IV. HEAD AILMENTS
This chapter describes a group of illnesses that are not related from a medical point of view, but which are commonly known as head ailments, buruko minak. These include, from the perspective of the people surveyed, both a simple headache and vertigo and dizziness.
Nostalgia or depression and alienation or madness are also given as illnesses that the people surveyed believe to be the result of ailments occurring in the head.
Another group are made up of the illnesses that include trembling and convulsions, such as what was previously called the St. Vitus Dance, children’s nervous spasms and epilepsy.
- 1 Headaches, buruko mina
- 2 Vertigo and dizziness
- 3 Inebriation, mozkorra
- 4 Nostalgia, bizi-tristura, herrimina
- 5 Alienation
- 6 Remedies for nervous illnesses
- 7 Epilepsy
Headaches, buruko mina
Names and types
The people surveyed usually referred to a headache using that same term (Ribera Alta-A, Lezaun-N). At most they usually make a difference with a migraine and sometimes the pain caused by sinusitis, neuralgia or congestion caused by colds. However, they sometimes confused different illnesses with this type of pain.
Causes of headaches
The information on Hondarribia (G) was used for this section, where the causes include unpleasantness, feeling overwhelmed by problems, not sleeping, suffering from high blood pressure, drinking too much alcohol or having an infection.
One of the headaches that the people surveyed clearly pointed to is the one caused by sinusitis, perhaps due to its location. This illness has been regularly treated by a typical poultice made used verbena (Verbena officinalis) and egg white. Those remedies are listed in the chapter on respiratory diseases.
Pharmaceutical products that act as painkillers are now used to relieve the pain, but very different types of remedies were used in the past.
Vertigo and dizziness
In his Dictionary, Azkue includes the following names: zorabioa in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, zoradura in Gipuzkoa, zoralda and txoradura in Ainhoa (L) and burtzoradura and burtzoraldia according to Duvoisin; txorabildua in Gipuzkoa.
As regards the causes, it is now known in Astigarraga (G), thanks to medical knowledge, that vertigo can be caused by problems with hearing and the cervical vertebrae. In Muskiz (B), in fact, the recommendation is to clean one’s ears and lie down.
Very few remedies have been gathered regarding the treatment of this ailment and given the way they are described by the people surveyed, it can be deduced that they are sometimes confused with dizziness or losing consciousness.
In Amézaga de Zuya (A), it is said that fainting can be caused by weakness, anaemia and pregnancy, among other causes. In Moreda (A), they put it down to circulatory problems, drops in blood pressure, pregnancy, family problems, unpleasantness and shocks. In Durango (B), down to drops in blood pressure or blood sugar levels. In Murchante (N), they now think that dizziness can be caused by problems with the cervical vertebrae, in the ear, diabetes or other reasons.
The most common remedy used to make someone who is drunk sober up is to make them vomit. The methods to achieve this include making that person drink something with added salt, for example, coffee with salt or salted water. Other ways included feeding egg white, sticking fingers down their throat or smelling ammonia.
Nostalgia, bizi-tristura, herrimina
Two types of nostalgia were here mentioned, one that is connected to depression and the one people feel towards the place they come from when they live away for different circumstances.
Origin of nostalgia
In Apodaca (A), it is usually attributed to the death of a family member or to any other misfortune. Help is provided by visiting the person suffering from nostalgia and assisting them with the farm work.
Remedies to cure nostalgia
The remedies gathered are related with distracting the person in question (Agurain, Mendiola, Moreda, Pipaón-A), either by means of the intervention of relatives or friends (Muskiz-B; Moreda-A), encouraging the patient (Valdegovía-A), or by the person’s own means by taking part in different activities that they find rewarding (Mendiola, Moreda) or just by working intensely (Bidegoian, Elosua-G; Valle de Erro-N).
Causes of the madness
Large amounts of information have been gathered on the different causes in folklore of this illness. However, hardly any remedies have been found and the little information available is to do with way to calm people down.
Remedies for nervous illnesses
Nervous illnesses have been a reason for concern when they plague the person suffering them. However, it is acknowledged that they are not sufficiently serious to cause greater problems to the person suffering them and there are even people who believe that, at least in some cases, they are crybabies. Even so, there are also people who claim that if the illnesses are not controlled, the person could end up going mad.
Linden is one of the most widely used herbal teas to calm people down.
Symptoms of epilepsy
These convulsive nervous attacks sometimes led to a loss of consciousness, and the patient to foam at the mouth or dribble, while the eyes remain blank. The person having an attack had spasms in their limbs and they had to be held down so they did not do themselves any harm. A cloth, stick or any other object also had to be placed in the mouth to stop the person biting their tongue (Moreda-A).
Remedies for epilepsy
Due to the characteristics of this illness, the general belief in the past, as has already been indicated, that anyone suffering from epilepsy was possessed or damned and it was usual to resort to religious practices.
Apart from going to the doctor as there were no folk remedies for this conditions, some precautions were taken when a person had an epileptic attack to prevent more serious injuries.