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Table 1 List of Spanish traditional remedies for jaundice based on the ingestion of head lice

From: The use of the head louse as a remedy for jaundice in Spanish folk medicine: an overview


Method of preparation and dosage

Geographical location

Morán Bardón, 1927 [19]

9 lice are put into the patient’s lunch over the course of 9 days without his/her knowledge. They can be put into soup, an omelette or chocolate

Salamanca province

Gárate, 1929 [17]

Treatment consisting of ingesting lice (I was not told whether the lice were alive or not)

Bilbao (Biscay); Deva, Villabona (Guipúzcoa)

Risco and Rodríguez Martínez, 1933 [20]

Take lice. They forced the patient to take 9 lice

Melide (La Coruña)

Iribarren, 1943 [21]

Some healers prescribe taking a handful of lice or eating live lice with bread

Uitzi, Pamplona (Navarre)

Caro Baroja, 1944 [22]

An extremely disgusting procedure: take a variable number of lice

Vera de Bidasoa (Navarre)

Marcos de Sande, 1947 [23]

Ingest 7 live lice in a piece of bread

Garrovillas (Cáceres)

Díaz Mora, 1948 [24]

The patient was administered 3 crushed lice dissolved in “aguardiente” (liqueur) or urine. In Gata the number of parasites ingested for correct treatment is 16

Valverde del Fresno, Eljas, Gata (Cáceres)

Lis Quibén, 1949 [25]

Ingest lice. In Cotovad, for 9 days, they give the patient on an empty stomach a glass of wine with 9 lice that were left outside in the cold the night before. In Cambados, the patient eats dead lice in a broth or alive in bread. In Verín, they give the patient the noted 9 lice in milk or chocolate

Verín (Orense); Cotovad, Cambados (Pontevedra)

Arias, 1955 [26]

Take 9 lice for 9 days

Cornellana (Salas, Asturias)

Duran Sotelo, 1961 [27]

Take lice

Santa Justa–Moraña (Pontevedra)

Taboada, 1961 [28]

It is recommended to take 9 lice mixed in milk or chocolate

Verín (Orense)

Fernández-Ruiz, 1965 [29]

Medication consisting of taking lice with chocolate


Donostia, 1972 [18]

Put 5 live lice, taken from a clean and disease free head, in the heart of an apple or in a piece of bread and eat them. If 5 is not enough, the next time 7 lice are used

Amaiur (Navarre)

Barandiarán, 1974 [30]

They say that to cure jaundice it is necessary to ingest lice

Basque Country

Barriola, 1979 [31]

Lice should be administered without patient knowledge, in chocolate, wine or liquor, soup, or a corn silk infusion

Basque Country

Becoña Iglesias, 1981 [32]

The patient should take lice without his/her knowledge. The quantity to be taken was 3 or 4 lice, once or twice. They were given in water or milk

A Comboa, Estribela, Rorís (Pontevedra)

Carril, 1981 [33]

They gave the affected person without his/her knowledge, 9 lice for 9 consecutive days at breakfast or lunch

Salamanca province

Goicoetxea Marcaida, 1983 [34]

The patient should ingest lice, better living, taking them with liquor, chocolate or the decoction of corn silk

Amorebieta, Elorrio, Zeanuri (Biscay); Olaeta (Álava); Irún (Guipúzcoa)

Blanco, 1985 [35]

Pour lice into broth; eat lice

El Arco, Negrilla de Palencia, Robleda (Salamanca)

Junceda Avello, 1987 [36]

A disgusting recipe: take 9 lice for 9 days. Eat 9 lice together with vegetables

Asturias; Galicia

Martí i Pérez, 1988 [37]

Ingest live lice mixed with some food

Dosrius, Barcelona city (Barcelona); Blanes (Gerona)

Vázquez Gallego, 1989 [38]

While fasting, give the patient over the course of 9 days, a glass of wine with 9 lice that were left outside in the cold the night before


Barandiarán, 1990 [39]

It is necessary to eat lice. The patient should drink water in which 7 head lice were previously cooked

Basque Country

Mateos Romero, 1990 [40]

For 3 days, eat soup prepared with oil previously used to fry 8 or 10 lice. The patient should not know the origin of the recipe

Torremenga (Cáceres)

Rúa Aller and Rubio Gago, 1990 [41]

Drink water in which lice had been cooked

Comarca de El Bierzo (León)

Carril, 1991 [42]

Drink a lice decoction

Fuenteguinaldo (Salamanca)

Guío Cerezo, 1992 [43]

Put lice into a fig and eat it

Llerena (Badajoz)

Fresquet, 1995 [44]

Some people gave children a drink made of white wine with lice, cinnamon and sugar

Comarca de la Ribera Alta (Valencia)

Pámpano and Redondo, 1997 [45]

9 live lice are eaten mixed with flour, honey and sugar. Afterwards, a diet of varied stocks should be followed

San Vicente de Alcántara (Badajoz)

Erkoreka, 2002 [46]

Live lice should be added to porridge, chocolate, coffee or other food to be taken by the patient without his/her knowledge

Basque Country

Álvarez Peña, 2004 [47]

Swallow live lice with milk or butter

Deva (Gijón) and other councils from Asturias

Barandiarán and Manterola, 2004 [48]

In Amorebieta, Bera and Elorrio, in the first decades of the 20th century, it was necessary to give the patient several lice in a small cup of chocolate or mixed with liquor without his/her knowledge: 7, 9, 11, 13, always an odd number. The same remedy was applied in Zeanuri and Olaeta, where lice were introduced into soup, and Quintana where they were placed in the patient’s ordinary food without his/her knowledge. In villages far from the coast for several days, the patient was given a tisane in which 9 lice were placed or they were mixed with some food eaten regularly. Our current surveys have also collected this remedy. In Bermeo and Hondarribia live lice were added to porridge, chocolate, coffee or other food that should be eaten by the patient without his/her knowledge. In Orozco the lice were eaten in an omelette

Amorebieta, Bermeo, Elorrio, Orozco, Zeanuri (Biscay); Olaeta, Quintana (Álava); Hondarribia (Guipúzcoa); Bera (Navarre)

Álvarez Caperochipi, 2012 [49]

At the beginning of the XX century, many healers applied dried head lice dissolved in water. They crushed the lice in a glass and then added water. They would give a drop to the patient and if he/she felt good they would give the patient two drops the following day. The dosage would be increased daily by one drop each day up to 21 drops to then be decreased

Ilarregui and other villages from Navarre