Folk Medicine

Folk Medicine:

To make a persistent case of Hiccups go away, take a glass of water, tilt it the opposite direction from yourself, and drink from the wrong side of the glass.  Take a big long gulp, swallow, and the hiccups will be gone! It works every time! (Although it does take a little skill to master drinking from the wrong side of the glass without spilling water all over oneself.)

I learned this trick as a kid in elementary school, as I get hiccups quite often and always would get them in the middle of class.  One of my classmates told me and I tried it and it worked, and I have been a faithful follower ever since!  As far as I am aware, there is no scientific proof that this method works, and I am not sure where it originated.  This method has been the only way for me to stop hiccups consistently and I use it every time I get hiccups.  I must admit, however, that this method does make you look a little silly, and is not appropriate to use in all situations!

After researching hiccups I found a multitude of different folkmedicine methods, but I was not able to find any scientific proof that they are consistently accurate or have any scientific foundations.  I was able to find the definition of hiccups, which is, “a clonic spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm which results in a sudden inspiration of air.” (Calabro).  However, the actually cause of hiccups is still not fully understood, as it seems that there are a multitude of unrelated causes, and that some people get hiccups for no apparent reason at all.  I did find however, that hiccups can be quite severe, and can even lead to death if they go untreated for days in a row.  More recently, certain drugs have been developed for sever hiccups, however not all cases respond to treatment.           I think that there is so much folkmedicine about hiccups because they are very common, and there is no reliable scientific information on how to cure them.  For this reason people turn to folkmedicine, as it is fairly common knowledge and there doesn’t seem to be much to loose.  On the Internet there is a multitude of folkcures available.  In one study of a small town in California, a Folklorist interviewed 200 residents about cures for hiccups.  Over 18 cures were mentioned, ranging from chewing gum, to drinking warm beer, to putting sugar on ones tongue.  Only three of the 18 seemed to be universally known: the scare, drink water, and hold breath and count to ten.  Even my own method of “drinking from the far edge of the glass” was mentioned, and he found that “it is a quite common cure, used by natives and newcomers alike.” (Funk).

One interesting finding was that “almost none of the cures can be traced to any one group or geographic location.” (Funk)  I think that this can be attributed to the openness most people have about sharing this type of folkmedicine with others.  I would go as far as to say in most cultures it is even considered polite to share a cure with a companion afflicted with hiccups.  For this reason, certain cures can spread very quickly and are not confined to one geographic location.  Also I believe that many of these cures have been used for decades, if not centuries, and thus have had a lot of time to migrate.  It is hard to trace the roots of these cures, as folkmedicine about as hiccup cures was common knowledge and not regarded as important enough to write down or refer to in literature.

All of this research still left me wondering do all o these cures actually work? In Calabro’s article it was indicated that the reason many of these cures are successful is because they are psychological cures, and it is not the cure itself, but what the patient believes that results in stopping hiccups.  This phenomenon is similar to the placebo effect that has been discovered in many scientific studies.  This also would explain why the methods are not completely reliable—only those who fully believe in the remedies are actually cured by them.  Regardless of how and why my folkcure for hiccups works, I intend on continuing to use my method long into the future, and I am confident that most people feel the same way about their own “pet” cures.

Works Cited:

Calabro, John.  “Hiccups.” The American Journal f Nursing. Vol 55, No. 11, (Nov.

1955):  pp.1365-1366.  JSTOR.  23 April 2008.  <>

Funk, William.  “Hiccup Cures.” Western Folklore. Vol. 9, No. 1, (Jan., 1950): 66-67.

JSTOR.  23 April 2008.  <>