Folk Remedies From Around the World

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From Ashgabat to Atlanta, people all over the world subscribe to folk remedies and do-it-yourself cures for whatever it is that ails them. Here’s a short list of our favorites.

The Choo Choo Treatment

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In Indonesia, people suffering from every disease in the book—from diabetes to chronic pain, from cancer to asthma—say lying on railroad tracks and soaking up the minor electric shocks seems to help. According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesians from islands far and wide first began flocking to the rail yard for medicinal purposes about a year ago, after a taxi driver reportedly recovered from a stroke by frequently lying on the tracks.

A Nuclear Nostrum

It’s pretty well established that too much nuclear radiation’s a bad thing. But what about just the right amount?

Every year, about 20,000 people travel to a little town called Jachymov in the Czech Republic to submerge themselves in radioactive water—broiling run-off from an attached uranium mine—which they believe helps cure diseases such as arthritis. You can read more about it in Paul Voosen’s book, The Stir of Waters.

Indiana Jones’ Worst Nightmare


An Israeli spa, Ada Barak’s Carnivorous Plant Farm, offers a slithering kind of massage, involving dropping a dozen snakes of differing sizes on patients’ naked bellies, backs, necks and faces. The weight and movement of the snakes produce a kneading sensation that is, Ada Barak says, surprisingly soothing and invigorating. The treatment costs $80, and patients can choose if they want the larger king and corn snakes on their backs, or the littler, foot-long ones woven between their toes or around their necks.

Bird Poop Panacea

A New York-based spa that caters to celebrities, socialites and sundry glitterati is offering a $180 treatment that basically involves smearing guano on clients’ faces. The facial, which promises to “unlock the secrets of Geisha beauty,” draws upon a traditional homeopathic Japanese treatment for smooth skin, and uses primarily powdered nightingale droppings, reconstituted into an off-yellow paste.

Beneficial Beverages

Beer, red wine and chocolate all make you feel good when you put them in your mouth, but a growing number of international spas would have you skip that step, and rub them all over your body instead. So-called “beer spas” (in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Mexico), “red wine spas” (in France and Japan) and chocolate baths (in the UK, and lots of other places) all promise a variety of excellent side effects, including soft skin, lower blood pressure—and a really good excuse to drink your bathwater.

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August 26, 2011 - 9:04am
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