You will catch a cold if you get your hair wet. You can’t swim right after you eat. You need to cover your head when it’s cold, since heat dissipates faster from the head than any other part of the body. Like these, there are hundreds of old wives’ tales that wives have been nagging their families about for ages. Although most of them are scientifically proven to be false, many people still consider them as facts and use them as lessons in life. The fear of the unknown and an ancient desire to explain the unexplainable is what led to the creation of such sayings. While most of them sound silly and are certainly false, we have found 10 old wives’ tales that surprisingly turned out to be true.
1. The full moon makes for some weird behavior.
For centuries, without evidence, mankind believed that the full moon is associated with strange or insane behavior. The effect of the moon on humans even dates back to legends and mythology of ancient civilizations. The lunar theory, or the lunar effect, is the idea that there’s some correlation between moon cycles and human behavior. Of course many would dismiss it as part of an old wives’ tale since some scientists believe that objects on Earth have more effect on each other than the moon. Studies however, say otherwise.
One study, which was published in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, shows that the repression of the moon’s gravitational influence brings about social tension, disharmony and bizarre results. Another study that focused on data that spanned over a period of five years, showed that there was an increase in crime around full moons. There’s also evidence that lunar cycles are capable of impacting sleep patterns in humans. (source 1, 2, 3)
2. When your joints start to ache, rainy weather is coming.
This old wives’ tale is probably something you have heard from your grandparents. Every time their joint pain flares up, they would immediately blame it on the weather, stating that it would probably storm soon. Many people feel more joint pain on cold, rainy days, but scientists are still unable to pinpoint the exact reason as to how, since there are many factors. One such factor is barometric pressure — or the pressure of the air. Humidity, precipitation, and temperature are also at play.
One theory scientists have is that in older people, the cartilage that cushions the bones inside a joint is worn away. This causes the nerves in the exposed bones to pick up on changes in pressure, flaring up their pain. Another theory is that the changes in barometric pressure causes the tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue to expand and contract, thus creating pain in joints affected by arthritis. (source)
3. Honey relieves a scratchy throat.
When we get a sore throat, we rely on modern medicines for help. Old folks however, advise us to take honey as an effective remedy. According to studies, honey mixed in tea or taken on its own is more effective at suppressing nighttime coughs than common cough suppressants. Other studies also show that honey can speed up the healing process for sore throats. In an experiment, researchers gave their subjects with upper respiratory tract infections up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. At the end of the study, they found that honey reduced nighttime coughing as well as improved the overall quality of sleep. (source)
4. Eating right before bed causes vivid dreams.
You decide to grab a last minute snack, brush and go to bed. It’s a habit almost all of us exhibit. Although scientists are still unsure of the relationship between dreams and eating before bed, it is clear that eating close to sleeping can cause disrupted sleep. Having heavy meals or spicy meals, capable of creating indigestion, close to bedtime or right before bed causes a spike in brain activity, leading to vivid dreams. Even when we are sleeping, our brain is active. According to Medline Plus, eating right before bed can increase your metabolism, which in turn increases your brain’s overnight activity.
Some foods are also capable of interfering with your REM sleep, while others are capable of increasing them. A study conducted by the University of Tasmania in Australia discovered that spicy foods can disrupt your sleep, and in some cases, cause you to not dream at all. Eating before bed can also increase your chances of heartburn. (source)
5. Red skies at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.
This particular old wives’ tale is the oldest in the book, and as it turns out, it is scientifically valid. Weather systems generally travel from west to east in the mid latitudes. Because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, a rising sun would illuminate the approaching mid- and high-level clouds; creating the red morning sky. Alternatively, if the sun is setting as a weather system exits and high pressure is building, then the departing clouds are illuminated, which means that there would be red skies in the evening.
When dust particles get captured in the atmosphere by high pressure, the blue light dissipates, painting the sky red. If sailors see this in the morning, they know that a low-pressure system, or storm, is likely to follow. (source)
6. A wooden spoon on a pot of water prevents it from boiling over.
The old wives’ tale that a wooden spoon is capable of preventing water from boiling over, works because of two factors. The first is that bubbles are unstable forms. So, when they come in contact with the wooden spoon, with a temperature that is below 100°C (212°F), the steam will condense, causing the surface of the bubble to break. As long as the wooden spoon stays below 100°C, the water bubbles will break and cause the foam to retreat. However, keep in mind that the wooden spoon, if left on top of the pot for long periods, will heat up and cause the water to boil over. (source 1, 2)
7. Carrots help improve your eyesight.
During the 1940’s, scientists at the British Royal Air Force came with the radar technology, which allowed them to find German aircrafts at night. In order to hide their invention, and to throw the German’s off course, they came up with the propaganda that the key to the pilots’ success was carrots. According to the campaign, carrot-enriched night vision allowed pilots to easily see aircrafts trying to sneak past them. Decades later, it became part of an old wives’ tale, that carrots help improve your eyesight.
Scientists took a closer look at this tale and discovered that it is in fact true under certain conditions. Vitamin A is really important to our bodies and in order to produce vitamin A, beta-carotene is used. Vitamin A also helps the eye convert light into a signal that can be transmitted to the brain. Carrots contain beta-carotene, a “carotenoid” the body can convert into vitamin A, according to T. Michael Redmond, chief of the Laboratory of Retinal Cell and Molecular Biology at the National Eye Institute. (source 1, 2)
8. Walnuts remove furniture scratches.
According to this bizarre old wive’s tale, in order to get rid of furniture scratches, you don’t need expensive tools or paint jobs, since a walnut would do the trick. Surprisingly, the simple food that is often consumed as a snack does do the job, but for simple scuff marks and not deep gauges in the wood. The oils, texture, and color of the walnut allows it to fill in the scratch, making the wooden furniture look brand new. (source)
9. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Most people assume that night owls have a better chance at success, rather than early risers. A recent study however, shows the exact opposite, stating that those who wake up early make more money and have higher job satisfaction. The study, which was conducted on 1,000 Americans, focused on the relationship between sleep, money and success. “The early bird catches the worm” does stand true in this case since both job satisfaction and salaries were higher for people who woke up earlier. According to Entrepreneur, those who woke up at 5 a.m. were bringing in an average of $46,000 a year, which was the top salary of survey participants. At the same time, those who woke up at 7 a.m. were making significantly less than the early risers, reporting an average $35,000 annually. (source)
10. Onion relieves pain from a bee sting.
The summer months not only bring a wave of heat, but several insects such as wasps and bees. It’s not uncommon for us to get stung by the latter, at least once a year. Their stings can be excruciating, lasting for days in some cases. If you ever get stung by a bee or a wasp, just cut an onion and place it at the desired area. According to LA Times, the trick works in less than 20 minutes, getting rid of the swelling, and also easing the pain.
“We checked with world-renowned onion chemist Dr. Eric Block of the State University of New York at Albany. He agreed that a fresh-cut onion might ease the pain of an insect sting because an ingredient in onions breaks down the chemicals responsible for inflammation and discomfort.” However, use onions only as a last resort. (source)