A Short History of Folk Medicine

Folk medicine refers to medicine of the people. It is a collection of natural remedies that have been developed by a variety of cultures throughout time. These remedies are handed down through generations. They address a variety of ailments from upset stomachs to wound care, and even improving sleep. Each region throughout the world claims its own folk medicine. Remedies are often based on the native wildlife. This includes herbs, flowers, roots, and even animals. In addition, specific preparations and applications use these ingredients to their fullest.

Russian Folk Medicine

Russian people generally put a particularly strong trust in local folk medicine. Because of its massive size, many rural communities continue to have limited or no access to doctors. Natural remedies and folk traditions are often the only means available for treating the sick and injured. Even in large cities, many Russians rely on traditional and folk medicine and remain suspicious of modern doctors.

East Meets West

Russia also has the unique geographic position of being a bridge between the East and the West. Asian tradition and medicines brought along trade routes has had a significant influence on Russian folk medicine. European traditions have also had a broad impact on Russian folk medicine. One example of an ancient Asian practice, consistently used in Russia is cupping. Cupping is experiencing an increase in popularity due to Michael Phelps’ use during the 2016 Olympic. This technique uses suction to restore worn out muscles by improving circulation to specific areas. Cupping allows faster recovery for athletes so they can resume training and competition. Raspberry jam in tea is a European practice. Russians use it as  a cure-all for many ailments including flus and colds. This concoction is used to keep the doctor at bay by most Russian households.

Foraging Remedies

Many rural people groups foraged for herbal remedies. They also often had designated healers to administer remedies. Chaga is one example of a commonly foraged remedy. It is a fungus that grows on birch trees. Many people use it to treat a vast number of ailments and simply to improve health. The Komi-Permyak people of the Ural Mountains and the Khanty people of Siberia are two of the first people groups to use this healthy fungus. Today many people throughout Russia and Scandinavia, where Chaga is abundant, continue to use the tea as a valuable remedy. In addition, Chaga is making its way into cultures all over the world.

Science Becomes Interested

For a long time folk medicine was dismissed by the medical community as unscientific or superstition. Now, scientists are beginning to see value in many of the traditional practices. As a result, researchers are performing clinical trials to prove the validity of many folk remedies. Many local peoples carried the knowledge of which herbs, flowers, animals, and methods of preparation treat specific ailments. The medical community is working to determine the mechanisms at work behind these folk remedies and how they can cure common ailments and prevent devastating disease.

Sources

“The history and health benefits of Chaga mushroom tea” The Ethnobotanist 

“Why Russians prefer alternative medicine” Russia Beyond

“A Short History of Cupping” The Epoch Time

“The Home Remedies In Russia” Understand Russia