An old wives’ tale is a supposed truth which is actually spurious or a superstition.
Old wives’ tales often centre on women’s traditional concerns, such as pregnancy, puberty, social relations, health, herbalism and nutrition.
Old wives’ tales are often invoked to discourage certain behaviours, usually of children, or to share knowledge of folk cures for ailments.
Science, though, is slowly catching up to these fables, and it turns out that some of them are based in fact. Here are some old wives’ tales with more than a hint of truth to them.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
This is a no-brainer: eating fruit and veggies is good for you, but what about the literal interpretation? Well, a 2013 study found that if all people aged over 50 in the UK ate just one apple per day, they would prevent – or delay – 8500 heart attacks and strokes every year.
Count sheep to fall asleep
My kids refuse to try this one and instead insist on calling out, telling me that they can’t get to sleep. But the use of visualisation or mental imagery has been found to help distract people from stressful or anxious thoughts, which are commonly associated with insomnia.
A long, tough labour means a baby boy
A 2003 Irish study found that woman who gave birth to boys were more likely to run into complications during labour, highlighting the superstition that boys give their pregnant mothers a tougher time than girls. The study suggests this is because boys are generally larger and heavier at birth than girls and tend to have bigger heads.
Have chicken soup if you’re under the weather
Chicken soup does not cure the common cold, but it does help alleviate some of the symptoms. Scientists have discovered that chicken soup can reduce inflammation by slowing down the white blood cell activity that causes it.
Heartburn during pregnancy means the baby will have a full head of hair
We heard this one quite a bit when my wife was pregnant with our two girls, as she suffered from quite a bit of heartburn and it turned out to be true. Both our girls were born with a healthy amount of hair. It turns out there has also been a study supporting this theory. A 2007 study at John Hopkins University discovered that women who endured horrible heartburn did in fact give birth to babies that had more than the average amount of hair.
Do you know any old wives’ tales that you steadfastly believe to be true? What are they?