Folk Medicine

A woman performing yoga on the beach

Traditional medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.

Folk medicine is often associated with belief systems. Santeria, Vudu, Hudu, Christianity, Hindu, Buddism, and Native American Beliefs all have associated healing practices which fall under the definition of folk medicine. Communion, anointing with oil, exorcisms, and prayer are only a few associated with the Christian church. The Hindu Ayurveda healing has long been practiced in India. Some of the practices it includes, like yoga, have gained popularity in the United states.

A laughing buddha
Laughing buddhas are for good luck in all matters including good fortune and great abundance. It is recommended to choose a statue of Buddha holding a bowl.

There are different opinions about what the bag Buddha carries represent. Some believe it symbolizes all the riches the believer will receive. Yet, others believe the Laughing Buddha takes your worries from you and stuffs them in the bag making sure you stay happy and carefree. A buddha with a gold ball is for wealth.

Folk Medicine in Common Use Today

Today terms like "traditional", "alternative", "natural" or "complementary" medicine are common. However, all of these practices originated as folk medicine.


Originated in India as a part of the Ayurvedah preventative medicine system that was developed around 5,000 years ago.

Chiropractic care

Truly American Folk medicine. Founded in 1890s in Iowa. Chiropractic leaders of the time often invoked religious imagery, and the founder. The founder seriously considered declaring chiropractic a religion. However, he decided against this, partly to avoid confusion with Christian Science.

Massage Therapies

Evidence has been found in several ancient civilizations. One example is the Tomb of Akmanthor (also known as "The Tomb of the Physician") in Saqqara, Egypt. It dates 2330BCE and depicts two men having work done on their feet and hands, presumably massage.


Originated in China. Earlier instead of needles sharpened stones and long sharp bones were used around 6000 BCE for acupuncture treatment.