Tag Archives: cures

Vicks Vaporub


RH is my roommate’s boyfriend here at USC. He was born in Atlanta but was raised most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. His parents are Dominican American and were born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. 


DO (interviewer): Being of Latino descent or more specifically Caribbean descent are there any medical treatments or remedies that your family has?

RH: Yeah. 

RH: I think the one I can think of the most is one that probably all Latino people have. It’s Vicks. You know. Vicks solves everything to these people. 

DO: Interesting. Can you talk more about how it is used medicinally? 

RH: Sure. For my family it was like an all over thing. You’d put some in your nose if you can’t breathe. My mom would also make us rub some on our feet and then put socks on. Then we’d sleep with the socks and those two things were like holy grail. “Te vas a sentir mejor.” “You’ll feel better is what she would say to me basically. 

DO: And how do you feel about it? Do you think this was actually a remedy or do you think it was more of a myth?

RH: Mmm. I don’t know. I think that specifically the nose thing definitely worked. Like it would burn when you put some in your nose because it’s like cooling. But because of that I think the boogers would come out or I don’t know what would happen, but I would feel less stuffy nosed. But the sock thing I don’t know. I don’t really know the point of that one or what it did, so it could’ve been more BS than the nose thing. I think it’s just because my folks don’t like going to the doctors. 


In the Latino community, Vicks Vaporub is often used to help recover when someone is sick with a cold or the flu. While it has no ties to a specific Latinx culture, this can be considered an essential part of Latinx folklore. If you ask numerous people of Latinx descent, you will find that this is a common medicinal folklore practice that many believe works. It is most popular with the older generations in our culture, as reflected in the informant’s hesitation to say that this entirely acts as a remedy for the flu or a common cold. There may not be any scientific evidence that Vicks Vaporrub actually helps in any capacity, but the Latinx community still uses it religiously when under the weather. In our culture, there is, unfortunately, sometimes a lack of trust in doctors or fear of miscommunication/misdiagnosis. The informant believes this medicinal folklore comes from the yearning to self-heal because of these fears and lack of trust. 

An Italian Cure For Warts


My grandmother (and my informant) learned this folk remedy in her twenties when her mother-in-law, who was born in Italy, noticed my grandma had warts on her hand. It was something she taught me as a young child, and although I’ve never tried it, she claims she did and the warts on her hands have never come back.


In a natural setting, this piece of folklore is almost exclusively passed from one who has had warts and used the remedy, to one who currently has them and is in need of a remedy. And when being carried out, is only performed by the individual with the ailment. My informant also noted that when she practiced the remedy, she was traveling and in a place she knew she’d never go again, making it easier for her to find a spot she wouldn’t revisit.

Main Piece:

“You have to tie a string around each digit with a wart on it–and you can only use one hand. You have to wear it for a whole day, and at the end of the day you have to take a walk to a place you’ll never go again. On the walk you gotta bury it, and make sure you never-never-ever go back to that spot or the warts will come back!”


The other day, I was retelling this remedy to a friend of mine because she was curious about the project that I’ve been working on. As I told her about how the cure is conducted, she started asking things like, “why a place you’ll never go to again?” and “why do you have to bury the string?”. After taking some time to think about it, I believe this cure is a practice of sympathetic magic. In sympathetic magic, actions are taken which are representative of the change one wants to be made. In this case, each string is representative of a wart, wearing the string(s) for a day corresponds to the time one had already had the wart(s), and therefore burying the string in a place one will never visit again indicates the wart(s) disappearing and never returning.

Home remedy for hiccups by drinking a glass of water covered by a napkin

Main Piece:

Informant: Basically, you get a full cup of water, and you put a paper towel over the top of the cup. It has to be thick, so like a paper towel or a napkin. And then you have to drink through the paper towel, ten gulps without breathing. Like, big gulps too. 

Interviewer: Has it worked for you?

Informant: Mhmm, it has. It didn’t work last Friday though, but it usually works haha. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn it from? 

Informant: My mom, she always has us do it if we are hiccuping around her.

Interviewer: Do you know where your Mom learned it from?

Informant: I wanna say my grandma, my grandma has told me to do the same thing before so it was probably her. 


My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 


At a birthday celebration out house threw for my informant, she drank some alcoholic beverages and got the hiccups as a result. When I offered her my advice, she told me not to worry and that she had a trick to remedy the cure that was passed down in her family. She went upstairs to her kitchen with me, and I saw her drink the water from the cup. During our interview, I brought it up and she discussed it further with me. 


From experience with my family and interacting with friends from back home, hiccup remedies differ from family to family and cultures. Essentially, all hiccup cures aim to do the same thing by controlling the diaphragm to stop it from producing hiccups. Usually, these are different methods of breath control, and drinking a glass of water without stopping is a good way to control breathing. Doing more research, I found this method also listed in the following article listed as number 6.

The article explains this method as a combination of breath control and the fact that “you’ll have to ‘pull’ even harder with your diaphragm to suck up the water.”

Russell, Elaine, and Reader’s Digest Editors. “How to Get Rid of Hiccups: 18 Home Remedies \That Actually Work.” Reader’s Digest, www.readersdigest.ca/health/conditions/7-ways-get-rid-hiccups/.

Curing “deadly” Colombian hiccups

Juliana remembered that if you get hiccups,  you should place a small piece of wet paper between your eyebrows in the middle of your forehead to stop the hiccups. She has no idea why but it will usually do the trick. However, if that does not work, then you are supposed to place the wet piece of paper inside on the roof of your mouth. If that fails, then get some “panela” (harden brown sugar) shave it into a thimble of hot brandy, lie on the bed with your head hanging off the bed, drinking it upside down. If all of that fails, then you run the risk of dying because she knows someone who had the hiccups for one week and died in their sleep. Spooky. I asked the other Colombians there at Easter dinner about the hiccups and they had a few other variations but all claimed to know someone different who had died of the hiccups. Colombians take hiccups seriously and will be on you to take measure to stop the hiccups as fast as possible because you can die.  They say that chewing your food slowly and eating slow is the key to not getting hiccups. Colombians already take their time eating on average twice to three times longer than most Americans. They seem to think that this was common knowledge and warned me against my ignorance because they did not want me to  die.

Analysis: Did not know hiccups were so dangerous. It is something most people will experience and an annoying nuisance and maybe because it is so common out of coincidence someone may die while having hiccups. But I have never heard of anyone in the US dying of hiccups and American mow their food at high velocity. Colombian eat much slower and yet it seems like everyone had heard of someone who has died of it in Colombia. I did Google it and someone on Grey’s Anatomy (TV show) died who had prolonged hiccups but her death was the result of infection from surgery to correct the acid reflux that was aggravating the hiccups. Also, we are talking about a fictional character.

Chuchupate Cures Everything

The informant is an 18-year-old biomedical engineering student at the University of Southern California. She is currently a freshman and grew up in Shafter, California. Shafter is about 2 hours away from Los Angeles by car. She is not particularly religious but described herself as spiritual. She was born in America, but some of the older members of her family were not.

I asked the informant if she had any remedies for aches or pains. She immediately told me of a remedy that her grandmother uses. Her grandmother is Mexican. The informant says that her grandmother uses a liquid called chuchupate to cure everything “like Windex in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding movie.” She gave several examples of when her grandmother would use chuchupate, including bruises and sprained ankles. Her father had broken his arm when he was younger and applying chuchupate apparently sped up the healing process. Unlike Windex in the movie, chuchupate is made to cure things and does not have another primary use, at least in the eyes of her family. The informant did not seem entirely convinced that the chuchupate actually did anything, but she did not think it did any harm and was subject to her grandmother applying it several times throughout her life. I inquired as to where the chuchupate was acquired and she said that her grandmother goes to Mexico to have the chuchupate liquid made for her at a medicine shop. I asked if she could get it in the United States but just chose to go to Mexico to get it, but my informant says that the compound is not available in the United States.

A quick Google search after I talked to the informant revealed that chuchupate has several other common names, including osha and bear root. In addition to the treatment of injuries as listed by the informant, the root is apparently used for curing viral and bacterial issues like sore throats and bronchitis, though not by Western doctors. I believe some of the healing power of chuchupate is in the belief that it will help. I found it interesting that my informant only listed chuchupate as beneficial to injuries, while the first few search results focused almost entirely on its use for various types of infections.  Additionally, chuchupate grows readily in the United States so theoretically it is available in the US, but perhaps just not in a suitable form made in a medicine shop.