Traditions Preserved: Folk Medicine & Home Remedies

Macy Trosclair, the author of this post, is one of the new graduate assistants at UL Press. She received her Bachelor's degree in English at Nicholls State University, where she served as an editor and contributor to Mosaic, Nicholls' official student literary magazine. Currently, she is a Master's student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette studying English with a concentration in Professional Writing. Here, she worked in the UL Writing Center as a writing tutor before joining UL Press. Currently, she is the managing editor for the journal Martus, a significant component of UL's Flora Levy Humanities Series. As a native of Franklin, Louisiana, Macy enjoys cooking, hunting, fishing, and hanging out with her four poodles.

A sneak-peak inside African American Home Remedies and its beautiful illustrations.

Home remedies and alternative medicine have become increasingly popular with the ongoing pandemic. Although this interest has been gaining momentum in the last few years, this practice has been a part of many cultures for centuries.

For example, Cajun traiteurs (treaters), also known as faith healers, have been ministering to the ill and injured throughout Acadiana for centuries. At Vermilionville’s Living History and Folk Life Park, a significant attraction is the Le Jardin du Traiteur (The Healer’s Garden), which displays nearly eighty traditional healing plants and herbs used by Cajun traiteurs and locals.

Photograph of the La Maison du Traiteur, or The Healer’s House, formerly known as Maison Acadienne, by Elisa Rolle, licensed by CC BY 4.0.

Alternative medicine is not exclusive to Cajun culture. Modern home remedies are especially prevalent today in the African American community, particularly with the older generation. Just as The Healer’s Garden preserves and teaches others about Cajun folk medicine, authors Eddie L. Boyd and Leslie A. Shimp have done the same for African American folk medicine in their book African American Home Remedies. This detailed index contains over one hundred descriptions and illustrations of popular medicinal plants, herbs, and other everyday home products used by African American families. It provides information on the ailments these substances have been thought to treat, along with usage and application data from two studies conducted in affiliation with the University of Michigan. Below are just a few examples of remedies discussed in the book.


(Taraxacum Officinale, Nature's Coffee)

Study respondents reportedly used dandelion to treat arthritis (root), diabetes, and when feeling poorly (greens). Dandelion greens have been used in salads and in winemaking and have been cooked like spinach. Dandelion roots have been roasted like coffee and used in herbal remedies to treat diabetes, disorders of the liver, as a diuretic, as a laxative and tonic, and to treat the common cold. Dandelion juice has been used to treat corns. Dandelion has caused contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals. One preliminary study found that dandelion extract may have beneficial effects against prostate and breast cancer cells, and a recent study reported that it lowered blood sugar. Published scientific studies supporting the use of dandelion for the other ailments listed are lacking.



Respondents reportedly used the parts of egg to treat hair loss, pink eye, sore throat (whole egg), shortness of breath, ulcers (whole egg), abscess (skin), acne (skin), boils (skin and white), arthritis (white), and venereal disease (shell and white). Beaten whole eggs have been used to prepare a facial mask to improve the skin and as a shampoo to improve the appearance of the hair. Mixtures of egg white have been used to treat diarrhea in children, coughs, and hoarseness. Egg whites sometimes mixed with toothpaste has been used to treat minor burns. The skin of raw and boiled eggs have been used to treat boils, minor cuts, and bruises. Crumbled eggshell mixtures have been used internally to cut up worms in humans and animals. Eggs have been used externally for their cosmetic effect. Beaten egg white have been used as a facial mask to make the skin look and feel smooth. It is postulated that the mask works because egg proteins constrict as they dry, pulling some of the dried skin cells with them, and when washed off some of the dried skin cells are also washed off. Although egg probably is effective for some of the uses described above, the authors found no published clinical or scientific studies to support the use of egg for these purposes.


(Allium Cepa)

Onion was used to treat fever, colds, pneumonia, burns, corns, and calluses. Traditionally onion has been used orally to treat flatulence, whooping cough, fever, colds, bronchitis, hypertension, angina, asthma, diabetes, and as a diuretic. Topically, onion has been used to treat insect bites, warts, bruises, furuncles, and to stimulate hair growth in cases of baldness. Results of a large epidemiological study indicate that daily consumption of onion may be inversely related to the development of pancreatic cancer. Additional data suggests the higher the consumption of onions, the lower the risk for a number of types of cancers. Consumption of red onion reduces blood glucose levels and may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes. There is very little, if any, reliable published information available that supports the use of onion for the other medical purposes listed above.

To learn more about African American home remedies and the studies performed on their effectiveness, as well as their relation to socio-demographic characteristics in the African American community, get your copy of African American Home Remedies: A Practical Guide today.

Please note that the information provided is NOT intended to substitute for advice from a medical professional and is for educational purposes only. The decision to use, or not to use, any information in any manner is the sole prerogative and responsibility of the reader.

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