China, they still carried much of the same cultural information over the Pacific and passed it on to their children in America.