Tag Archives: homeopathic medicine

The Cure for Sty

The informant is a 50-year-old Taiwanese woman. When asked about a folk medicine that she knows, she told the collector about the cure for sty that was taught by her parents. The collection happened via a video call.

Informant: Oh I can think about one. Do you know about the cure for sty? You know, the little bumpy thing that you sometimes grow on your eyelids, and it’s almost like a blister or like a pimple? We always say that if you have a sty, you must have looked at something bad, like peeking at another person in the shower or seeing something sexual.

Collector: Yes. So what is the cure for that?

Informant: Well, you can definitely go to a doctor. They would tell you it’s an infection, poke a hole to drain the liquid, and prescribe you antibiotics and stuff. When I was little, it was not easy to get to a doctor, but kids at my time loved playing in muddy places, getting sand all over their faces, and just getting really dirty while playing. We get styes all the time and our parents would tell us to do this certain move to cure the sty. Let’s say you have a sty on your right eyelid. You use your opposite hand, in this case, your left hand, go behind your head, and pull the corner of your infected eye and the sty would go away in a few days.

Collector: Why not just use the hand on the same side?

Informant: I don’t really know. That’s just how I was told.

Collector: Is this effective?

Informant: Well, honestly, I think sty goes away on its own, with or without interference, but in my experience, it did work, multiple times. So I would say yes.

This cure for sty is a sort of folk remedy in Taiwanese culture, in which styes are seen as a consequence of looking at “dirty” things. Therefore, the cure described in the text can be viewed as a conversion utilizing homeopathic magic. The action of pulling the corner of the eye can flatten the bump that a sty would cause, symbolizing what the person’s eye would look like when there is no sty anymore. It is also fascinating to see how people connect actual dirt or bacteria with the idea of “dirty” sexual content.

Hot and Cold Foods In Persian Culture


Informant is a friend of mine from high school. She is a current student at UCLA and former student at The Madeira School (the high school we both attended). She is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Iran. She does not have any specific religious affiliations. I chose to interview several people from my high school to compare their versions of our school stories. She is referred to as “SF”.


I asked the informant about any homeopathic medicines or remedies she has learned from her family/culture. She provided multiple examples – this example is of the concept of hot and cold foods.


In Persian culture, there’s this really interesting concept. It’s foods that are used that is like kind of used for specific, like, things that you’re feeling. So basically the words are like there’s two different categories, like a food can be either “garm” or “sard” and garm and sard mean hot and cold. So like certain foods like fit into those categories and based on like this thing that you like, like if you have a headache or whatever, like either someone will tell you, oh, you have to eat foods that are in the hot category or like you have to eat foods that are in the cold category. And like, I don’t necessarily know, like what goes in each category cause there’s no, there’s kind of like an intuitive like thinking that you think so like ginger is like a hot food or whatever because like, you know, kind of warms you up. But like, there are certain ones that you can’t, I can’t really like distinguish. Like you have to know. Like, I feel like elders, like just know what are like hot and cold foods. And so like that’s a pretty interesting concept that I feel is very specific to like Persian culture is like if you say, Oh, I like feeling ill or whatever, it’s like this certain way, that way I tell you to eat also gets either like hot or cold.


While my informant believed the concept of hot and cold foods to be specific to Persian culture, the concept is actually prevalent in a lot of cultures, especially those native to East Asia. In Korea and China, the concept of hot and cold foods is especially prevalent in postpartum care. The correlation of hot and cold is not necessarily the specific temperature of the food, but the effect the food has on the body – if it is warming or cooling. I especially appreciated SF’s comment “I feel like elders, like just know what are hot and cold foods.” It’s a perfect summarization of the mechanisms of folklore: that it is knowledge passed down through generations, so currently, the elder generations have the knowledge, and will pass it along to their descendants.

Translation: Garm and sard are Farsi words. Garm = hot, and sard = cold.


For additional versions of hot and cold foods, see: Song, Yuanqing. “坐月子:Postpartum Confinement”. May 20, 2019. USC Folklore Archive. http://folklore.usc.edu/%E5%9D%90%E6%9C%88%E5%AD%90%EF%BC%9Apostpartum-confinement/

Persian Herbal Remedies


Informant is a friend of mine from high school. She is a current student at UCLA and former student at The Madeira School (the high school we both attended). She is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Iran. She does not have any specific religious affiliations. I chose to interview several people from my high school to compare their versions of our school stories. She is referred to as “SF”.


I asked the informant about any homeopathic remedies that she learned from her family and culture. She provided multiple examples; these remedies are based in herbal treatments.


SF: So there are quite a few, honestly, and some of them are pretty weird. Um, but there’s one that I always did because my grandma was like, every time you get congestion or whatever, you’re like, Oh, these people do like vapor, like steaming or whatever, like their faces or like they do neti pots to like clear your sinuses. And so it’s kind of something similar to that, but it’s like a specific kind of herb blend that you like boil in a pot and you basically get a towel and you like put your face like near the pot and you’re like cover the rest of your face with the towel. So like the steam from the herbs like clears your sinuses. I don’t know specifically what kinds of herbs they were. I think oregano was definitely one of them, cause I remember it having a very specific oregano scent. Yeah. And so it’s just like a bunch of boiled herbs, like, in this thing.

Interviewer: And then where did your grandma get the herb pot recipe. Like, where’d she get that?

SF: That’s a good question. I think that it just like it’s a special kind of like herb, one that they use for food in Iran and like, they definitely sell it, like, prepackaged stores nowadays because they’re like. Like Persian supermarkets and stuff like back home and even in L.A. But yeah, they sell them like pot, like package, a lot of packaged like Persian, like spices and stuff like that. So it’s, it’s more like commercialized nowadays. But I think like she probably got it like from back in Iran, like with her family too. But I feel like it’s one of those things that just like, like people know, like they just know about it, you know?

And then I think one which is pretty much just like a universal like thing that everyone will tell you, we like also kind of like it’s just funny to me is is like, is you to feel like, oh, I have a stomachache or if I’m like nauseous or whatever, they’ll always tell you to drink like Persian black tea with like sugar, like saffron, like sugar. And it’s just like, it’s really stupid to me because you drink that, like, every day anyway, if you, like, live in Iran or if you’re Persian. So like, it’s really funny to me that they’re like, Oh yeah, if you feel sick, you need to drink this. But it’s like, I be drinking it every day anyway. But I don’t know. It’s funny because, like, whenever you’re nauseous, we have, like, something they always tell you to like to drink chai nabat, that’s like what you’re supposed to do.


It’s interesting how these remedies are essentially identical to others in other cultures – nasal steaming and drinking tea – but they are specifically engaging with herbs and tea commonly used in Persian culture. Both the herbs for the steaming and the type of tea are just common, everyday combinations used in food and drinks, but in the context of being sick, they have healing qualities. SF had the wonderful comment that her grandmother got the herb combination from her family back in Iran, and that now, the mixture is “one of those things that just, like, like people know.” – That is exactly what folklore is. Both methods are likely fairly effective, as they are standard treatment, but I wonder if the specific combinations of herbs in Persian remedies have a different level of effectiveness compared to herbs from other cultures. For example, in my family, we are told to drink ginger tea, as my mother believes it is most effective.

Translation: Chai nabat is a specific Persian tea. Chai nabat is pronounced “cha-ee nah-bot”.

Arnica and Linaca Mixture for Healing

EA: Arnica is a tea it is like a natural herb, arnica and linaca and it is supposed to be like a a homeopathic remedy you can use for like swelling and just kind of instead of like a Neosporin type thing. It helps to heal a little bit better. Back then when they would make it when you know they did not have modern medicine so they would take it with like leaves or whatever and they would put it on and then they wrap it and then that helps with the cut of whatever you have. 

Interviewer: Did she say how she boiled it?

EA: Yeah she boiled it and lets it simmer for like a while on high heat and then she lowers he heat and lets it simmer. Ten minutes I think she said and it boils it and then you turn it off and then you just let it sit and  then that’s when it gets that vava, which is kind of like a vasiline type texture and then it just like sits there. 

Interviewer: That’s when you know it is done?

EA: Yeah, like a little thick.  

Context: EA is my mother mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me and my sister was also present. She was referring to an ointment that my aunt made for her son when he had a really bad insect bit and gave to us when our dog had a rash. 


In Mexico, even know it is difficult in many places to see or either afford a doctor. This has given rise for the necessity of home remedies. Arnica is in many supplements and gels that are sold in pharmacies. Thus, showing the ability for homeopathic remedies to transfer to modern medicine and being legitimizd by being formally sold in stores. However, people would likely still feel that something like Neosporin is inherently more effective than something homemade when this is not inherently the case. Accordingly, when recommending these home remedies it is often accompanied with an anecdotal success story to prove it’s merit. would be It also shows the versatility of the homemade treatments because they are made with natural ingredients and how it can help your family and having advice when another person you care about is having a difficulty. 

Coffee Enema Can Clear You of Worms


Informant: K.M. – 21 year old female, born and raised in Los Angeles


When talking about health remedies and ways to eat better, K.M. presented this wives tale that has gained more attention due to the internet and the claims about this “healing treatment.” Told to the informant by a friend, she then researched and found multiple variations of the treatment and the benefits, even expressing that she herself would like to try it. I have transcribed her telling below:

Main Piece

“So I’ve heard that humans have a lot of toxins in their bodies and that due to all of the processed food we eat, most of us actually have parasites living in our intestines. So then I asked my super health freak friend about it and she showed me this thing called a coffee enema. I was super skeptical at first but then she showed me all this stuff about how it’s an ancient technique used to clear the body of the toxins. And then I started watching all of these videos of people who did it and got rid of their worms, so now I’m not sure if I should do it.”


This is an example of a homeopathic remedy, which are quite common both in folklore and in a number of cultural communities. Using natural techniques to clean the body and rid it of toxins and outside invaders is a common folk belief that has recently surged again due to overall consciousness of our health and the things that we put into our body. However, most science actually states the opposite, that there is no method humans can use to clear the body of these “toxins” and that the liver and kidneys actually physiologically do this already, as long as they are healthy. However, this specific belief  and others like it may be a call back to the times of widespread spiritual cleansing. Many believe in the power of burning sage to clear bad energies and spirits, perhaps the coffee enema is an extension of that desire to create a pure state for ourselves. An enema quite literally forces the body to expel waste, and this could be seen as a parallel to a spiritual cleansing ritual. However, what was interesting to me was the spread of this belief among our group of friends after she shared this folk belief, with most of us in the group initially believing the claims and then sharing it with others in our community.