USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘remedy’
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Sore Throat?

This entry comes from the interviewer’s mother, P, in a conversation they had about homeopathic medicine. Coming from an Indian family, the interviewer, DP, was curious as to whether or not his mom encouraged him to take homeopathic remedies for common ailments as a child. It should be noted that Eastern medicine is much different than and often rejects Western medicine. At this point, the informant tells the interviewer:

 

“You used to take a drink made of roasted turmeric root. Once the turmeric was dried, I would grind it into a powder and combine it with milk.”

 

DP: “did it help any?”

 

P: “it was supposed to”


 

From the point of view of the interviewer, it is perfectly reasonable for Eastern medicine to be effective in curing common ailments. These remedies have been around for such a long time that there must be some base element of truth – or they wouldn’t be so strongly encouraged. The interviewer also concedes that it isn’t the best to take over-the-counter medication every time one’s throat hurts or they have a headache. In these cases, folk remedies provide the best application.

 

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Remedy for Curse of Mexican Evil Eye

The informant’s family is originally from Mexico. She learned this cure from her grandmother who performed it on her and her siblings. She doesn’t think that it’s really a cure, however her mother and grandmother told her that it helped cure her when she was cursed with the “ojo”, or eveil eye.

“Some of the things they do to get rid of the curse from el ojo I learned from my grandma. She blesses your whole body with an egg. She grabs it from the fridge and rubs it all over your body and cracks the egg open over water. If it floats, then your good and if it sinks, it’s bad…like the egg absorbs all the bad from your body and it sinks, but I can’t remember…it might be the opposite actually.”

This remedy is used when a baby is cursed by “El Ojo”, or the Evil Eye, as it’s known in other cultures. It’s usually performed in the home, as the informant told me. There are also different variations to it concerning what one does with the egg when they crack it. Some say to leave it under the victim’s bed overnight and check it in the morning.

I had previously never heard of this remedy and I’m very curious as to why they use an egg. I don’t know if there’s something symbolic about it or where it came from originally. I did some more research and there are various methods to this. Some say you have to crack the egg in a bowl and leave it under the victim’s bed, and by morning something will happen that let’s you know they have been cured. It’s apparently a well-known remedy among their community, and I’m surprised it’s so well-revered. When I think of a remedy I usually think it’s something that a person needs to ingest in order for them to be cured.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

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.”

 

Thoughts:

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.

 

general

“Take tea with lemon and honey for a sore throat.”

“Take tea with lemon and honey for a sore throat.”

This is a remedy that has been passed down from generation to generation in my informant’s family. Whenever he has a sore throat, his mother has always recommended drinking hot tea with lemon and honey; his mother had learned this from her mother, and the remedy keeps going back in generations.
Although tea with lemon and honey does not seem to have any medical reason for making sore throats better, it is probably the combination of hot, sweet, and sour tastes that alleviate the pain in the throat. Like most folk remedies, anything that seems to produce results is constantly reused and recommended, and this is probably how the tea has become a go-to solution for sore throats in my informant’s family.

general

“Eat seaweed soup on your birthday.”

“Eat mi-yuk-gook (seaweed soup) on our birthday.”
Korean people have a tradition of eating seaweed soup every birthday because this same soup is used as a source of rejuvenation for women who have just given birth. Seaweed contains many of the nutrients that are needed to make a body healthy and help it recuperate, so seaweed soup is commonly used to aid new mothers. Therefore, seaweed soup is eaten on birthdays in order to appreciate the suffering their mothers went through.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Flour to Stop Bleeding

According to my informant who grew up on a farm in a poor family, in the old days mothers used to put baking flour on cuts as a folk remedy to stop bleeding. He heard this from one of his brothers, who actually told him that the remedy was a false one. This brother of his had cut his foot when he was younger, and his sister had put flour on it in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. The blood didn’t stop flowing.

Essentially, it was a poor person’s remedy. It may have gotten its reputation as a cure for bleeding due to its absorbency, but would never be very effective on anything larger than a paper cut as it doesn’t really have anything to do with blood coagulation.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Foodways

A Natural Cold Remedy – Ecuador

My informant was born and raised in Ibarra, Ecuador until she left to live in the U.S. when she was sixteen years old.  Whenever she and her brothers had a cold or a sore throat, her mother made a drink for them made from lemon juice, a little bit of orange juice and honey.  Her mother would then heat it up on the stove, which my informant says helped a lot since the steam would reduce congestion and the warmth would relieve sore throats.  She also says that you have to drink it with a straw or it will ruin your tooth enamel.  The remedy has a long tradition in her family: her grandmother prepared it for her mother, her great-grandmother prepared it for her grandmother, her great-great grandmother prepared it for her great-grandmother, etc.  She says, “Everyone in Ecuador does it… I think [laughs]… Or a lot of people I knew did it.”  It provides a lot of Vitamin C as well so it offers a cheaper and more natural alternative to medications.  The honey not only cuts the acidity of the lemon juice, but also adds anti-bacterial elements into the “cocktail.” “Unless we were really sick, we didn’t go to the doctor… Especially not for simple colds.”  To this day, she still prepares the remedy when she is feeling under the weather.  When I asked if she would do the same for her children, she replied: “Of course, it’s a family tradition!”

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Saudi Hiccup Remedy

Press a wet newspaper against the center of your forehead.

 

Who ever consults a medical textbook when they get a case of the hiccups?  There must be more methods of curing the hiccups (or at least attempting such) than for any other frustration that ails the human body, and it seems everyone has heard and tried at least one of these folk remedies.  I have heard of many supposed hiccup cures myself: scare the person with the hiccups, gulp down water rhythmically (seven times in one particular variant), rub your earlobe with your fingers (this one has actually produced results on me – perhaps there is some real nerve connection there or perhaps it is the placebo effect), drink sugar water, hold your breath.
Recently, my roommate (Lebanese) and I, along with a friend of his from Saudi Arabia (my informant), were driving to buy food, and my roommate began hiccuping quite forcefully.  Predictably, everyone began reciting the hiccup-cure ideas they had learned growing up.  Since my roommate was driving, he unfortunately had to suffer the hiccups (and did for quite some time) until they passed.  I asked the informant how he would cure the hiccups back where he used to live in Arabia, and his method was the most unusual I had ever heard.  He said his mother used to soak a newspaper and press it against his forehead.  The informant did not know why this worked, but claimed it did.  Perhaps the cold, wet sensation triggers a reset button in the nerves and stops the spasms, or again, perhaps it is just the placebo effect – and it is doubtful that any medical guide would ever confirm this for us or would address the effectiveness of these traditional remedies.

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