More than 240 entries representing folk medical practices used in North America, Britain, Ireland, and Scotland were gleaned from extensive research. Articles are followed by no less than a dozen scholarly references related to the study of superstition and folklore. Ranging from a concise paragraph to several pages in length, entries include the treating of ailments and conditions such as Insect bites and stings
(applying spit, urine, soda, vinegar, or well-chewed tobacco); Palsy
(ingesting cowslip, applying leeches, or holding a dying chicken); and wrinkles
(drinking elderflower water, goat's milk, or an infusion of butterwort) and the supporting of contraception
(using birch bark diaphragms, impotence-inducing Rhus trilobata, or eating heart ventricles). Other entries discuss the various uses of remedies such as dandelion
. See also
references follow each article, and an index completes the volume.
In concept, this volume is an ambitious effort, an attempt to record for future consideration and study a host of old-world and new-world folk traditions. Such traditions are often passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, but the current resurgence in using alternative treatment and natural remedies to treat ailments makes examination of this volume worthwhile. This is not a health reference book, however; it would be as much at home in folk culture collections as in a library's medical section. Public libraries with patron interest or academic libraries with collections in traditional medicine would profit from the author's historical approach. RBB
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• The first comprehensive comparison of British and North American folk medicine practices and beliefs
• Brings together information from a wide variety of sources, including oral traditions and manuscripts, on a theme of contemporary relevance
• Explores areas where practical medicine overlaps with magic and myth, including elements of faith healing and hypnotic suggestion
• Spotlights specific cultural traditions, such as Native American healing and Celtic folk medicine
• Over 200 A–Z entries on all aspects of folk medicine from asthma and childbirth to poultice and warts
• Primary source documents from a variety of public archives and private collections
• Illustrations of plant, animal, and mineral sources for folk remedies
• Complete and extensive end-of-entry references
"[T]his is a valiant effort at bringing together a considerable body of information. Even though the individual entries are short, Hatfield's catholic approach to selecting topics for articles and the thoroughness with which the entries are documented will make this a helpful source for those researching British and British-derived American folk medicine."
Journal of American Folklore
"[A]n authoritative and exhaustively researched volume . . . well organized and attractively designed . . . for libraries with collections in the history of medicine, folklore, and anthropology."
American Reference Books Annual
"Because oral traditions are often lost when practitioners die, this work makes a valuable contribution to folk medicine and to medical literature in general. It is also interesting to read . . . Highly recommended. All collections."
"[W]ould be as much at home in folk culture collections as in a library's medical section. Public libraries with patron interest or academic libraries with collections in traditional medicine would profit from the author's historical approach."