American Folk Medicine

A very nifty online archive of American folk culture and oral tradition. Some of it is rather early, recorded in 19th century American books and journals, others are collected later on by anthropologists and social historians. This is stuff that was passed down from generation to generation, from neighbor to neighbor, in a time when doctors were often hard to find and not always much better than home remedies, only a few of which actually worked. Some of it has clear antecedents in British customs, but all of it reflects the geography, hardiness, and independence of country people. Included in the archive are some European, Native American, and Mexican bits. A lot crosses the thin border of superstition.

A bed-wetting remedy collected from Adams County, Illinois. The informant is an African-American.
Quote:If a female child wets the bed, put some of her urine in a bottle so that it can drip out as in the preceding remedy, and drop the bottle into a grave opened for a male corpse. The open grave of a female corpse is used for a male child

Maltese, from a book published in 1894:
Quote: For fright: -- Kill a puppy, boil it, give the patient to drink the water in which it is boiled, then throw the whole boiled pup on to the plate in such a way as to cause a fright to the patient.

Lithuania Minor
Quote:Bed-wetting If a woman wets in her bed, then you must go with her to a Catholic Church and while going through the door say, “Urine is walking in.” Then the sickness quits.

Sorry about the language in this one. I don't intend to be inflammatory, and I appreciate it for its folksy charm rather than its racist sentiments and obscene language. Arkansas, 1950:
Quote:Cure for warts: steal a dirty dishrag out of a N*****'s house and rub it on the wart. Kill a frog wrap him up in the dish rag and bury the rag and frog under a bois d’arc. I heard this from a friend of mine who live at Smackover.

Wow, it's actually very startling how the race divide manifested itself in folk tradition. North Carolina, collected 1920-1929:
Quote: The bite of a blue-gummed Negro is said to be poisonous. Louise Lucas, White Oak, Bladen county, and the Green Collection. Botkin, 686 - South: Puckett, 14, 204 ("a blue-gummed N****** . . . is a 'Ponton,' a cross 'twixt a horse and man") ; 378 (almost as poisonous as a snake bite) ; cf. also p. 308 - Kentucky: Thomas, No. 3112; No. 3846 (a blue-gummed Negro is dangerous; he has the hoodoo power) Georgia: Steiner, No. go - Illinois: Hyatt, No. 4542, No. 4541 (a blue-gum Negro is very dangerous; it is just too bad for you if he bites you). Collected: 1910-1940

From the Ozarks, published 1939:
Quote: The body of a buzzard is somehow used to cure cancer, but this must be done secretly, for the killing of a buzzard means seven years of crop failure for the whole countryside, and the man who shoots one of these birds in naturally unpopular.
This is a great resource!!!! Inspired by the puppy boiling one ( :o...) here are some other weird things my ancestors got up to...

Lady eggs...
Eyre, Margaret, "Extracts from Signor Busutils 'Holiday Customs in Malta' (Malta, 1894)" Wrote:Those among the Maltese who wish to possess a balsam having the property of healing all wounds, take an egg that has been laid on Lady Day, hide it. . . in a dark place, and begin to use it at the end of the year.

Serpents’ Tongues...
letter in Maltese Library published in 1668 Wrote:Fossils found on Malta are thought to be the tongues of vipers which once infested the Island of Malta, and which St. Paul had turned to stone. They are considered antidotes for snake-bite. Because possessed of talismanic properties, they are set in cups, dishes, knife-handles and other tableware. According to a later correspondent these fossils are not known as “the tongues of vipers”, but as the “tongues of St. Paul.”

Something from our Sicilian neighbours
Radford, E. and M. A. Radford. Encyclopaedia of Superstitions. Wrote:In Sicily Ascension Day was believed to hold marvelous charms of healing. People who suffered with goiter gathered at midnight to bite the bark from the trunk of a peach tree. The biting had to be done at the moment that the clocks struck midnight. The malady, it was believed, was passed into the sap of the tree, and the subsequent behavior of the tree--whether its leaves withered or not--was a guide to whether the patient was to be cured or not.

and here's a very laid back one from France...
Brandon, Elizabeth. "Les Moeurs de la Paroisse de Vermillon en Louisiane." 1955 Wrote:For “flying pox” it is good to fan the afflicted three times with the door of a wardrobe.

Reminds me of the cure for warts in Tom Sawyer.

Some of that stuff is just morbid.
(06-19-2009, 07:44 AM)Satori Wrote: Reminds me of the cure for warts in Tom Sawyer.

Some of that stuff is just morbid. is.

And so many cultures always tried to quell their fear of the unknown with racism.


The natural meds stuff is cool, though..... and you can find things that really work, and have been proven for centuries, and in many cultures. I have a couple of great books on Natural healing - if anyone is interested, I can post the titles when I get home. And, as usual, the requisite books on nutrition... ::)

...sorry, but this stuff works!


On the natural meds: My Pop used to tell the story of my grandmother making a tiny pillow and stuffing it with oregano, and frying it in sheep's fat. This was then put on my Pop's chest when he had a bronchial infection. He always swore that it worked... a few years ago I started reading about all of the benefits of oregano - for the same things that my grandmother would treat.

cool thread.

Reminds me of my mom when somebody's sick. I'm fairly certain warm oil on a cotton ball cures anything. She's the best, though. Never once did we have to boil a puppy. She's just not that kind of mom.

Now, it's not as exciting as amphibians rotting away warts, but I have found one home remedy that works better than any meds out there: apple cider vinegar for the stomach. Look it up. Oh, yeah, and lysine for cold sores.

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