Folk Medicine

Closely tied to the deep agricultural roots shared by South Carolinians, folk medicine or “home remedies,” have been a part of the southern experience since the first European settlers arrived. Relative isolation, combined with an overall distrust of trained medical personnel, fostered the reliance on folk medicine. These home remedies reflected an extensive knowledge of the natural landscape and a vivid belief in superstitions and “wives tales.” Various roots, berries, herbs, and leaves were combined with folk narratives passed down through multiple generations. In many cases these folk remedies were combined with a doctor’s prescribed medication. A salve might come from the doctor, but would be applied according to folk tradition (ie…with the middle finger or while saying a certain phrase or word). These remedies were just as common among the planter class or the small town merchant, sharecropper, or field hand. They were practical solutions to meet immediate daily needs. Folk medicine is almost always accompanied by a strong narrative component – story, song, incantation, tale, or rhyme.

Content is provided by McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina.

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