It's that time of year again when all the sneezing, snorting, blowing and coughing starts. Here's a little something I wrote a couple years ago that might be of interest.
I remember back when I was little we hardly ever went to a doctor when we got sick. Mama would doctor us with home remedies and she really knew a lot of em. She used a lot of Save the Baby. She’d put a drop or two on sugar in a teaspoon, hold our nostrils together and blow in our face till we swallowed it. You talk about stopping a cough and curing the croup, it did. It sure did break it up and she always said a cough has got to be loosened up before it’ll stop.
I know everybody’s heard of Soltice. It came in a jar and was used to open up a chest or cough. It’d even open up ye head and make it run. Daddy thought he needed some on his chest every night before bed. Mama said, it was just a habit.
She’d even cook up some onions and make us eat em. Supposedly, they were good for a cold and cough.
No worries when we got a chest cold or cough, we either got some good ole tasting Save the Baby, rubbed down with Solstice, or Vick’s Salve, or eat a lot of cooked onions. There were lots more remedies, to many to mention.
Daddy made up his own cough syrup every winter. He used a small amount of white liquor, honey and lemon. He’d shake it up good and hide it so none of us kids could find it. Mama always accused him of sipping on it to much.
For the sore throat it was vinegar diluted with a little water. We had to gargle it but mama gargled the vinegar full strength. She wouldn’t let us young’uns do that for fear it’d strangle us to death.
For a nose bleed she’d take a small piece of a brown paper poke (bag) and fold it up real small and put it under the upper lip and it’d stop the blood. But most of the time she’d read the verse in the Bible, Ezekiel 16:6. It really works with faith. And camphor was used for the swimey head, also known as fainting and sick stomach. One whiff under ye nose and the sickness was gone.
For burns, scratches or cuts, Turpentine was the best remedy there was.
Mama would rub a little around our belly button to worm us. It had to many uses to name but we sure did get wormed quite often.
For bee and wasp stings she’d take a dab of snuff out of her mouth and rub on the sting to stop the hurting and draw the poison out. I don’t reckon we ever got snake bit. I’d hate to think what she would’ve done. It was pure luck that we didn’t. I’ve heard of a lot of home remedies used for snake bite.
Oh the uses of Sassafras Tea. The root or bark was boiled into a tea and sweetened. It was used to cleanse the system of the winter blahs as they called it and whatever else was ailing ye. It was good for the kidneys, cleansing the bladder, arthritis and other aches and pains.
All the older folks spoke of it highly and were a firm believer in its healing and cleansing.
I sure can’t forget the famous Castor Oil that she loved to punish us with. Yep, that’s what I called it at the time but now that I look back on it, I can honestly say it worked. The older folks always said a good cleaning out would take care of what ailed ye, just the thoughts of the taste still makes me gag today.
We jumped for joy when Castoria came out. It actually had a better taste even though it was syrupy and we didn’t mind taking it. But when she’d come out with the Castor Oil we’d run and hide, still had to take our medicine though.
Take ye pick, Castor Oil, Castoria, Black Draught, or daddy’s all time favorite Epsom Salts. These are only a few, to many to mention. The older folks sure did believe in the cleaning out part.
My oldest brother had the earache a lot when he was little and mama would lay him over her legs and drop warm sweet oil in his ear from a teaspoon that she’d heated on the stove eye. Then she’d cover his ear with a warm rag and it’d ease his ear. And if that didn’t do the trick, she’d take a puff off of one of daddy’s Camel or Lucky Strike cigarettes and blow in his ear. Cigarette smoke was the best medicine in the world for the earache mama proclaimed. I’ll never forget the first time we saw her do that. We all just stood there gawking. We’d never seen mama smoke in our lives and we told her of it. She said, that ain’t smoking it’s medicine.
I remember her growing a lot of catnip for the babies around. She’d boil it into a tea and add a smidgen of sugar just enough to sweeten it a little to get em to drink it in their bottle and it was good for the belly ache (Colic). She said it’d even make em sleep better. Daddy would even slip in a few sips every now and then, especially at bedtime, said it made him sleep better.
And of course there was the Thrash (Thrush) remedy. She used some type of plant or tree leaf. She never told anyone what it was except daddy and one of my brothers. She did that so they could fetch it for her. Mama cured everyone around at one time or another over the years. Most were young’uns but quite a few grown- ups came to her with their mouth covered in blisters. She said there was three kinds of the Thrash, yellow, white and red. She could tell by looking at the blisters in their mouth what kind it was.
Word soon got around and even her doctor started sending his patients to her. She never charged a dime, said it wouldn’t have worked. No one ever knew what she did. The young'uns sure didn’t know and grown-ups were blindfolded but it did the trick and there’s a lot of folks walking around today that can attest to that, including me.
Yellow root was used for the sore mouth, among other things and ye had to chew on it. Daddy sure did chew a lot of it. He said it was using that old backer that made his mouth sore. It grew on the creek bank or the branch bank. He’d strip the leaves and bark off before he chewed it. Back then a lot of folks paid many visits to the creek bank getting Yellow Root for various reasons.
It could also be made into a tea and drunk for stomach problems. It’s been said that it helped the kidneys, liver, digestion system, etc.
I remember us young’uns only going to a doctor a very few times. What was the use in going when we had our own medicines and own doctor. Mama even did surgery one time on my sister’s finger. She chopped it almost off with the axe. It was barely hanging on by a little skin when we all got to her. Mama took her inside and grabbed the alcohol and camphor and went to work putting that finger back together and bandaged it really good and kept a close watch on it. The camphor was used to put under her nose to keep her from passing out during surgery. She used enough alcohol to fill the ocean and my sister would squall out like a painter. She had to change the bandages at least twice a day but it grew back and she’s just got a small scar today.
We did have one old doctor that practiced out of his house and his wife was his nurse. We only went when we absolutely had to. The first time I ever went to him I was six years old. I’d been laid up for days with the Strep Throat. Mama first thought it was just the sore throat but as time went on my temperature went up so high she couldn’t get it down. She told daddy to load me up and take me. He gave me a shot of penicillin and it did the trick. I’m deathly allergic to penicillin today.
I know people were a lot more healthy back in the days when all they had to use was home remedies. A lot of it can be attributed to their lifestyle, exercise and eating healthy.
Some things they used like Save The Baby can’t even be bought in a store anymore. They took it off the shelves, said it didn’t work along with lots of other stuff, go figure. They said that a lot of the old time ways were old wives tales. Well I’m here to say I’m living proof that it did work or I probably wouldn’t be still kicking. My mama knew what she was doing and she wasn’t no fool. She raised to many young’uns not to know what to do for em when they got sick. My mama was our doctor and she had plenty of common sense to go along with it. She once said, if ye depend on a doctor to do anything for ye now days you’ll die. In my book, she hit the nail on the head. If she was still here today I wonder what she’d come up with to take care of what ails me. She’d find something, I’m sure.
Personally, I’m thinking about trying the Castor Oil again, if I can get up the nerve. It’ll either cure me or kill me. Maybe we all need to go back to the old timey ways. Probably get better results and a good cleaning out never killed anybody.
I smile to think of what they used
To help us kids survive
But I am now going on 67
And very much alive
My sore throats were eased
I’m still holding onto my anchor
To think of sucking sugar lumps
With a drop or two of camphor
And camphor mixed with lard for
A winter chest congestion
Baking soda cleansed my teeth
And helped my indigestion
Because of mama’s tender heart
I hereby sing oh Gloria
For the few times she switched
Castor oil with syrupy castoria
Turpentine for tics and mosquito bites
And Turpentine on the scratches
The sickroom was fumigated with
Our sulphur kitchen matches
Somehow there’s quite a bunch of us
That’s never had a shot
But here we are still a kicking
And enjoying life a lot.
© Susie Swanson, 2019