Sep 14, 2017

Folk medicine – how to cure headaches

Headache or cephalagia is a symptom of numerous diseases which affect the head, and sometimes the neck. Headache is one of the most frequent symptoms, and can encompass a wide span of diseases from harmless levels which require no treatment, up to the ones which are life threatening. In folk medicine of BiH there are numerous empirical methods of diagnostics and cure of this disease. According to the opinion of the majority it often comes about as a side effect of too much worry, fighting, hangovers, hunger, sorrow, etc. Draft is especially dangerous about which older women still today warn the younger generations to not go outside when they wash their hair since “draft will hit them” and their head will hurt. There is a whole line of superstitions about the origin of this disease and the most interesting one comes from Tešanj which suggests that women shouldn’t observe men when they gather in front of mosques on Friday, since they could get a headache. However people were most worried about having headaches on Tuesdays, since as people believe, whoever gets a headache on Tuesday will have one the entire week. Sickness of the head comes from supernatural causes such as "Ograma", curse or spellbound eyes.

According to intensity and the length it is divided into short, passing and long lasting headache. Among the folk it is believed that the worst headache is the one, a person goes to sleep with and awakes with it as well, also the one that forces people to puke is also worrisome. Curative action often included bloodletting (cupping/hidžama), because of the belief that “unhealthy blood” can cause a lot of difficulties in the organism, especially headaches, also curative processes included placing linings on the head, resting and taking pills. Washing the face with water as well as placing cold lining behind the neck or on the forehead, positively affects the soothing of the pain. Of course we shouldn’t disregard those curative processes whose result is for many relative, but despite that, they found their space in folk medicine. Though many enumerated procedures could be characterised as a mixture of superstition and placebo effect, we cannot even today claim that they’re exclusively that, since in each one of them there exists a small percentage of empirical testing and effectiveness. For example, many persons which have issues with this ailment are of the opinion that their headache will pass if they drink a bitter, stronger cup of coffee without sugar. Caffeine has a strong effect against pain and it is proven that it can cure headaches in numerous people, while in others, which react differently to it, it can strengthen or even cause headaches.

In the book “Something about the curing of Bosniacs in BiH” the following recipes are mentioned which our forefathers used in the past:

As soon as you get a headache, find three tops of nettle, and place them under your hat.

Cut a potato in pieces, and place them on your forehead.

Fumigate yourself on new cotton (Baumwolle).

Similarly beneficial is if you cover your head with burdock leaves (Petasites hybridus).

The best cure for headaches, is if one cuts one onion into pieces and spread the leftovers of coffee on them and place that mixture on the forehead.

Among our folk headache was traditionally considered a “female disease” and in accordance with that the belief that it affects the weaker gender in more percentage was widespread. Female complaints about headaches probably supported this as well as their various forms of curing from the home pharmacy such as placing pieces of potato or cucumber onto the forehead to “draw out” the disease. It was especially believed that cucumber has a specific bitterness from both sides of the fruit, and those pieces were cut and placed on the forehead because of the opinion that this bitterness will have a soothing effect through the skin on the head. Because of the traditional belief in south-western BiH that cucumbers were sown on Thursdays will be bitterer, than the ones sown on other days, they resulted in them being more sought when it came to curing headaches.

Area of the temple is considered to be the place on the face through which one can best act on pain in the head, and since the old days pieces of potato were placed on it to absorb pain. Numerous stravarke advise that this place before placing potato or cucumber should be massaged with the index finger and forefinger from both sides of the head, and with that the eyes should be raised towards the sky or ceiling. If someone has a strong headache, then individual stravarke suggest that the diseased should tighten his right hand and left leg, in order for the headache to pass sooner.

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