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There are a multitude of reasons as to why people turn to home remedies: sometimes out of necessity, other times out of comfort. Oftentimes, after people have either made the willing decision or had it made for them, culture plays a large role in what those home remedies actually are. From spiderwebs to zumbani to shrines, there exists a plethora of healing options varying across the world. Different traditions and ethnic influences impact the way families use and apply home remedies, showcasing the importance of appreciating and understanding different cultures in regard to healthcare.

Physical Manifestations and Ethnic Influences

Home remedies are all around, even in the modern day. Some have permeated the globe, such as tea and honey. Others are far more location-specific and take influence from the various ethnic and cultural groups in the area. For example, star anise is a spice used in traditional Chinese medicine that is frequently used for treating influenza after its progression into Western practices more recently (1). Another is in response to COVID-19, places such as Zimbabwe that already had home remedies and herbal medicine embedded into their culture, utilized home remedies including zumbani, ginger, and moringa as a means of treating patients (2). And while these are examples from different countries around the world, when examining the United States, especially in the south, the most prominent examples of cultural influences in home remedies are in Hispanic and Latina/o households. One example of this from the Southern Oral Histories collection is that of Ysaura Rodriguez, a woman who grew up in Mexico and then migrated to the United States. In Rodriguez’s interview, she recounts how she “…used alcohol, but mainly what [she] used were spider webs and ashes and dirt. And my daddy used to say the lemon was good, that it stop infections,” (3). Rodriquez’s Mexican indigenous influences in the American South impacted the home remedies her family used, and in turn, the home care she received. Another example of this is the oral history of Mirna Allende, whose grandmother and mother were from Puerto Rico. She describes how they “put water and put the rice in water, and the white water, you drink that, that made your stomach feel better,” (4). Both of these Hispanic and Latina/o cultural influences play a role in the physical manifestations of home remedies.

Mental Healing

While physical manifestations are the primary forms of home remedies in some cultures, mental healing is key in others. Religion is integral in defining one’s culture through shrines, prayer, or healers. In Pakistan, Muslim shrines where religious practices occur have strong significance and importance in ritual healing, from the relief of black magic spells to simply following religion because of familial pressures (5). Home remedies can be applied to more than just medicine, as these alternate methods focus on more mental healing but are still ways in which people can attempt to care for themselves without conventional practices. One of the oral histories that examines the influence of a healer is Nancy Holt’s. She talks about the ways in which her husband was “…a shaman and he does all this healing, and I had no idea how many people he healed or helped until we had his memorial gathering, and people would come up to me and tell me what Bruce had done for them, everything from they were infertile and they came out to see Bruce and he told ’em what to do and they got pregnant and they had a baby,” (6). The culture and community involved in the culture surrounding Holt and her husband impacted the ways in which they practiced and aided other people in more of a divine way. In the end, whether Holt’s husband truly held healing powers or not, the power of belief is an incredibly strong and moving force that allows people to practice home remedies in the context of mental healing.

Implications on Healthcare

Why does understanding culture matter in the context of the healthcare scene? I propose the idea that healthcare considerations need to be taken to respectfully treat patients. This leads to the idea of cultural competence, defined as the ability of providers and organizations to understand and integrate various factors such as race, ethnicity, and language into the delivery and structure of the healthcare system (7). Cultural competence changes how effective official care can be, for if physicians understand how to maximally care for each patient’s cultural identity, care will be better all-around. Whether that be physical concerns or being mindful of people’s religious beliefs, there are many ways in which cultural competence should be enacted. An example of this idea in action relates back to the idea of Hispanic women and their home remedy usage. Hispanic women are half as likely to discuss the use of herbal remedies with their doctor compared with non-Hispanic white women (8). If doctors do not know what home remedies their patients are utilizing, it might impact the efficacy of care. In order to promote the highest level of care for all people, healthcare as a whole needs to account for these cultural differences.


  1. Hill, Ansley. “Star Anise: Benefits, Uses and Potential Risks.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 July 2023,
  2. Marevesa, Tobias, Esther Mavengano, and Paul N. Nkamta. “Home Remedies as a Medical Development in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Zimbabwe: A Cultural Memory Paradigm.” Gender & Behaviour, Suppl. Special Edition, vol. 19, no. 1, 2021, pp. 17371-17383.
  3. Rodriguez, Ysaura. Interview with Joanna Ramirez. 29 June 2018 (Y-0044). Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. Allende, Mirna. Interview with Maddy Kameny. 25 June 2018 (Y-0001). Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  5. Charan, Iftikhar Ahmed, et al. “Rethinking efficacy: People’s perception of ritual healing and trance religious practices at shrines in Pakistan.” Asian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 52, Aug. 2020, p. 102020,
  6. Holt, Nancy. Interview with Nick Allen. 13 June 2018 (Y-0033). Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  7. Ihara, Emily. “Cultural Competence in Health Care: Is It Important for People with Chronic Conditions?” Health Policy Institute, The Center on an Aging Society, 13 Feb. 2019,
  8. Green, Robin R et al. “Prevalence of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Herbal Remedy Use in Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White Women: Results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), vol. 23,10, Oct. 2017, pp. 805-811. doi:10.1089/acm.2017.0080.
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