Folk Medicine – Mexico

“So this is for when you have a toothache. You know when you’re burning the candle and the wax starts to burn off. You’re supposed to put melted candle on each fingernail and it will get rid of your toothache. Just a drop though. My dad says that because the candle wax is so hot that it burns your fingernails that you forget about the toothache and the pain kind of balances out.”

Ariana said that her father told her about this folk remedy for toothaches when she was growing up in Newman, California. Her father learned it from his mother, who had tried it on him whenever he had toothaches. Ariana’s father lived in Mexico until his early twenties, where his father owned a candle business. The roof was flat, so there was always an abundance of wax drying out because of the convenient structure. His mother used this technique often instead of going to the dentist for proper treatment. Ariana, however, has never had to experience the use of hot candle wax on her fingernails instead of a visit to the dentist.

This technique is used whenever someone is suffering from a toothache. Ariana said that it could probably work in alleviating most other types of aches and pains because she believes it works by distraction. It can be tried on people of all ages, but probably more easily applied to younger children who are prone to believe in it working. Using candle wax, she said was probably just something her grandmother made up, but could have been something she learned while being involved in the candle business. She derives her explanation of the technique from her father, who has personally undergone this procedure.

Ariana thinks that the folk remedy came as a result of her grandfather’s candle business. Her grandmother probably just thought to try it out, because candle wax was so available to the family and probably a lot cheaper to try than going to the dentist would have been. She does not think it works. Her father, on the other hand, told her that the remedy works as a sort of pain distraction. Instead of getting rid of the toothache, it really focuses all one’s attention on the burning sensation of the dripping hot candle wax. Because Ariana’s father chose not to pass this folklore remedy on to his children through practice, I assume that he does not believe that it works himself. Ariana said he told her that he thought the technique sounded farfetched to him as a boy, and from experience did not feel like it go rid of his toothache.

I think that this folk remedy most likely came about because Ariana’s grandfather was in the candle business. Being exposed to the candle community, there should be plenty of folklore surrounding the multiple uses of candle wax. A neighborhood or friend might have mentioned it to Ariana’s grandparents, knowing that they have a lot of access to the materials involved. Ariana’s grandmother also could have just made it up because the family did not have enough money to go to the dentist at the time. Even if it is an unconventional way of ridding oneself of toothaches, the method still works because the mind notices the toothache less so the pain is reduced.