Thursday, September 22, 2011

You'll Never Cough Again! - Folk Remedies

We return this week to Bella Chirkova from Vinnitsa, who speaks this time about folk remedies. When asked if she knows how to ward off the evil eye, she begins by saying that she can tell what's wrong with a person by using an egg. (See also this post about using eggs in folk remedies.) She then gives an example of one way a person can be healed without conventional medicine -- Bella suggests drinking your own urine to cure a cough.

The suggested treatment is but one example of what is known as "babske refues" -- or old wives' medicine. As Lisa Epstein notes in the YIVO encyclopedia, "The approach of the East European Jewish population to health care made no distinction between what would now be considered “scientific” medicine and “folk” medicine.... Among Jews, a rich oral tradition of folk remedies for physical, as well as emotional, ills existed." The cures could be found in various recipe books, but by the time Bella was learning them, they were primarily transmitted orally, from one woman to another.

--Asya Vaisman


  1. Asya, what is she suggesting to drink? "Ayer a shtune"?

  2. oh. got it. "hashtone".