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Giornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia 2000 April;135(2):271-5

Copyright © 2000 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: Italian

Causes and treatments of skin diseases in folk medicine

Caprio F., Bonifazi E.

Università degli Studi - Bari Cattedra di Dermatologia Pediatrica


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For centuries medical practice has had to come to terms with the limits of its own knowledge. In popular culture, this scientific gap was filled by turning to doctor substitutes, namely healers, magicians and priests, or relying on more or less empirical remedies and pseudo-magical and religious rites. Treatments for skin diseases took one of the following three forms: 1) applying substances attributed with a more or less specific therapeutic acitvity; 2) waiting for the disease to complete its natural clinical course, in the belief that a skin disorder represents a safety valve for an internal disorders; 3) relying on ritual or allegorical practices. The latter were based on the well-known powers of suggestion evoked by unusual words and behaviour, especially when managed by an “expert”. This study examines folk remedies and procedures for skin diseases used in Italy, which even today can still be found in special social and geographical niches and in the form of proverbs.

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