11 Outrageous Folk Remedies to Avoid

Rattlesnakes cure rheumatism! Corpses cure boils! Earwax cures cold sores! And people really believed it!

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Urine cures acne!

Urine cures acne!
Early American settlers had some pretty strange notions when it came to eradicating acne. One involved the application of urine to the outbreaks. Another called for using the water that collected in old tree stumps to bathe pimpled skin. Needless to say, neither has been studied, and neither is worth trying.

Gizzards cure diarrhea!

Gizzards cure diarrhea!Wavebreak Media/ Thinkstock
Though we absolutely don’t recommend this treatment for treating an infant’s diarrhea, we do find it fascinating and would love to know what inspired its creation. We offer it up strictly in the interest of history: Cut the lining from a chicken gizzard and let it dry. Then put it in boiling water to make a tea. Give 1 teaspoonful to your baby every half hour.

Dirty socks cure sore throats!

Dirty socks cure sore throats!Stockbyte/Thinkstock
From Merry Olde England spring some mighty strange sore throat remedies. One–which was actually used widely until the 20th century–called for wrapping your own dirty socks around your throat. Our guess? Since sore throats are so contagious, and in the olden days a signal of potentially lethal diseases, the dirty socks were used to keep loved ones as far away as possible from the patient. But that’s just a guess. Another English treatment involved wrapping bacon around the throat before bedtime. Finally, we couldn’t resist passing along this Irish gem: To heal a sore throat, simply apply salt herring to the soles of the feet.

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Tobacco cures earaches!

Tobacco cures earaches!iStock/Thinkstock
These cures should be labeled “weird, wacky and disgusting.” The first gross-sounding trick was to stuff the painful ear with a moist wad of chewing tobacco — or even to blow tobacco smoke into the ear. Another, mentioned in several compilations of old home remedies, calls for putting drops of urine in the affected ear. It’s even been written that Elvis Presley’s mother relied on this creepy remedy whenever The King had a childhood earache. Thanks, but we’ll pass on all of these. There’s no known science to support any of them.

Chocolate-garlic cures memory loss!

Chocolate-garlic cures memory loss!iStock/Thinkstock
An old, traditional memory-booster calls for dipping garlic cloves in chocolate and eating one to three of them a day. In theory, we think this makes tons of sense — the garlic and the chocolate are loaded to the gills with the kind of antioxidants that protect brain cells. But seriously, in practice? No thanks — we’ll have the chocolate-covered cherries instead, please.

Rattlesnakes cures rheumatism!

Rattlesnakes cures rheumatism!iStock/Thinkstock
An old cure for “rheumatism” was to kill a rattlesnake before it had a chance to strike (always a good idea), skin it, dry it, and then put the remains in a jug of corn whiskey. Then, drink the whiskey. No surprise: There’s no science to support this (and it’s a little too dangerous to recommend). But there have been studies at Israel’s Shulov Institute for Science looking at the possibility that snake venom, with toxins removed, could become a potential remedy for arthritis. Venom contains certain peptides — a molecule containing amino acids — that can turn off pain signals, which is handy for a reptile that needs to immobilize its prey. Of course, there’s a fine line between momentary paralysis and death, so we don’t want you trying this one at home.

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Cuckoos cure back pain!

Cuckoos cure back pain!Monkey Business/Thinkstock
We just love this old North Carolinian folk remedy for a bad back: Lie down (presumably outside) and when you hear the call of a whip-poor-will, roll over three times. This remedy may have been inspired by one that hails from Sussex, England. There, folkloric advice calls for the back pain sufferer to roll on the ground at the sound of spring’s first cuckoo. We suspect the rolling had something to do with stretching out sore back muscles — and birdsong is one of the best soul lifters around.

Eggs cure bruises!

Eggs cure bruises!Design Pics/ Thinkstock
We admit that this ancient Chinese treatment is probably more fun to read about than to use. You need two things: a U.S. silver coin (dimes, quarters, and half dollars minted before 1964 are mostly silver) and a peeled, freshly hard-boiled egg. Slip the coin vertically all the way into the egg until its top edge is even with the top of the egg. Place the warm (not hot) egg on the bruise and leave it there for 30 minutes. This is said to immediately erase the discoloration.

Turpentine cures shingles!

Turpentine cures shingles!iStock/Thinkstock
We dug this shingles prevention strategy up from a tome on old healing folklore, but naturally, we don’t give it much credence: As legend has it, hanging a turpentine-soaked string around your neck will keep shingles attacks at bay.

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Earwax cures cold sores!

Earwax cures cold sores!iStock/Thinkstock
We found this one in a book about old home remedies: “To heal a cold sore quickly, put earwax on it.” Naturally, we don’t recommend the earwax treatment, though we do wonder what prompted its inventor to try it.

Corpses cure boils!

Corpses cure boils!Hemera/Thinkstock
This old English remedy, gets our vote for strangest of them all. Apply a poultice to the boil. When you remove the poultice, place it in a corpse-containing coffin. Theory was, the boils would leave you and pass on to the dead person, where they could do no harm.

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19 thoughts on “11 Outrageous Folk Remedies to Avoid

  1. Stale urine was used hundreds of years ago due to the build up of natural ammonia in it. Gross by modern standards, perhaps, but scientifically valid. Why does RD say it doesn’t work? Did they try it?

  2. ear wax really works for cold sores. i’ve suffered from cold sores since i was 7 years old, some so bad that they spread down towards my chin. i was told about using ear wax at the first “tingle” and ever since then, i apply it as soon as i feel the “cold sore tingle” [before it actually breaks the surface of the skin] and i have not had a cold sore form in years. russian scientists discovered that ear wax [cerumen] has anti-viral and anti-herpes activity. ” The cerumen of two thirds of individuals has antiviral properties. Cerumen of almost 25% of humans of the compared groups displays the immunostimulating activity. The cerumen of all studied individuals contains yeast-like fungi. A suggestion is put forward that the products of their metabolism stimulate local release of interferon-like substances by the lymphoid tissue in the cerumen.” don’t knock it ’till you try it!

  3. Ear wax on cold sores ABSOLUTELY works. It’s gross yes, but a cold sore is more gross and way longer lasting. The second you feel the tingle, get out a q-tip and put a dab on and in minutes the tingle will go away. I promise you, this one is not false.

  4. I know this is a old article but you dismiss these claims because there is no scientific proof. Wth is science, people have been using these remedies way before the introduction of science. Same stupid basis used to disclaim traditional African healings

  5. Some of these may be strange but a lot of folk remedies they are finding out do work. Why would you pass on the chocolate covered garlic. Sure garlic smells bad but it is one of the healing herbs.  Mince it and swallow it with water. Some opt for garlic supplements but the fresh thing is best. 

  6. take the skin of a boiled egg apply it to your hemorrhoid. this will take down the swelling.

  7. Bake an onion untill soft wrap in a towel or sock put it on your ear the infection will be gone by morning

    1. interesting…I will never dispute old remedies…they used what they had…alot if things used came from Native Americans.

  8. My brother had bad acne. After trying everything including ProActive, he used urine and it cleared up quick, fast and in a hurry.

  9. The earwax cure for cold sores makes sense if you think about how often we’re prompted to put lip balm (a waxy moisturizer) on our lips today. Most likely, in olden days, ear wax was the only readily available such balm at hand … or finger tip.

  10. My parents always used to blow cigarette smoke in my and my sister’s ears when we had ear aches – it always worked. I suspect the real remedy was the warm, moist breath … or even just a kiss from Mom or Dad. They’re long gone now and I’d give anything for them to do that again!

    1. my brother blew it in mine and darn if it didn’t work…something about the nicotine being like a pain killer…for lack of better description….he also said filter cigarettes didn’t work as well or at all from person to person where as non filter worked every time especially when the ache was severe line mine was.

  11. The urine i thought was to be from a new infant, before it gets the ammonia smell.

  12. A friend once tried the smoke in the ear because I frequently get ear infections and it actually did work :) and my mom says that her mom used to use urine but I said that I’ll skip that one. Yeah I’m a germaphob so no one’s pouring anything that came out of someone back into me YUCK

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