September 1995

Use of Folk Remedies in a Hispanic Population

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(9):978-981. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170220044006

Objectives:  To identify the types of home remedies used for common pediatric problems in a Hispanic population and to study traditional folk illnesses and their cures.

Design:  Survey of 51 Hispanic caregivers, mostly mothers.

Setting:  A pediatric primary care facility in an urban Hispanic neighborhood in Houston, Tex.

Main Outcome Measures:  Remedies used for common pediatric illnesses and for the traditional folk illnesses: mal ojo (evil eye), empacho (blocked intestine), mollera caida (fallen fontanelle), and susto (fright).

Results:  A combination of herbs and pharmaceuticals was used for many illnesses. Teas were most commonly used for colic, upper respiratory tract symptoms, and abdominal pain. Pharmaceuticals were most commonly used for upper respiratory tract symptoms, fever, and diarrhea. Belief in folk illnesses was common: 36 (70%) had experience with mal ojo, 33 (64%) with empacho, 27 (52%) with mollera caida, and 19 (37%) with susto; 10 (20%) had taken their children to curanderos (traditional healers) for treatment of folk illnesses.

Conclusions:  Cultural health beliefs were widely maintained in this Hispanic population. Many patients integrated cultural health practices with reliance on medical practitioners. Knowledge and acknowledgment of these practices are important for physician-patient communication and may affect compliance with other medical procedures and treatments.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:978-981)