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Several medicinal treatments have developed throughout the evolution of medicine, including both traditional and alternative methods. These alternative methods are often called home remedies: medications used to treat ailments at home, undergoing no professional advising (1). Whether or not a patient engages in home remedies is based on a culmination of several aspects of their identity, including religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. However, across various personal backgrounds, one theme persists: the familial and communal influence of home remedies. By utilizing non-traditional methods of treatment that have been passed down, individuals can feel closer to people they trust, fostering a newfound sense of stability. To a large extent, home remedies are rooted in strong generational influences, whether from their established community or their direct family members. Evidence supports that relationship dynamics heavily influence individuals’ views on the applicability of home remedies within the families and communities that practice home remedies.

The Intergenerational Pattern

First, the impact an individual’s relationships have on home remedies can be seen on an interpersonal level. For example, Cynthia Songs, a 63-year-old woman from Dunn, North Carolina, describes how her grandmother would boil hogs’ feet, put them in baby food jars in the refrigerator, and make them eat them if she had a cold. She details her experiences of mindlessly eating the boiled oil growing up, following her family’s orders (2). Song’s story demonstrates how her engagement with home remedies was done merely out of the generational significance of these practices within her family. Her experiences reflect how home remedies are often practiced by sheer affiliation between family members. 

Yet, this shared action of individuals turning to their community and family for stabilization when fighting off ailments spans far beyond a few generations. For centuries, sick individuals have relied on their community’s home remedies to address their needs. For example, Sumerian and Egyptian communities used willow tree bark as a pain reliever. Over 3,500 years later, willow bark is still used by many Sumerians and Egyptians to prevent heart attacks and improve blood pressure (3). This example shows that relationships can dictate the use of specific home remedies beyond an intimate household context. Instead, the mere generational tie to such a practice can serve as a meaningful enough relationship. 

The Human Desire for Connection

Furthermore, humans also use their connection with others to empower their decisions about what health looks and feels like. For example, Ruth McKeithan, a 68-year-old woman from Clarkton, North Carolina, elaborates on how her mother was always the one who took care of her and her siblings when they were sick. She details how her mother would put an onion under her bed, and she would wake up, and her fever would be gone in the morning (4). McKeithan’s experiences revolve around her mother’s influence on how she viewed health growing up, revealing that it was more of the motherly comfort that influenced how she viewed health growing up rather than the efficacy of the remedies themselves. The fact that McKeithan continued to mimic the remedies of her mother as an adult shows her effort to try to reminisce about their connection during adolescence. Her experiences point towards the natural human craving for connection with others, which is the driver for using home remedies rather than the practice itself.

Human connection similar to McKeithan and her mother also has research supporting its physiological benefits. According to a meta-analysis by Holt-Lunstad, by examining 148 articles published on the relationship between human interactions and health outcomes, it was reported that connections with family and neighbors improve survival odds by 50% (5). This statistic suggests that just the social act of completing home remedies with others could contribute to individuals’ well-being more than the actual home remedy itself. From a neurological perspective, when humans facilitate social attunement, oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved with the reward system associated with pleasure, is stimulated. This is significant as oxytocin can actually function as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant for the body (6). This poses a question of whether sociality behind home remedies may actually be what “cures” rather than the chemical makeup of the remedy itself. 

The Impact of Authority

Lastly, there is significant support that “authoritative” figures deeply impact others’ use of home remedies. For example, Meranda Bennett, a 32-year-old from rural Clinton, North Carolina, describes how she used to drink much tea growing up whenever she was sick, occasionally putting in a shot of whiskey to “sweat out a fever”. When Bennett is asked where she learned these home remedies from, she says “old people.” Bennett describes that she had no idea what the remedies did, but she just did them because her family always had (7). Her experience exhibits the disorientation many individuals experience in the generational pass-down of remedies—they unquestioningly trust and follow their family members. 

Bennett’s extensive reliance on her parents for her health is backed up by empirical evidence, as research supports that parents influence children’s participation in similar health behaviors through modeling. Childhood is an especially vulnerable period for behavioral development, as children tend to rely extensively on their parents to perform behaviors that support their health. A study focusing on parents’ participation in behaviors affecting their child’s choices, indicated that parents’ perceived behaviors positively predicted their child’s subsequent behavior (8). This research accentuates a susceptibility that many individuals like Bennett faced growing up in a household that readily practiced home remedies—unknowingly modeling parental behaviors. This concept draws attention to caregivers’ significant influence on child development, emphasizing the need for more investigation into how age differences impact adolescents’ use and understanding of home remedies. 


In conclusion, the enduring practice of home remedies highlights an innate human need for trust and connection within communities. Across different cultures and socioeconomic classes, individuals blindly follow their families’ home remedies and non-traditional treatments. Stories from Cynthia Songs, Ruth McKeithan, and Meranda Bennett emphasize the role of familial influence on health and healing. Furthermore, scientific research highlights the effectiveness of home remedies due to their social and interpersonal interactions rather than their physical makeup. Overall, home remedies provide a source of comfort and stability.


Songs, Cynthia. Interview with Joanna Ramirez. 15 June 2018, Y-0052, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bennett, Meranda. Interview with Joanna Ramirez. 15 June 2018, Y-0009, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Carter, C. Sue, et al. “Is oxytocin ‘Nature’s medicine’?” Pharmacological Reviews, vol. 72, no. 4, 10 Sept. 2020, pp. 829–861,

Hamilton, Kyra, et al. “An extended theory of planned behavior for parent-for-child health behaviors: A meta-analysis.” Health Psychology, vol. 39, no. 10, Oct. 2020, pp. 863–878,

Holt-lunstad, Julianne, and Timothy Smith. “Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review.” SciVee, 28 July 2010,

Malapela, Rakgadi Grace, et al. “Use of home remedies for the treatment and prevention of coronavirus disease: An integrative review.” Health Science Reports, vol. 6, no. 1, 12 Dec. 2022,

Ruth Mckeithan. Interview with Joanna Ramirez. 28 June 2018, Y-0039,, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

World Health Organization. “Traditional Medicine Has a Long History of Contributing to Conventional Medicine and Continues to Hold Promise.” World Health Organization,

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