30 responses to Unusual Amish Health Practices
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    Forest in North Carolina
    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 07:54)

    I don’t know if you would include this here or not, but I would say that an Amish/Mennonite belief in the power of prayer for healing is becoming more “unconventional” as this world drifts farther and farther from God and a sense of His divine power.

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      Comment on Unusual Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 09:41)

      Good point Forest, thanks for adding that.

      I would also add that some of these may be closer to “conventional” or widely-accepted than the title might imply–alternative treatments and supplements, for one, which is actually a big industry. At what point does “alternative” stop being alternative?

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    Trish in Indiana
    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 08:44)

    As it happens, I recently shared a waiting room at a specialist’s office with two different Amish patients, one of whom had her family with her. It was interesting to hear them conversing in “Dutch” with the occasional word of medical jargon in English: “(something, something) chemo (something, something) treatments …”

    Around here, one routinely sees Amish at conventional doctor’s offices and hospitals. I am also aware that they have their own version of “insurance” in some of their communities (though it’s not called that) in the form of communally administered bank accounts that help pay in case of emergencies. However, knowing how expensive a cancer diagnosis can be, I would think one sick person could deplete the fund in a month, and this community clearly had at least two people at once. I found myself wondering about the issue of how the Amish pay for expensive forms of healthcare.

    Does anyone have any insight?

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      Comment on Unusual Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 11:08)

      As I understand with huge costs there is the option of reaching beyond the immediate church to other churches or even communities. How often that option is taken I do not know. Also benefit auctions and other fundraisers may come into play. We’ve seen an example of that with the Hertzler baby case in New York, and family reaching out even to the public to promote benefit events like a breakfast and benefit auction:


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      Mark – Holmes Co.
      Comment on Unusual Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 11:32)

      When Church Fund is “maxed out,” Almosa Geld or Alms Money kicks in. This is the money that is collected twice a year at communion services. Once the year’s bills are tallied, each district will be given a report what was spent and if there is not enough in the fund, an additional collection will be asked for to cover the short-fall. (Though I don’t remember this happening lately.) Besides that, there are announcements made in church that so-and-so’s bill after Church Fund came to $$$$ and they are asking for $$$ per member. That is free-will so those who can’t spare it are not obligated, but many will give more than the suggested amount. $10 per member in a community this size is a lot.

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        Comment on Non-traditional Amish Medical Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 11:44)

        Thanks for your always-helpful detail Mark. I believe when I was in church in Indiana the medical bill needs of another church were raised at the end of the service. Does this ever happen in your community?

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    Mark – Holmes Co.
    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 11:46)

    Yes. Though it is often from related churches, we will sometimes be told of large bills from other states or communities where we might not know the people at all.

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    Mark – Holmes Co.
    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 11:57)

    You are welcome, Erik.

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    Trish in Indiana
    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 12:50)

    Thanks for answering my question, Erik and Mark!

    When I was at the doctor’s office today, I again ran into one of the Amish families, and something occurred to me that hadn’t before: I asked them if they had to pay someone to drive them, and they said yes. I told them of a local charity that is doing my driving for me. I hope they will look into it! That expense could add up fast, too.

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    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 15:43)

    The multi level aspect has also been controversial among some individuals in Anabaptist groups. The recent “plain interests” publication has an interesting article in it from a couple who are obviously against it.

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      Comment on Multi-level Marketing in Amish communities (February 5th, 2015 at 12:19)

      Multi-level Marketing in Amish communities

      Interesting Jerome, it has also been addressed in “The Problem Corner” in Family Life before by an Amish couple who wrote in on the topic.

      On the one hand I see the popularity of MLM sales as a natural outgrowth of conviction in a product plus the entrepreneurial spirit a lot of Amish people possess, bolstered by the many connections and relationships Amish people tend to have providing a ready market.

      At the same time I also appreciate the concerns and criticisms. The gist of the letter-writer’s concern is in these lines: “Is it right to encourage people to buy these expensive products when we know the reason they are so expensive is because of the sales program, and because so many people are making big money off of them? Did God plan that our bodies should depend on products such as these in order to stay healthy?”

      The editor writes that they received many replies, and printed quite a few with strong opinions supporting both sides. This is from a 1994 issue of Family Life which tells us the MLM issue has been around a long time.

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    Comment on Folk medicine and Powwowing (February 4th, 2015 at 19:20)

    Folk medicine and Powwowing

    I thought it interesting that they consider Folk Medicine the same thing as Powwowing.. To me and historically, Folk Medicine was/is that sort of concoction that you drank at your friends house.. Vinegar to cure acid stomach, eating lemons to clean oneself of germs before holding a new baby, aloe vera to stop pain & heal burns/wounds, the root of comfrey to speed up healing.. Many having been proven to have some basis in fact but in the old times, they didnt know how but they knew it worked..

    Powwowing on the other hand sounds to me is more of a spiritual type healing.. It sounds very similar to some of the healing modalities in meta-physics such as reike or hands on healing.
    Of course, where a healing practitioner claims these “powers” originate matter as well.. One person could do one thing & say it is from God & it is widely accepted, whereas another will do the same thing & say they are witches and it comes from the Devil and they are seen as evil..
    Personally I believe ones spirit and intention is what matters in this regard..
    I’ve seen & heard some pretty weird stuff in my life..

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      Comment on What's the best term? (February 5th, 2015 at 12:45)

      What's the best term?

      The terminology is a little confusing to me too because previously I thought of folk medicine similarly to what you describe, however a number of sources (see below) use “folk healing” or “folk medicine” in the context of powwowing.

      It may be that powwowing is better described as an element of folk medicine, and the section above might be better titled “folk healing” or just “powwowing” or another synonym. Likewise these natural treatments you describe maybe could be considered “folk remedies” which sounds lighter. Just speculating, maybe someone with deeper knowledge of the practice can help here.

      “Powwowing in Union County : a study of Pennsylvania German folk medicine in context” by Reimensnyder, Barbara L. http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8217169/



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      Comment on "Brauche" and "powwowing" (February 5th, 2015 at 12:57)

      "Brauche" and "powwowing"

      Also confusingly, some distinction is made in at least one source between Brauche and powwowing (while other sources treat the terms as synonyms). This is from John Hostetler’s “Folk Medicine and Sympathy Healing Among the Amish” (1976):

      “There are several Amish folk practitioners of varied reputation. One regularly visits Amish communities in several states in the interest of “curing”. He claims to possess a special gift of healing. He asserts that his practice is neither Brauche nor powwowing but says he can tell what is wrong with a person by simply laying his hands on that person.”

      Whatever the best title may be, I meant this category to cover those practices which don’t have a conventional or alternative medical basis but rely on an unseen power that the practitioner possesses or upon objects or words or actions believed to possess a healing power unexplained by science.

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        Comment on Non-traditional Amish Medical Practices (February 6th, 2015 at 08:16)

        Maybe this will further explain these terms Erik. In my blog post about Amish Stereotypes, read the comments where Braucherei & Pow Wow comes up.
        http://brendanixononamish.blogspot.com/2014/02/breaking-amish-stereotypes-every-day.html (the link doesn’t hyperlink here, so you’ll need to copy & paste in your browser)

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          Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 6th, 2015 at 09:10)

          Thanks. The gist of this question is which is the best term to refer to which practice(s). As I wrote above there seem to be different terms and different ways of using them. For example quite a few sources treat brauche and powwowing as synonyms, but in the Hostetler article his wording suggests there is a difference (“…neither Brauche nor powwowing…”). Also the term “folk medicine”. I guess it’s mostly a language question.

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        Elva Bontrager
        Comment on Brauche (February 16th, 2015 at 00:47)


        In the small church where I spent the first thirteen years of my life we had an old (very old, I thought,practically in his 70s:) man who they said did brauche.

        My mother was leery of it, not sure whether it was good or a bit darker, but the old man’s son in law, with whom the old man lived, was a preacher, seemed OK with the old man’s beliefs and skills. I remember the old man also taught us how to get rid of a wart: Rub a penny on it thoroughly and then isolate the penny. I must confess I still do the penny bit. lol

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    Al in Ky
    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 4th, 2015 at 19:29)

    In Amish stores that carry herbs and herbal remedies, I have observed that there seem to be just as many non-Amish customers as Amish customers for these products.

    I think another source for financial assistance for medical bills for Amish and plain Mennonites, are the “Showers” listed in The Budget newspaper. Not all “showers” include requests for money;
    some are requests just for get well cards, letters, etc. Typical
    wording when money is being requested seems a little subtle such
    as, “Let’s remember so-and-so who just had major heart surgery.
    Medical expenses are high and he will be unable to work for 8

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    Carl Oliver
    Comment on powwowing (February 5th, 2015 at 12:38)


    Wow! My wife is way into Beverly Lewis books so I thought I would see what all the fuss was about. I read “the postcard” and “the crossroad” in which this was a major source of controversy in the community. I figured that Lewis made this up as a way to spice up the story. I had no idea that this was a real issue!

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      Comment on Opinions on "drawing pain" (February 5th, 2015 at 13:09)

      Opinions on "drawing pain"

      Well, as noted above, these are minority practices, but evoke controversy. Family Life’s Problem Corner discussed the issue of drawing pain, along with reflexology, in the May 2011 issue.

      Here are a few of the responses, on drawing pain (I can’t say with certainty that these are Amish writers, as they are anonymous and don’t self-identify as such, but given the publication’s readership and content of these letters there is a decent-to-likely chance they are):

      -“I cannot answer your question on reflexology, but we have had some experience with “drawing pain”. In our community, we had a single sister practicing this. We did not see this as a gift from God, as some do. This sister was not confronted, but only prayed for. Sometime later she felt convicted about this practice. She prayed and asked that God would take away the gift if it was not from Him. Sometime later she realized she could no longer do this. No more burping, etc. when she held a fussy baby.” -Also wanting to do what is right

      -“All I can say is the power to “draw pain” was in me when I was born and I feel it’s something Jesus gave me to heal. I don’t have to know of other people’s problems, just to be in the same room with them, I can, in a hurry, feel sick and often don’t know why.
      I feel some others have the same ability with rubbing feet.” -Iowa

      -“I was taught these things are wrong and do not belong to Christians. Yet in our small community nearly everyone practices these things and I am persuaded to do the same. What do I do when someone demands I let them “draw the pain” from my fussy child? Some will not take “no” for an answer. -No name or state, please

      I’d guess Amish people who are not involved in this practice (again safe to say a majority of Amish) would have opinions similar to the first and third writer. It’s another example of Amish diversity, though maybe one that is less comfortable to discuss.

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    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 5th, 2015 at 13:03)

    That article in “Family Life” must have been before I was a subscriber, but it would be interesting to read the various replies as I am a member of a multi level marketing group through some Old Order Mennonite friends. If you know anything about the “pigeon king” scandal from several years ago it’s understandable why there would be some reserve about that technique of business among some, which was a point brought out in the “Plain Interests” article.

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      Comment on Unusual Amish Health Practices (February 5th, 2015 at 13:18)

      Yes, that is understandable following what happened with Pigeon King.

      Unfortunately I can’t reproduce the replies here (there are 5 pages worth) but I can tell you the editors printed 10 reader replies I would class as “negative” or “be cautious” and 5 I’d consider “positive” or “neutral”.

      It’s the August/September 1994 issue if you can get old copies of Family Life somewhere.

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    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 5th, 2015 at 13:18)

    Yes, powwowing is used in SOME groups, and is quite controversial. Never wasn’t making it up☺

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    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (February 5th, 2015 at 13:19)

    Sorry… “Beverly” wasn’t making it up!

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    Comment on Swartzentruber Practices (February 6th, 2015 at 08:44)

    Swartzentruber Practices

    I know. . .I speak from the Swartzentruber Order POV. But, that’s where I have most of my ex-Amish family and friends 🙂

    Among Swartzies, there’s a resistance to seek outside medical help. Our SIL’s mother has intense diabetes but, refuses to go to a doc or hospital to treat her skin sores. She also refuses to do any diabetes treatment that would incur an electric machine in their home. Consequently, she’s lost her eyesight & has recurring skin sores.

    Another Swartzentruber Amish man wouldn’t convince his wife to immunize herself and the children when the Ohio measles outbreak occurred last year. When I asked him, “What if the children get measles or would die from another disease?”
    He replied, “It’s God’s will.”

    Our ex-Swartzie “daughter” Sarah – while growing up – went to a chiropractor for all her health ails. Even after she left, and fell, and fractured her ankle, she insisted on a chiropractor. In her settlement, the chiropractor was the “doctor” for everything – even her addiction to laxitives.

    Our ex-Swartzie “nephew” either self-diagnoses via the internet or suffers in silence, refusing to see a doctor. Sometimes, I think it’s the financial commitment that is off-putting. He also refused the free measles vaccine when Ohio had its measles outbreak.

    Our “sons” Monroe and Mosie have never had any immunizations. I’m not wanting to get into the immunization – or not – discussion, just saying that in my experiences this order has unconventional health practices.

    Our SIL now seeks professional healthcare – if he can’t tolerate an illness – but that’s because he’s married to our daughter. . .a RN. 🙂

    Also on health practices, the former-Swartzies I know have told me about their unlicensed dentists who pull teeth. I wrote a blog post about that on my Beyond Buggies & Bonnets blog.

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    Comment on Herbalists (November 17th, 2016 at 23:24)


    At one time there was an herbalist/natural practitioner is the Hicksville, Ohio/Spencerville, Indiana area. During several visits to this herbalist I encountered Amish who much preferred the herbalist to the medical doctor and hospital.

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    Comment on 5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices (May 22nd, 2017 at 04:29)

    5 Unconventional Amish Health Practices

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the issues.
    It was really informative. Your site is very helpful.

    Many thanks for sharing!

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    Greg Myers RN
    Comment on Providers (July 21st, 2017 at 20:06)


    Is there a resource list for plain sect health care providers in Lancaster County?

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    David A.
    Comment on Old ways (April 4th, 2018 at 16:48)

    Old ways

    As we have “Pennsylvania Dutch”, (Amish/Mennonite) roots, I don’t find it at all odd to use the old ways to heal. This is most helpful since we seem to find Doctors who simply want to prescribe pain pills rather than address the issues.

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