Folk Healing in Southern Appalachia


A great deal has been written in the past on herbal healing in Southern Appalachia. However, works specifically about religious healing are sparse. Most sources include sections on both herbal and religious healing, showing how often times the two are tied. A majority of the information on folk healing can be found in books. This pathfinder focuses mainly on sources concerned with religious and magical healing but does not exclude general overviews of herbal remedies. The pathfinder does not necessarily focus on who is doing the healing, but rather the healing processes and the beliefs involved. Native American folk healing is not included here. Sources listed are currently available in the Belk Library or the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University.

Introductory Text: 

Cavender, Anthony P. Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. ASU SPEC APP COLL GR108.15 .C38 2003

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Appalachian Region -- History
  • Appalachian Region -- Religion
  • Appalachians (People)
  • Healing -- Religious Aspects
  • Herbs -- Folklore – Religious Aspects
  • Herbs -- Therapeutic Use
  • Medicine -- Appalachian Region -- History
  • Snake Cults (Holiness Church)
  • Spiritual Healing
  • Traditional Medicine -- Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Traditional Medicine -- Dictionaries
  • Traditional Medicine -- Encyclopedias
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Botany, Medical
  • Folklore
  • Snake Cults
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • BL 441
  • GR 108
  • R 152
  • BR 535
  • GR 110
  • R 154
  • BX 7990
  • GR 540
  • R 692
  • F 106
  • GR 780
  • R 733
  • F 210
  • GR 880
  • RC 81
  • F 216-217
  • HC 107
  • RM 666
  • F 264
  • HD 9019
  • RS 164
  • F 291
  • PE 2970
  • RS 172
  • GR 1
  • QK 99
  • RZ 433
  • GR 101
  • R 133
  • SB 351

Bolyard, Judith L. Medicinal Plants and Home Remedies of Appalachia. Springfield, IL: Thomas, 1981. 187 pages. ASU SPEC APP COLL RS164 .B63.

Cavender, Anthony P. Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. ASU SPEC APP COLL GR108.15 .C38 2003

Crellin John K. and Jane Philpott. Herbal Medicine Past and Present. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. in 2 vols. ASU SPEC APP COLL RS164 .B324 C74 1989. (See v. 1, Trying to Give Ease .)

The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing; Log Cabin Building; Mountain Crafts and Foods; Planting by the Signs; Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing; Moonshining; and Other Affairs of Plain Living. Eliot Wigginton, ed. NY: Doubleday, 1972. 384 pages. ASU SPEC APP COLL F291.2 .F6.

Hand, Wayland Debs. Magical Medicine: The Folkloric Component of Medicine in the Folk Belief, Custom, and Ritual of the Peoples of Europe and America. Berkeley: University of California Press. 345 pages. ASU SPEC APP COLL GR880 .H35 1980.

Herbal and Magical Medicine: Traditional Healing Today. James Kirkland et al, eds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 240 pages. ASU SPEC APP COLL GR110 .V8 H47 1992.

Jones, Loyal. Faith and Meaning in the Southern Uplands. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 245 pages. ASU SPEC APP COLL BR535 .J66 1999.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. Jan Harold Brunvand, ed. New York: Garland Publishers. 794 pages. ASU APP COLL OVERSIZE and ASU REFERENCE: GR101 .A54 1996. (library use only)

Bown, Deni. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London; New York: Dorling Kindersley. 424 pages. ASU REFERENCE: SB351 .H5 B645 1995.

Bricklin, Mark. The Practical Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press. 574 pages. ASU MAIN STACKS: RZ433 .B74 1983.

A Folk Medical Lexicon of South Central Appalachia. Anthony P. Cavender, ed. Johnson City: History of Medicine Society of Appalachia, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University ; Nashville: Tennessee Humanities Council. 36 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: PE2970 .A6 F64 1990.

Krochmal, Arnold, Russell S. Walters, and Richard M. Doughty. A Guide to Medicinal Plants of Appalachia. Washington: U.S. Forest Service, 1971. 291 pges. ASU APP COLL STACKS: QK 99.K696.

Levinson, David, and Laura Gaccione. Health and Illness: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. 253 pages. ASU REFERENCE: R733 .L477 1997.

Rinzler, Carol Ann. Dictionary of Medical Folklore. New York: Crowell. 243 pages. ASU APP COLL STACKS: RC81 .A2 R56 1979.


Appalachian Bibliography, 1980 . Morgantown: West Virginia University Library. 2 vols. in one. ASU APP COLL STACKS: Z1251 .A7 A6 1980. See entries: 2104, 2107, 4876, 3417, 3432. Categories: Faith Healing, Folk Medicine, Health, Religion.

Appalachian Outlook. Morgantown West Virginia University Library. 1964 -- present. ASU APP COLL STACKS: Z1251 .A7 A55. Includes 54 citations relevant to topic, from 1967-2002 . See entries: 100, 981, 990, 1273, 1275, 1288, 3318, 3323, 3432, 3819, 4459, 4505, 4953, 5313, 5484, 5596, 5787, 6057, 6605, 6612, 6622, 7176, 7265, 7418, 7430, 7725, 7728, 7855, 7857, 7911, 8395, 8871, 8964, 9409, 9445, 9886, 9915, 9916, 10217, 10490, 10561, 10836, 10976, 10977, 11137, 11193, 11194, 11195, 11244, 11289, 11306, 11391, 11534, 11783, 11815, 11823, 11928, and 11963. Categories: Folk Medicine, Healing, Herbs, Holiness Churches, Religion, and Snake Cults.

Bibliography File. Not online...4 Holinger boxes of files, found at: Z1251 .A7B4 in the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection. Includes one file relevant to topic entry: from file North Carolina--A Dissertation List August 1978-May 1983. See: Reinherdt, Douglas Edward. Faith Healing: Where Science Meets Religion in the Body of Believers. Dissertation for the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, 1982.

Bibliography of Southern Appalachia. Charlotte T. Ross, ed. Boone: Appalachian Consortium Press, 1976. ASU APP COLL OVERSIZE: Z1251 .A7 B5x. Entries indexed by subject and author. Includes 30 entries relevant to topic, plus two entries in the film listing entries: B4660, C3920, C4700, C6690, C6700, C6710, G6610, H2130, H2160, H2650, H6650, J230, L10, L20, P1620, S2700, T7720, W40, and W7170. Numbers 24 and 80 are in the film index. Categories: Folk Medicine, Folk Medicine in Appalachia, Folk Medicine in North Carolina, Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Medicinal Plants--Appalachia, Religion and Religious Bodies--Appalachia-- Snake Handlers, Religion and Religious Bodies--Appalachia--Snake Handling Cults. Two films in the film index: Catfish, Man of the Woods, and Nature s Way. Both are available in the App Coll. See video listing below.

Cavender, Anthony P. A Bibliography on Culture and Health in the Appalachian South with Special Reference to Ethnomedical Beliefs and Practices. Prepared for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. ASU SPEC APP COLL Z5118.M4 C38 1990z


Appalachian Journal: A Regional Studies Review. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University. v. 1, 1972 to present. ASU APP COLL STACKS: F216.2 .A66. Indexed in vols. 7, 18, and 23.

Foxfire(earlier title: v. 1 - 26:2, 1967-1992). Foxfire Magazine (current title: v.26:3, 1992 to present) . Rabun Gap, GA: Foxfire Fund, Inc. ASU APP COLL STACKS: GR1 .F59.

Audio and Video Sources: 

Catfish, Man of the Woods. Alan Bennett, Director. Appalshop, 1975. Motion Picture. 16 mm film. 25 mins. ASU APP COLL: C4245. Also available on video: Whitesburg, KY: Appalshop, 1974. 1 videocassette, 28 mins . ASU SPEC APP COLL VC 18.

Fire and Serpent Handlers. BV, 1973. ASU SPEC APP COLL VT2.

Holy Ghost People. New York: Contemporary Films/McGraw Hill, 1968. Motion Picture. 2 reels, 53 mins, b&w, 16 mm.+ 1 film guide. ASU APP COLL: C38,pts. 1 and 2. Also available on video: Del Mar, CA: CRM/McGraw-Hill Films, 1968. 1 videocassette, 53 mins. + 1 film guide. ASU SPEC APP COLL VC 179.

Nature’s Way. Whitesburg, KY: Appalshop, 1973. 1 videocassette, 22 mins. ASU SPEC APP COLL VC 65.

Other Sources: 

Crowder, Steven. Black Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia. Thesis (M.S.)--East Tennessee State University, 2001. ASU SPEC APP COLL MIC MicF 942

Kane, Steven M. Snake Handlers of Southern Appalachia. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Princeton University, 1979. 291 leaves. ASU SPEC APP COLL MIC MicF 277.

Parker, G. Keith. Folk Religion in Southern Appalachia. Thesis (Th.D.)--Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1969. 248 leaves. ASU SPEC APP COLL MIC MicF 190.

Cozzo, David N. Herb Gatherers and Root Diggers of North Western North Carolina. Thesis (M.A.)-- Appalachian State University. 174 leaves. ASU SPEC APP COLL HD9019 .H473 U63 1999.

Timah, Nga Joseph. Comparison of the Cultural, Taxonomic, and Ecological Aspects of Medicinal Plants in Cameroon and North Carolina: Causes of Rarity and Potential Solutions. Thesis (M.S.)-- Appalachian State University. 52 leaves, maps. ASU SPEC APP COLL RS172 .N75 T56 1999

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Sarah Poteete, 5 December 2000

Updated by: 

Updated: David Funderburk, 7 October 2010