Sunday, June 8, 2014

Old Timey Home Remedies

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 Soltice,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 younguns 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 I'm living proof of it. i still read that verse today when needed.
 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. Turpentine has to many uses to name but we sure did get wormed quite often. It was also used to remove Tics. She'd rub a little on the Tic's behind and it'd turn loose. It was good for chiggers too, believe me I know.

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.
For poison ivy or sumac she used white, shoe polish. believe me when I say she went through alot of it. I got it all over my face one time and it was spreading to my eyes. she rubbed that shoe polish all over my face till i looked like a dead person or ghost. I had to wear it around all day and night for a couple days. It dried the poison ivy up.

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 was a firm believer in it’s 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, especially come spring of the year and just the thoughts of the taste of castor oil 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. It'd run us to death till we didn't have anything left to clean out. But when she came 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 and who can forget Exlax. I slipped and eat enough of it one time till I run for a week. It tasted just like chocolate candy, but can't bare the taste today, makes me sick just thinking about it. 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 younguns but quite a few grown ups came to her with their mouths covered in blisters. She said there were 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 work. No one ever knew what she did. The younguns 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 chewing 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 younguns 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 on occasion. My sister chopped off the end of her finger with the axe when she was five years old. It was barely hanging on by a little skin when we all got to her. Mama took her inside and grabbed the alcohol, camphor and hand towel 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 to him 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 and no amount of mama's medicine helped.  She 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. The doctor gave me a shot of Penicillin and it did the trick. that's about all the antibiotics they knew to give back then. I'd be in a whole heap of hurt today if I took it cause I’m deathly allergic to penicillin.

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 younguns 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 fer ye now days you’ll die." In my book, she hit the nail on the head.

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 65
And very much alive

My sore throats were eased
I’m still holdin 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 it a lot.

© Susie Swanson, 2014


  1. I absolutely loved this post and the poem Susie! Just wonderful!

    I hope that you are feeling better!

  2. Absolutely one of your best, Susie. It was so interesting and informative. I remember when Mama would rub Ben Gay on my chest, hot from standing by the coal heater, then putting a cloth over my chest before sending me off to bed.

    I still think kitchen matches are one of the best room fresheners! :)

  3. Thanks Charlotte. The Ben Gay was used quite often and still is around here. Mainly for ole Arthur when he moves in. Those matches took care of alot .

  4. Very interesting article and poem, Susie. I can remember my grandmother talking about a lot of these cures.

  5. I love it! What a wealth of information you have stored in your head. I remember after being out picking blackberries with our grandmother, my sister and I had turpentine smeared all over us to get rid of the chiggers. So that is one old remedy that even made it down to Mississippi between McCool and French Camp! Glad you're still kicking. ;)

    1. Thanks Elaine. Yep, I'm still a kickin through it all. LOL.

  6. Susie, I wish I had a book of those remedies. Of course they took some of that stuff on the worked and was they want to get everyone on meds....I personally think once you get on some meds, your body gets used to it and you'll never get off of them again. We had vicks and baking soda, but never the caster oil. I think you mom was so right about keeping cleaned out. xoxo,Susie

    1. Thanks Susie. They've taken alot of it off the shelves. I agree with you on the meds.

  7. We had paregoric ( horrible!) and my husband was given terpin hydrate. We don't think you can get terpin hydrate anymore.

    1. Thank you Kathy. I remember the paregoric as well, just forgot to mention it. It was good for babies when they had the colic .

  8. Susie you sure know how to make me and others young again thank your poem.

    1. Awe, thank you Peggy. It makes me feel old. LOL.

  9. I loved this post, Susie.... I recognize many of the old home remedies... I remember my mother -in-law (first marriage) used to put Vicks in her throat when she had a sore throat... AND--she'd rub it on her feet at times......

    As a child, I used to take Cod Liver Oil... Not sure what it was for, but I took it...... Remember Carter's Little Liver Pills???? Don't think I ever took any of them though...

    Great post. Thanks. (I think some of the old remedies are MUCH better than some of the medications out there today!!)

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