True or False: 14 Old Wives Tales That Might Withstand the Test of Time

woman herbs field

What is it about ancient folklore that is so intriguing? We’ve all heard the old stories passed down from generation to generation. Some of them hold water, while many are just too silly to be considered true for a minute. 

There’s no way that itchy palms can make you rich or that eating yams will result in having twins. That’s just nonsense.

However, there are some old wives’ tales that are shockingly true. 

1. Cold Cabbage Leaves for Nursing Moms

Image Credit: NataliAlba and Shutterstock.

An old wive’s tale to cure infected and swollen breasts caused by mastitis that works is to apply cold cabbage leaves. Mastitis is a painful condition that affects about 10% of nursing mothers. A backup of milk in the milk ducts occurs when the baby fails to latch or suck properly.

When this occurs, it can be excruciating and result in engorged breasts. I experienced it myself as a new mom and got instant relief when I applied cabbage leaves upon the direction of the midwives who helped deliver my son. 

2. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

woman eating apple
Image Credit: Luis Molinero and Shutterstock.

We’ve all heard or used the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” However, there is proof that eating apples does increase life expectancy. 

According to a scientific study by the University of Western Australia, eating just 100 grams (3.5 oz) of apples daily results in better health. Apple skin contains high levels of the plant compound known as flavonoids. Flavonoids help prevent cell damage, reduce cancer risk, and help maintain a healthier weight. 

3. The Full Moon Brings Out the Animal in Us

full moon
Image Credit: Voraorn Ratanakorn and Shutterstock.

It has long been believed that the full moon awakens the animal in all of us. The results? Higher crime, emergency room visits, surgical mistakes, induction of labor, and so on. Studies have been conducted supporting this old wive’s tale; however, some studies don’t, either. 

Anecdotally, my sister, an E.R. nurse for many years, often shared stories of long, crazy nights at the hospital during a full moon. Is this myth true? Possibly, but it’s always a fun conversation starter, though. 

4. Carrots Can Help With Vision

Image Credit: Goodluz and Shutterstock.

Carrots are rich in beta carotene, a red pigment that helps produce Vitamin A, a key ingredient in a healthy, functioning eye. We need Vitamin A for various reasons, but it’s beneficial for maintaining good eye health and avoiding cataracts. It’s also connected to improving night vision. However, you don’t want to eat pounds of carrots, as too much Vitamin A can have adverse side effects.  

5. The Sharper the Blast, the Sooner ‘Tis Past

lightning storm
Image Credit: B Ott and Shutterstock.

The old weather adage “the sharper the blast, the sooner ‘tis past” usually has some merit. When a storm builds rapidly, it’s stronger and blows through much faster than when it builds gradually.  

Slow-building fronts with steady rainfall can last several days; however, the stronger the thunderstorm, the faster it will roll through, usually only lasting a few minutes or hours. 

6. Chicken Soup Cures a Cold

chicken soup
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot and Shutterstock.

We can all agree that eating hot soup when we have a cold is one of the best ways to start feeling better. But is the soup a form of medicine, or do we just want it to work? Studies have concluded that chicken soup helps loosen mucus and open up congested lungs by simply inhaling the heated vapors of the broth.

Chicken soup often contains pepper and garlic, which help loosen mucus. The broth, rich in electrolytes, helps to rehydrate the body. 

7. Long Labor Is a Sign of a Baby Boy

woman giving birth
Image Credit: Gorodenkoff and Shutterstock.

There are many old wives’ tales related to pregnancy and labor. One such belief is that a mother who experiences a long labor will birth a baby boy. In my case, that tale holds water. However, is it more than just anecdotal? 

A study performed in Dublin, Ireland, indicated that delivering a male infant resulted in labor lasting more than six hours. In contrast, the delivery of a female infant was typically less than six hours. Perhaps it’s because baby boys are generally bigger and have a larger head circumference than girls. 

8. Heartburn in Pregnancy Results in a Hairy Baby

baby dark hair
Image Credit: perthstagedtosell and Shutterstock.

According to the very odd adage, experiencing a lot of heartburn during your pregnancy will result in having a hairy baby. Is it true, though?

In a tiny test sample of only 64 participants, researchers at Johns Hopkins University determined that the folklore held some truth. The conclusion: “Contrary to expectations, it appears that an association between heartburn severity during pregnancy and newborn hair does exist.”

9. Chocolate Helps to Alleviate Menstrual Cramps

dark chocolate
Image Credit: Sea Wave and Shutterstock.

Some foods help alleviate menstrual cramps, and chocolate is one of them. The reason? Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, has a high amount of magnesium, which helps to relax the uterine muscles. 

Additionally, chocolate is rich in polyphenols, including flavonoids. Flavonoids are chemical compounds that reduce inflammation and act as potent antioxidants in the body. Consuming chocolate also results in a burst of dopamine, which elevates one’s overall mood and disposition. 

10. Red Sky at Night, Sailors Delight, Red Sky in Morning, Sailor’s Warning

crimson sky ocean
Image Credit: KK Stock and Shutterstock.

The first time I heard this saying, I was a young girl. My mother repeated the phrase to me as the night sky was a beautiful shade of crimson. I asked her what it meant, and she explained that a long time ago, sailors believed the adage to be a marker of turbulent weather to come or not. 

Scientifically, a red sunrise can mean that a high-pressure system (good weather) has already passed while indicating a storm system (low pressure) may be coming.

11. A Wooden Spoon Keeps a Boiling Pot From Boiling Over

wooden spoon boiling pot
Image Credit: Jojo Photos and Shutterstock.

Is it really an old wives’ tale or just common sense? Who knows– but there are two reasons why placing a wooden spoon across a boiling pot prevents it from boiling over. 

First, the spoon destabilizes the bubbles when they come into contact with its water-repelling surface, causing the boiling water to subside. Secondly, the bubbles created from boiling water are filled with steam. If the bubbles touch something below 212°F, the steam condenses and breaks the surface.

12. Onions Relieve Insect Stings

onions cutting board
Image Credit: NUM LPPHOTO and Shutterstock.

It’s a known home remedy that dates back ages: the juice from an onion helps relieve stings and bites caused by wasps, bees, mosquitos, and many other nasty little insects. There are countless stories of this remedy being effective, and I, too, can personally attest to it. 

As someone who attracts mosquitos like moths to a flame, I’m no stranger to their bite. You have to squeeze the juice from the onion directly onto the bite and let it dry or create a poultice from the juice with a bit of gauze. 

13. A Frog in the Milk Prevents Spoiling

russian brown frog
Image Credit: Andrei Mayatnik and Shutterstock.

I found this Russian folklore quite interesting. People used to believe that placing a frog in milk would prevent spoiling, but is there any truth to it? A study in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research indicates that the lore is somewhat valid.

Russian scientist A.T. Lebedev identified 21 substances with antibiotics and other potential medical activity on the skin of the Russian brown frog. So, perhaps those old wives knew a thing or two after all.

14. Gathering Herbs by the Light of the Moon

old woman picking herbs
Image Credit: Tatevosian Yana and Shutterstock.

For ages, people have passed down tips and tricks on when to gather herbs. Some believed it was best to pick them by the moon’s light or early in the morning before sunrise. Moths pollinate some plants and create their most potent oils at night to attract night insects.

However, as most herbologists know, collecting medicinal herbs and plants makes the most sense when they look, smell, and taste potent, flavorful, and vital. 

+ posts

With a passion for travel, great food, and beautiful art, Julie put aside her 15-year career in the tech industry and dove head-first into a more creative sphere. Utilizing her degree in Communications, she is pursuing freelance writing. An avid traveler, Julie has experience writing and documenting the amazing spots she has visited and explored, the delicious food she has tasted, and the incredible art she has admired and purchased! When she’s not writing, she can be spotted around Austin, TX, at various art gallery openings, having a delicious meal with her husband and friends, and playing with her two dogs.

Similar Posts