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.