Folk Medicine

Folk or traditional medicine originated from primitive man’s reactions or attitudes to natural events. Magic and witchcraft played an important role here. In these societies, where witchcraft and religious beliefs were of great importance, disease and health were explained by external factors penetrating and harming the body. People’s efforts to find solutions to these diseases set up the basis of folk medicine. Consequently, in traditional societies opinions on disease and health were born as a part of folk culture. For this reason, practices related to this issue are the realm of anthropology, ethnology and sociology, while technical analysis falls under the disciplines of medicine and pharmacology.

Folk medicine is different rather then to modern medicine. Traditional medicine lives among the people as a part of their culture. In traditional societies, any information about a disease is shared by others. This information is passed through the generations. People learn popular medicine in the same way and they learn other cultural components.

Popular medicine perfectly harmonizes with cultural components. In most cases, the patient either recovers or dies. If he gets well, it is believed that the method of treatment used was a valid one, and this method becomes permanent. However, the death of the patient does not mean that the method of treatment method was unsuitable, only that the patient was beyond its scope.

The main difference between modern medicine and traditional medicine is the causes of disease. While modern medicine tries to explain the causes of disease by germ theory, traditional medicine, which also accepts the existence of germs, explains disease by magical and supernatural events.
The traditional medicine still present today is the sum of diagnosis and treatment which people have recourse to in underdeveloped or developing countries where modern medical facilities do not exist or because of their religious beliefs. The main reason for traditional medicine's acceptability can be explained by the fact that beliefs change very slowly. In Türkiye, especially in conservative communities, we still can see examples of traditional medicine, although fewer than formerly. People who have methods of treatment of their own are known as ''old women'' in Türkiye, and are in fact traditional physicians. Their medicines (known as old woman's medicine) sometimes have a positive efffect on disease and sometimes don't. These experienced people learn treatment methods from their parents, and try to cure diseases by using their own drugs based on animal, vegetable and mineral products. Most of them apply treatment in their own homes, while others treat patients in laces which can be considered ''folk hospitals.'' Folk physicians use plants for their drugs. These medicinal plants and herbs are commonly used in Türkiye. Some of these are very popular among people and are often used in homes, while others can only be recognized and used by folk physicians. There has been considerable research into these medicianal plants and drugs, and large numbers of publications about them issued by faculties of pharmacology.

Forms and lengths of treatment in folk and modern medicine are sometimes quite similar. For example asprin used as a painkiller appeared as a development of quinine and cocaine, which had been used by folk medicine for a long time. In the same way, research has proved that some herbs used in folk medicine were really effective in curing disease.

In general, we can say that modern and folk medicine interact with each other. While focusing on the causes of disease, modern medicine benefits from folk medicine in order to improve the range of treatments available. Also, folk medicine uses every opportunity to benefit from developments in modern medicine. Within this framework, in some cases folk medicine has given way to pharmacological drugs. However, some people do not trust modern medicine in cases like the evil eye or when someone is under the influence of an evil spirit. Both folk and modern medicine are used in some diseases, like asthma or to deal with heart problems. Cancer and other diseases which requires a surgeon are totally left to modern medicine.

As a result, in conservative regions, the attitudes of residents towards disease are shaped by cultural factors. Research shows that not only educational levels but also peoples’ economic situation influences this attitude. Contacts with big cities, and the availability of transport also enhance the tendency towards modern medicine. This tendency is most commonly seen in the young. Whether educated or not, rich or poor, some people still use folk medicine for specific diseases, and visits to shrines and folk methods of dealing with fractures or dislocations can still be observed.

In spite of this, researchers point out that there is a general movement in the direction of modern medicine, and this tendency may be slow or fast depending on the region’s socio-cultural and economic profile.


Bee Stings

a) Ice is put on the sting. If ice is not available, the wound is washed with cold water or mud is smeared on it.

b) A bunch of parsley is wrapped around the affected area.

c) The victim rubs garlic on the sting.

High Temperatures

a) A towel is moistened with vinegar and pressed onto the brow, neck, hands, feet and the whole body. This operation is repeated untill the patient’s temperature gone down.

b) An aspirin is dissolved in lemon juice and rubbed on the patient’s body, beginning with the forehead.
c) A mixture of grain alcohol, aspirin and few drops of olive oil is rubbed on the articular parts of the body.


A pigeon egg is consumed every morning for 40 days as the first meal of the day.


a) The leaf of a black cabbage is heated and placed on the affected area. This operation is repeated frequently.

b) A mixture of boiled and mashed linen seeds, henna and naphtha oil is rubbed on aching parts of the body. This operation continues a few times a day.

c) A cream is made from dry tobacco and raki. The affected areas covered with this cream.

d) Thin sand is roasted, a few olives are added and the affected areas are covered with this mixture while it is still warm or hot. This operation goes on for three or four days.

Sore Feet

Unrefined salt is dissolved in hot water, and the feet are washed in this solution for ten minutes.


An onion is mashed with either salt or olives and placed on the sprained area.


a) A potato is cut into slices and coffee sprinkled on them. These slices are placed on the forehead.

b) Round lemon slices are placed on the forehead.

c) The patient covers his head with the gall of an animal, mixed with henna, for a few hours.


a) Linen seeds are mashed with sugar and eaten.
b) A piece of bread is roasted, moistened with vinegar and placed on the chest.


The throat is covered with a piece of cotton with pepper and grain alcohol.

Kidney Stones

a) Medlar leaves are boiled and drunk as tea. This continues until the stone is ejected.

b) Water with parsley or yogurt is drunk every morning.


The shell of an egg is burned till it becomes ash. The victims breaths in this ash when his or her nose starts to bleed.

a) Garlic is rubbed on every morning.

b) The middle parts of wild roses are boiled and drunk as tea.


Okra is cooked in milk and placed on the finger.


Mint and dried linden flowers are boiled with lemon and drunk as tea.


Garlic is rubbed on the sty.


a) Diarrhea will end if a glass of soda pop with an asprin inside is drunk.

b) A spoonful of coffee is mixed with lemon juice and eaten.

c) A small cup of yogurt is mixed with a similar cup of baking soda and eaten.


In summer fresh and in winter dry stinging nettles are boiled and drunk as tea every morning before breakfast.


The patient eats red halvah (a sweet prepared with sesame oil, various cereals and syrup) and fat is rubbed on the ears.

Swollen stomach

A mixture of vinegar and bran is heated, and the stomach covered with the mixture.


The patient uses fish oil for calcified areas.


A little leek water is poured into the ear.

Dog Bites

The bite is covered with a bread poultice.


a) The patient drinks milk with honey.
b) Inula is boiled and drunk as tea.
c) The patient eats sesame oil as the first meal of the day.
d) Verruca flower leaves are chewed and swallowed.


a) Eggplant is cooked in hot ashes and mixed with powdered henna. The ointment is placed on the affected area and covered with a clean towel.
b) Peach leaves are boiled and drunk as tea for ten days.
c) The patient eats hedgehog meat.
d) The patient swallows the seeds of the elderberry plant.

Shortness of Breath

a) Stingling nettle tea is drunk every day.
b) Black radish is hollowed out and filled with honey. A small hole is opened in the radish and a cup put under it. The patient eats the honey that flows out after waiting for a night.
c) Cones are boiled and drunk as tea.


a) The patient drinks a spoonful of honey mixed with a spoonful of lemon juice every morning for a few days.
b) Apple and lemon peel and linden flowers are together boiled and drunk every morning.
c) The patient eats raw parsley.

Heat Rash

Dry cat tail is heated and the ashes rubbed onto the affected parts of the body.


a) The patient eats a mixture of mashed chestnuts and sugar.
b) A pot of barley is boiled in a large cauldron of water. Once the temparature of the water has gone down to an appropriate level, the patient climbs inside the cauldron and waits for an hour. This application is repeated for a few days.
c) A bunch of the herb sultan is put in a cauldron full of water and boiled. The patient climbs inside the cauldron and remains in it for an hour. He repeats this procedure for a few days.
d) The patient is buried up to his neck in animal faeces and stays there for an hour.
e) The patient drinks one cup of grated celery root.

For healthy hair and to avoid baldness, vine stems are chopped in the spring time. The liquid that drips from these stems is collected in a bottle and the hair washed with it.
The patient's forehead or chest is scratched with a razor blade.


a) A strong massage is applied using a cup.
b) Honey and pepper are rubbed on the affected areas. This is covered with a perforated newspaper and a towel, and the patient spends the night like this. The operation is frequently repeated.


A small herb with pink flowers known as "malaria weed" is boiled and drunk as tea.

Cuts and Boils
a) The wound or boil is covered with poaceae, if this is not not available, cabbage leaves or tomatoes may also be used.
b) Soap and a small pinch of salammoniac (ammonia) are together cooked with an onion and applied to the boil when the ointment is warm.
Bites by Poisonous Animals
The head of a match is scraped and this is rubbed on the affected part.