Tag Archives: sickness

Don’t Sleep With Wet Hair


Informant is a Chinese-American student at USC.

Main Piece:

“My family was just so convinced that like, nothing is ever dry until it’s bone dry. So I would go to blow dry my hair, and they’d be convinced, ‘no, it’s still wet’ and I would just keep on going, and they wouldn’t let me like go to sleep with like wet hair because I think they were just being like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna get sick’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s fine.’”


This conversation was recorded in-person.


Not sleeping with wet hair is something my parents have also told me. It’s a folk belief that is loosely tied with medicine/sickness, with the belief being propagated by the fact that it will scare children into drying their hair properly (though as my informant shows, at a certain age this wears off). There are probably scientific reasons either proving or disputing this claim, but considering that it was much easier to get sick pre-modern era, actions easy to control like drying your hair would probably be focused on the most.

sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana

Background: Informant is a 19 year old student. Their parents both grew up in Venezuela. Their mom’s side is Spanish and Italian and their dad’s is Spanish and Israeli. Informant is from Texas and Miami and now resides in Los Angeles. They identify as Latin American and Jewish.

Informant: So in most Latin countries when a child or someone has a wound or a tummy ache, either an older person or a loved one touches that spot or massages that spot and says, “sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana.” And that means, like the literal translation is “heal heal frogs tail and if it doesn’t heal today then it should heal tomorrow.”

Me: So, do you remember the first time this was used? Or is it kind of ever-present? 

Informant: Just growing up all the time whenever I was sick or had a tummy ache or if I hit myself when I was younger. I remember the first time that someone did it to me it was my grandma and like, as I was growing up my parents started doing it more as a joke. But it’s still like, if I’m having cramps or whatever my mom is like, “sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana.” So it’s almost like a superstitious thing like you say it and it heals you or more like a comfort thing. 

Reflection: I loved hearing this story from my friend. It was so sweet to hear this saying come out of their mouth, as you could hear the child in them and the comfort it gave them growing up. It’s so sweet to see the ways different cultures make sense of pain and help kids go through hard things. I felt I could really relate to this experience as I think it’s universal to a certain extent.

Iranian Flu Medicine

Main Piece

Heat up one whole lemon and 3 garlic cloves until soft and mash with a fork. Strain the mixture and take one spoonful every morning to prevent sickness. 


My informant was born and raised in Iran. She remembers the flu, and how it ravaged through her elementary school. Her mother, to protect her, made a blended concoction consisting of one whole lemon, including the peel and pulp, and three or four cloves of garlic. Because she did not have any kitchen equipment that could properly blend the ingredients together, she resorted to heating up the lemon and garlic until it was soft enough to mash with a fork. After mashing, she would strain the mixture to get rid of any extra-large pieces, and fed one teaspoon-full to my informant every morning before school. My informant adds that she hated the taste but took this “medicine” every morning nonetheless because her mother insisted it would keep her safe. My informant concludes that the medicine must have worked, as she was the only child in her class that did not fall sick with the flu. 


This medicine is made when someone is sick or in danger of falling sick. The purpose is to prevent or cure illnesses. 

My Thoughts

Being born and raised in America and going through the American school system, I never paid much attention to medicinal practices that were not Westernized. When my informant told me about this medicine, I was skeptical and doubted that it would actually be effective. But further upon further research, I discovered that the ingredients used in this recipe contain many natural antibiotics and vitamin C. Therefore, the workings of this folk medicine are completely logical and valid. In America, Western medicine is the widely accepted practice, and most ethnic home remedies are frowned upon. But there is logic to these home remedies, or they would not be so widely used in other countries. Using ingredients such as garlic in folk medicine is an ancient practice. For further information about garlic’s role in folk medicine, see the cited article under the subheading titled “Medicinal History.”


Kilham, Chris. “Garlic.” MEDICINE HUNTER | Medicine Hunter, www.medicinehunter.com/Garlic#:~:text=As%20a%20folk%20remedy%2C%20garlic,gastroenteritis%2C%20and%20to%20expel%20worms.&text=The%20father%20of%20medicine%2C%20Hippocrates,and%20for%20healing%20abdominal%20growths. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Cinnamon Toast

Main Piece:


The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as AO. I am marked as DG.


AO: Ok so basically, um like when I was a kid, whenever I was sick my mom would make me cinnamon toast. And um like, I don’t know why but she swore it would make me feel better. So um literally any time I didn’t feel good or had a sore throat, especially for a sore throat, um, like she would make me this. And like it always seemed to work! Not really sure, um, like how it would, tbh [to be honest], but like, um it always felt like it did [laughs].


DG: And when did you learn this?


AO: …. Oh I must’ve been like maybe 5 when she first made it? Um like honestly I don’t even know I just know she made it a lot.


DG: Do you know the recipe?


AO: Yeah! It was like, um first you toast the toast and then you. Oh wait no maybe you put butter on the bread first. And then I think um you maybe toast it. But you might put cinnamon on the butter before toasting it. Or not no I think that the cinnamon was put on after the bread and butter was toasted. Or was it brown sugar? No um like I swear it was cinnamon. Actually no there was brown sugar because that was my favorite part. Um, so yeah.




The conversation was recorded while in the room of the interviewee. She was fixing up her room while I was sitting and listening to her folklore. This folk recipe was used in the context of sickness, most often made by the interviewee’s mother.




The interviewee was born in China but raised in Marietta, Georgia. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California, studying Communication. Her mother and father are both from the United States, and have lived in Georgia for many years.




This folklore item is somewhat common in that most people tend to have a home remedy for when they get sick, passed down from their parents or grandparents. It’s also one of those folklore items where it must have worked at least occasionally, for the interviewee to keep believing in it. Although I personally don’t know if it works or not, I imagine that at the very least the treat of cinnamon and sugar would help cheer up any small child, leading them into a better mood during their cold.

Sickness & not wearing socks

My friend Justine is Chinese-American, and her parents are doctors who practice holistic Eastern medicine. She shared the following folk belief with me:

“Something that like, my family weirdly believes–and I’m gonna equate this to, like, Eastern medicine or like, myths in Eastern medicine–but my family hates it when I don’t wear socks because they think that if you don’t wear socks, that’s the first like, way you can get a cold. Because like, your feet–and this is true–your feet are like a good signifier of your body temperature, so like, if your feet are cold it means the rest of your body is probably gonna feel cold too. And like, if you are cold you are more susceptible to getting a cold…Also no cold drinks, because it’s like the colder your body is, the more susceptible you are to getting sick.”

Like many folk beliefs and practices in East Asian medicine, this one is not necessarily based in empirical scientific proof, but this does not mean there is no truth to it. Remedies and folk beliefs formerly dismissed as “superstitious” have often been tested and proven effective by the medical/scientific institution, and subsequently incorporated into Western medicine. This belief reflects a general practice in Eastern medicine of focusing on overall bodily wellness rather than quick cures for acute illness.