Folk Medicine Cures?

Before turning your back on modern medicine, consider the results you might have achieved (or rather, not achieved) with folk medicine.
By Don Griffith
December/January 1994
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Some folk medicine remedies—two quarts of whiskey to cure snakebite—were maybe just a tiny bit self-serving.

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Even if you are convinced that modern medicine leaves something to be desired (and who isn't occasionally convinced?), be grateful you weren't born 100 years ago. Back then, for every remedy concocted that worked, there were dozens with ...less than stellar success rates. Here are just a few folk medicine cures that have managed to withstand the test of time (but not of practicality or effectiveness).

  • Drink two quarts of whiskey to effect a sure cure for snakebite. 
  • To stop a toothache in your left jaw, tie a string around the little toe of your right foot. For the right jaw, reverse the directions. 
  • Whooping cough may be cured by passing the afflicted person seven times through the arch of a bramble bush. 
  • This treatment works for migraine sufferers as well. 
  • Onions placed under a sick person's bed will draw off poisons. 
  • An iron key pressed to the back of the neck will stop a nosebleed. 
  • A gold wedding band rubbed upon a sty in the eye will heal it. 
  • A piece of red wool, wrapped around a sprained ankle seven times will heal the hurt, but only if you chant, while bandaging the hurt limb, "Bone to bone, vein to vein, get thee whole and well again." 
  • Take care not to let the moon shine on your face while sleeping; otherwise you'll wake up crazy. 
  • If you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn, you will not catch a cold all winter. 
  • To cure a patient with fever, simply burn the feathers of a black hen beneath the patient's bed. If the fever proves stubborn, take a piece of clean cloth, tie three knots in it, run the patient's forehead with the cloth and place it under some running water to let the fever trapped in the fabric flow out. And if that doesn't do the trick, carefully wash the afflicted person using a pail of water, throw the water over a cat, and chase the cat outside. The fever is then the cat's problem. 
  • If you want to cure insomnia, put jimsonweed leaves in your shoes before going to bed, making sure to point your shoes toward the nearest wall. 
  • However, you should always be certain that you're lying in bed with your head due north, so you're in the proper flow with the earth's magnetic waves.  
  • Eating bread hot from the oven was a sure way to get stomach cramps. You could avoid them, though, by wearing a ring made from the hinge of a used coffin. 
  • To cure fits, the sufferer was told to walk into a church around midnight, stroll three times up each aisle, then walk out of the church into direct sunlight. 
  • Speaking of rings, always apply salves, balms, and unctions with the ring finger of the left hand only. The reasoning behind this, of course, is that witches always point with their right forefingers when cursing their victims. 
  • Finally, if you have a blue vein on the bridge of your nose, you'll live a happy but short life. Get out that makeup. 

Post a comment below.


11/7/2012 8:49:59 PM
The snakebite cure may not be so odd after all. If you were bitten by a poisonous snake (the only kind you'd want a cure for), there was no cure. So why not die happily "out of it"? I was prone to frequent nosebleeds as a child (I'm 85 now). The ice cold key on the back of your neck was standard treatment. I don't know how or why it worked but it did. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

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