watersheds.org the world in your watershed search
homewhat's newabout ussite mapcontact us

Folkways Folk Healers: Grannywomen


"Go get the Grannywoman!" That's what people in the Ozark mountains always used to say when someone was sick or injured, or when a pregnant woman was having a baby.

Grannywomen were the ones who best knew the various local plants and their uses for treating ailments and wounds. They collected the plants and made tonics, salves and other treatments. They also knew how to help a mother bring her child into the world. The Grannywoman in any Ozarks neighborhood of small towns and farms would know just about every young person in the area because she was usually the midwife at the birth. 

Why did people call for the Grannywoman instead of the doctor? First, there weren't too many doctors around. Before cars and trains, it was often too far on foot or horse to fetch a doctor from town. Besides, people trusted Grannywomen because their remedies came from both Native American and European herbal healing traditions that go back hundreds and thousands of years. And if a Grannywoman's remedies weren't any good, people would simply go to a better Grannywoman. There were other Grannywomen around who had also learned their healing arts from yet older herbalists, who always passed their knowledge on to the next generation. 

Because scientists are now beginning to understand how some of the folk remedies worked - and because many people are looking for other kinds of medicine - the wisdom of Ozarks Grannywomen is coming back into everyday health maintenance. 


Grannywoman Lori Eslinger was a herbal healer and midwife in the Romance, Missouri area up into the 1960s.


Related Stories

How People Use Plants

Poke Salat


Written by Patty Cantrell.
Source: Ozarks Watch,Vol. VIII, No.1, 1995.