Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Amish do not eschew the use of conventional medical care. In the event of a serious illness or injury, most members of the Amish community will accept medical intervention in lieu of home remedies. Folk medicine, however, plays a key role in the health and well-being of Amish communities. Amish folk remedies include a combination of holistic healing techniques, including traditional German medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Native American medicine.
Herbs play a key role in Amish folk healing. According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, or GAMEO, Amish healers include medicinal herbs in ointments, poultices, salves, teas and bitter tonics. Bitters such as blessed thistle may be used to improve digestion or treat constipation. Amish herbalist Solomon Wickey recommended peppermint, a bile-stimulant, as a treatment for gallbladder problems. Ginger and fennel may be used to treat gas pain.
The Amish value large families, so many folk remedies emphasize fertility and sexual health. According to a report published in "Complementary Therapies in Medicine," about one-third of pregnant Amish women use folk medicine. GAMEO reports that corn silk and pumpkin seed are commonly used to treat prostate problems and infertility in men. Amish couples suffering from infertility may turn to prayer as a solution.
Uranium Mines and Hot Springs
According to GAMEO, some Amish people sit in abandoned uranium mines for prolonged periods of time. Folk healers believe that this action will cure pain from arthritis. Hot springs and herbal remedies are also popular among Amish people who suffer from arthritis.
The 2001 study Complementary Therapies in Medicine states that chiropractic care is a common folk practice within Amish communities. The Amish may turn to chiropractors to treat common complaints such as back pain, headache and tension. GAMEO references specialized "quasi-chiropractic centers," which may emphasize other techniques including massage and hydrotherapy.
Mainstream medical practitioners rarely approve of iridology, the practice of diagnosing disease by looking at a patient's eye. This unscientific technique persists within Amish communities, however. According to the New York Times, Amish herbalist Solomon Wickey diagnosed his clients and prescribed treatments by examining their irises. Wickey became the subject of a heated controversy because he practiced medicine without any formal accreditation. Other Amish healers may use iridology to diagnose a condition or determine an appropriate folk treatment option.