The Magical Healing Properties of Dirt

Folk medicine, old wives tales, and homeopathic cures have been a part of every culture since prehistory. While many of the herbs, rituals, and remnants of these healing rituals remain in use today there are many that were, well, let’s say not as reliable. However, one of the surprising healing powers of centuries past is dirt. Specifically, soil from Toneel North in Boho, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

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The grasslands of the Boho Highlands of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years. In fact, there is evidence that Neolithic people lived on the land 4,000 years ago. Despite the little we know about druids there are reports that claim that druids also lived on the land roughly 1,500 years ago. For centuries it was said the soil from this town had the ability to heal a large number of common ailments from toothaches to sore necks.

How did they use the dirt? Most commonly, they would take a small lump of soil and wrap that in a cloth. Then, the dirt satchel would be placed next to the infected or pained area or underneath the ill’s pillow for 9 days.

But how did the dirt go from ancient cure to medical breakthrough?

Well, we have a research team the UK’s Swansea University Medical School and the Ulster University School of Biomedical Sciences and Croatia’s Laboratory for Molecular Genetics at Ruđer Bošković Institute to thank for that! With the rise antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like the dreaded MRSA, this team was on a search for non-traditional and inventive new ways to combat resistant bacteria.

So, after hearing about this soil with magical healing properties the team decided to procure some of this soil. And, with this soil, they hit proverbial gold! The research team discovered that this soil “contains a previously unknown strain of Streptomyces, a bacteria that has already shown themselves to be effective against some of the superbugs.” They continue in their new study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, says that this new strain “was proven effective in inhibiting growth of four of the top six multi-resistant pathogens (Vancomycin resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumonia, and Carbenepenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumanii), a list that includes the notorious MRSA.”

Now that this new strain of Streptomyces has been discovered the team is working to further isolate it with the hopes of replicating it. They are also investigating if this dirt is capable of treating other diseases and illnesses.

Most importantly, Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University Medical School says, “Our results show that folklore and traditional medicines are worth investigating in the search for new antibiotics. Scientists, historians and archaeologists can all have something to contribute to this task. It seems that part of the answer to this very modern problem might lie in the wisdom of the past."

As a Legender, I’m sure that statement excites you. I, personally, have a great hope that in 2019 folklore and traditional medicines continue to be investigated and that I get to report on more stories like this for you in the coming year!

The above image is unrelated to the story except for the fact it is is an image of the “Limestone pavement/grassland abutting the hills of Boho, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland“ it was taken by Youngbohemian and is liscensed under Creative Commons.