Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old Time Home Remedies


A few years ago, I interviewed my grandmother for an oral history project and we talked about a lot of different things. One part of the project that made me "famous" was the part about her home remedies.

I thought I'd share these to bring a smile to your face or even maybe bring back a memory. I would highly recommend NOT using any of these remedies.

My family has deep roots in Appalachia, so that should explain some things.

The words in bold are my questions to her. I wrote her words exactly how she spoke them to me:

Tell me about healthcare and doctors when you were growing up

“Well there just wasn’t too many doctors back in those days. Especially if you lived in the hills (of Kentucky) like Mom and Dad did. And the doctors that were doctors didn’t have to have the schooling like they do know. I can remember a story that Mom told about one of the doctors back then:

She had a little sister about two named Fay. In 1917, Fay caught the flu along with the rest of the kids (16 in all). Fay was the first to have it. Pa (Dorothy’s grandfather) called the local doctor to come over. He was a drunk, but it was all there was. The doctor came and gave Pa a bottle of something and told him to give it to Fay. He did and she never got better, in fact she got worse. There was another doctor around visiting and Pa had him come look at Fay. He asked Pa what he had been giving her and Pa showed him the bottle. The doctor told Pa that the other doctor had given him a bottle of poison. The first doctor was so drunk he did not know what he was doing. Fay died shortly there after. Mom said she remembered Dad getting all the whiskey in the house and throwing in the fire. He never had a single drink after that.”

“A lot of ways we solved our health problems were by home remedies.
• Congested chest – mix turpentine and lard, rub on throat and chest cover with flannel. (As a personal note, I can remember my great grandmother making this for me as a small child; and it worked great!)
• Sore throat- eat Vic’s salve
• Bee sting- spit chewing tobacco on bee sting
• Ear Ache – blow cigarette smoke in ear. Or, put human urine in ear with a syringe.”
Was it your own urine or someone else’s?
“I don’t remember. Anyways,
• Stomach Ache – mix turpentine and sugar to form a paste. Eat.
• Toothpaste- baking soda and salt.
• Cuts – pour turpentine over area.”

“We had a disease going around when I was about four or five called the Seven Year Itch. It was a horrible rash. Mom would fix us a bath and pour liquid Lysol in the water. It burned like crazy, but we stopped itching.”

“I don’t know if you call this a home remedy or not, it is more of a wife’s tale. If you had a wart, you’d take and rub an ear of corn over it. Then you would dig a hole and bury the cob and place a rock over it. When the cob rotted, your wart went away.”

It’s amazing you all aren’t dead from eating turpentine and bathing in Lysol
“This was just the way things were done back then. We did not think anything about it. We could not afford to go to the doctor every time one of us was sick.”

4 comments:

Crafty Sue said...

These are great ... stories to relate.
I remember my grandma would use some kind of seaweed to cure earaches and I remember one of her remedies for a cough: slice an onion, sprinkle sugar over and leave the diced onion rings in a saucer overnight outside the window ... next day use the liquid that has formed for the cough.
I never tried it but she said it worked.
Wouldn't it be great if someone collected all the household remedies our granmas used and published a book?
I think I would love to have one.
Hugs,
Sue.

ryan said...

Did you ask before using one of my morter and pestels?

Anonymous said...

THIS 77 YEAR OLD says-Back around
1943 when I was a kid, I came down with that dreaded "Seven Year Itch". Probably got it from a fellow classmate at school. Few went to doctors then, so home remedies were used. In my case, Mother would make a paste of lard & sulfur and paint it all over my body, and then wash it off the next morning before school. I wore long sleeve blouses for weeks until it went away. It was a terrible experience, and would not wish such on anyone. Because I always felt so greasy, since lard is difficult to wash off. God bless my dear Mother for so lovingly taking care of me.

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