Herbal Cures. Folkore from Co. Donegal

This blog post details some early 20th century herbal cures from Co. Donegal and is based on information supplied by a pupil attending Behy National School in c. 1938.

A Donegal cottage, c. 1900 (National Library of Ireland collections)
A Donegal cottage, c. 1900 (National Library of Ireland collections)

Tormentil known in this district as “Torment Root” is a cure for a sick animal

The bark and juice of the alder for heart burn.

Juniper bush cures a beast of “Red water

Garlic is good for a cold. It is boiled with milk

Eyeweed is used for sore eyes

Peppermint is good for a cold.

Dandelion boiled and the water drunk relieves a sick stomach

Marsh Mallow is sometimes used for a poultice

Elder Flowers for Rheumatism

Bogbine is very frequently used in this district in the spring. It is said to be excellent for the blood. It is boiled and mended with liquorice candy sugar and lemon also cream of tartar and boiled. A Spoonful is drunk every morning before breakfast.

Houselick is grown on the side walls of some old houses in Behey (Robert Phillips for example) for sore eyes and the old people believed that the house on which houselick grew could never be burned.

Nettle Tea that is nettles boiled +the water drunk is a cure for measles

Giolar- water cress is eaten in this district and is said to be good for any kind of “sore”. ‘

Donegal cottage (National Library of Ireland)
Donegal cottage (National Library of Ireland)

This account forms part of the Schools’ Folklore Collection, a large and important corpus of material, whose compilation occurred between 1937 and 1939.  This far-sighted scheme, run by the Irish Folklore Commission, saw over 100,000 schoolchildren collecting local folklore from their parents, grandparents and older members of the community


The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1029, Page 74

2 thoughts on “Herbal Cures. Folkore from Co. Donegal

    1. Could well be Maelduin,’houselick’ is the word the child used in the original document, they may have spelled it phonetically after their local accent

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