15 Weird and Wacky Folk Remedies You Shouldn’t Try

Odd fixes for common problems.

Rattlesnakes for rheumatism?! Chocolate-covered garlic for a better memory?! Read about these and other weird folk remedies that we would never recommend. Did people really ever do these things?

Smelly acne remedies
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.

Rattlesnake for rheumatism
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.

Back pain cure
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.