Folk medicine and beliefs

By folk medicine we mean, from an ethnographic point of view, the tradition of understanding the causes of diseases, the symptoms they cause and the ways of treating them in the peasant world. Its knowledge is two-sided, including the experience of diseases and the procedures and instructions for their cure. Folk medicine cannot be dissociated from the people’s knowledge of nature and their beliefs and faith. This includes both those methods of healing which are based on realistic knowledge and experience and those which are based on beliefs and lack any rationality.

The primary tools and substances used in these cures, which were based on realistic knowledge, were herbs, which were used in various ways: they were used to make baths, teas, or even poultices – and are still used in many places today. In addition to all this, they were also used in medicine in a natural way (eaten). Typically, several herbs were combined and usually dissolved in a liquid, which could be oil, brandy, wine or water.

In many cases, the time at which the plants were collected was not always the same. Usually the harvesting of the plants was linked to a particular day, e.g. St. Ivan’s Day, St. George’s Day, etc… and it was also determined at which time of day the plants could be picked, e.g. after sunset, before sunrise.
The cause of illnesses was also often discovered or explained by some kind of belief. The starting point of external illnesses was usually identified, such as when someone strained or hurt themselves. The cause of internal diseases was usually explained by the presence of supernatural forces. They were attributed to the curses of witches or demons, and magical means were used to cure the patient. They also used gestures to ‘send’ the disease out of the body, but also tried to expel it with words, or touched objects to the patient and burned or threw them away, thus burning the problem. Interestingly, human saliva was believed to have healing powers; it was believed that if a child was struck in the eye, it could be expelled by licking around the child’s face.

Nowadays, these remedies are no longer part of society, and the development of medicine has brought about a shift in folk medicine. In any case, many people are beginning to return to the use of herbs, as they are considered to be healthier and better for their natural healing properties.

Dóra Horváth

Diseases were also cured by beliefs


Source of imagine:,

Main photo: Collecting herbs