This chapter studies blood where there has been great popular awareness of its importance, both ensuring it functions properly as a vital fluid for the body and due to the alarm that its presence causes if unexpected disorders occur. The different procedures to clean and thin that liquid by bloodletting are described. Diabetes, popularly known as “blood in the sugar” is covered in a section, as is anaemia. The text also considers nose bleeds and the benefit or risk that people attribute to them. The causes of and remedies used for haemorrhoids and varicose veins round off the content of this part of the work.
Blood impurities. Odola loditu
Blood is considered to be the element most closely linked to life, regulator of the state of health and also, when its balance is affected, a cause of illness and death. As the saying goes:
- Blood rears us
- and blood kills us.
The popular link is interesting between blood and plants’ sap and therefore their relationship with seasonal changes. Conversely, the use of the verb “to bleed” to refer to the sap that comes out of tree wounds is quite widespread (Carranza-B).
That state is popularly related to spring and autumn and, therefore, with the trees getting and losing their leaves.
Different types of bloodletting
There were two ways of bloodletting: making cuts with a sharp knife for controlled bleeding or applying leeches that sucked out the so-called excess blood.
It can be seen from the descriptions provided by the people interviewed that the technique using leeches is older and more confined.
In Apodaca (A), they remember that it was common to make the livestock bleed, but not people. The best known bloodlettings were those performed with leeches.
This difference between the two techniques may have been due to the cutting procedure being generally performed by doctors, while the leeches were placed by ordinary people, even though there would sometimes be seasoned individuals in this task.
The information gathered on diabetes is very scant. The use of this name has begun to be more commonplace in recent decades, but the expression “having too much sugar in the blood” is more popular.
The people surveyed knew hardly anything at all about this disease, but said that one of its main symptoms is polydipsia or excessive thirst of the sufferer.
The general ignorance about this disease explains the lack of remedies gathered to alleviate its effects.
Anaemia was called debilidadea, weakness, in Abadiano (B). Ahuldura in Goizueta and Eugi (N). Azkue found the term eruka (Baztan-N). In Lezaun (N), anyone with anaemia was said to be "negau” (run down).
They stressed that the symptoms included a lack of vigour or strength and also down to the sad or deflated aspect of the sufferer (Nabarniz-B).
As regards what causes anaemia, in Amézaga de Zuya (A), they believe that anyone who never feels like eating or is fussy about food may suffer from it, in Gorozika (B) that it is the result of a poor diet and in Orozko (B) that it is caused by eating little and badly.
Nose bleeds, sudurreko odol-jarioak
Nose bleeds are known in Basque as sudurretik odola (Arberatze-Zilhekoa-BN), odol-golpea (Berastegi-G) or surreko amorrajiak (Orozko-B).
These nose bleeds were considered detrimental but rather quite to the contrary, they were considered to expel evil. On the other hand, it was thought a nose bleed indicated that the person had too much blood that is why they were too fat.
They were also associated with people who were obese, those thought to have too much blood, or teenagers and young people.
Haemorrhoids, odoluzkiak, and varicose veins
People who are constipated (Mendiola, Moreda, Ribera Alta-A; Carranza, Muskiz-B; Oñati-G; Obanos-N), that they are due to eating too many fats, too much spicy food and cured meats are thought to suffer from them, and therefore a healthy diet is recommended to avoid them (Valle de Erro-N). With respect to women, haemorrhoids are also associated with labour and it is said they are caused from straining when giving birth (Moreda-A; Carranza-B).
Haemorrhoids are painful and even cause bleeding. Folk remedies have been used to relieve that discomfort.
The use of plants to relieve that pain and inflammation has been very widespread. The treatments have been commonplace. Plants have been sometimes used to prepared herbal teas, or used to bathe or as poultices on the affected area, and others directly applied on the inflammation. There was sometimes the magical practice consisting of putting the plants in the back trouser pocket, in the case of women, or in the apron of the women, and wait for them to dry.
Hardly any information referring to the varicose veins was gathered in the surveyed locations. In Carranza (B), the interviewees only pointed out that women suffer from them more than men. In that location, it was said that care should be taken not to injure the veins as it was thought that the person could then bleed to death. In the past, for example, when women went to reap the wheat, they wore thick tights if they had varicose veins so they were not pricked by the straw.