Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Learning About Natural Remedies

My life in appalachia medicinal remedies

Last night folks in southern Appalachia got together to learn about making natural medicines and health aides; I was there.

I enjoyed learning about natural items that can keep my family healthy. I loved learning from a lady who was born and raised one county over and who remembers the remedies taught to her by her elders.

Best tip of the night-use calendula to heal cuts and abrasions. Very helpful information since I sliced my finger open earlier this week and need to be able to play the bass tomorrow night. The teacher said I would be impressed with the overnight results. I’ll let you know if it helped!


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    August 25, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Hi! I’ve dabbled in a little old fashion medicine. The ones I’ve tried have worked. The only one I remember as a child is daddy blowing cigarette smoke in my ear to help pain. One I’ve used several times in lye soap no I buy from a store in the mountains. It’s good for bee stings, poison ivy, cuts and mosquitos just rub the soap on you before going outside or shower with it when you’ve been outside. My husband gets poison ivy just about by thinking about it but I inherited genes from my daddy & I don’t get poison ivy. My husband says it comes from meanness. Funny!
    There is a lady who speaks at different festivals and events who has written several books about herbal medicine. Her name is Dr. Gail Palmer. She’s a professor retired from the university of Tennessee but she’s good and very knowledgable. Thanks, Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    Joy Newer
    January 23, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Tipper how i love this site,look forward to it everyday. Enjoyed so much all the comments today as i am a firm believer in the natural herbs,i have always felt they are a gift from our Creator. You and your family are a gift to all of us, Thank you for all your sharings .Joy Newer

  • Reply
    January 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I’d like to thank TimMc for the
    link and his comment on Herbs.
    When I was a little boy, I can
    remember meeting and seeing folks
    that tried to share their Herbal
    Knowledge of life. I watched the
    link plumb thru and enjoyed Mr.
    Bass’ take on life…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 23, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Daddy used to smoke handrolled Prince Albert cigarettes. When I had an earache he would blow smoke into my ear and it would get better. I don’t recommend this treatment although it worked. It heals the patient but it kills the doctor.

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    January 23, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I had a class assignment in s hook to collect home remedies and “wives tales”. My grandparents filled my notebook in no time.

  • Reply
    January 23, 2015 at 9:36 am

    We just had a family discussion about some of the remedies our parents used to cure aches and sickness. The one about putting groundhog grease in our ears to cure an earache is one I remember well. I was the recipient of that nasty stuff too many times. My cousin who is older than me remembers a remedy for head lice that I never heard of. She and her seven siblings had naturally curly hair and must have had lice often. The solution they used was called red perciphiny. I’m sure I misspelled the word, but that’s how it sounds. Anyone ever heard of it? Charles, how about you? Maybe Granny or Pap?

  • Reply
    January 23, 2015 at 9:05 am

    I always wondered about the old ways of curing things. My dad used a combination of soft brown soap and sugar as a drawing salve for infections. It always worked; was also a good cure for withdrawing splinters. I would love to read a book with many of these recipes.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 23, 2015 at 9:04 am

    I’ve dabbled a little with herbal remedies but my knowledge base is pretty small. I’m looking forward to learning more.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    January 23, 2015 at 8:42 am

    I’m telling my age by admitting that I’ve taken some of the remedies listed here but one I noticed was missing that I have used recently was Yellowroot tea for stomach pains, it seems to work or like some of the others listed you may have just quit complaining about the ailment to keep from having to endure the cure. The taste of many of these remedies was sure to cure hypochondria.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    January 23, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Tipper: Between Dr. Ethelen and that fellow down in ALABAMA surely I can find a remedy. I need remedies for a splinter I got in the palm of my hand. When I tried to remove it, the splinter broke and a tiny bit of it is still in my hand. Maybe the redness will go away soon. Dah!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    January 23, 2015 at 8:17 am

    I am very interested in natural medicine. I question my Dad often about their mountain medicine, he has mentioned the “witch” among other things. When we visited my grandparents one time, I got a bee sting. My grandma dipped snuff, she took the “snuff juice” and put on my sting. It worked, it stopped the sting.
    I loved reading all of the remedies. I will have to read them to my Dad and see what he remembers. Thank you for posting this!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    January 23, 2015 at 8:09 am

    We always drank sassafras tea in the spring. Daddy would bring it home when he found it wherever he was working.
    I can remember coming home from school and smelling it boiling on the stove.
    Thanks for the memory.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 23, 2015 at 8:04 am

    My grandmother, Juanita Patton McLain, was one of those “Mountain Doctors” in western NC. A few years ago, I had a conversation with the wife of one of my Dad’s cousins. She and her husband served as missionaries in Japan for 45 years. They were visiting while on furlough from Japan near Hayesville in the home that my grandmother grew up in. They had a toddler son and a new baby. The toddler was in a stroller and the floor of the old house was uneven. The stroller started rolling by itself directly toward a hot pot-bellied stove. The baby reached out and planted the palms of his hands on the stove.
    My grandmother was there visiting. She took a potato and cut it open and mushed up the flesh of the potato and wrapped the potato flesh in a cloth around the youngster’s hands.
    There was no blistering, scarring, or any other injury or evidence of damage. That little boy is in his 60’s now with no memory or evidence of that event.

  • Reply
    January 23, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Will you try making your own ointments and salves, Tipper? I know calendula is a popular homemade salve, and I’ve seen what look like very simple instructions on some of the blogs I read.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 23, 2015 at 7:48 am

    What in the world is in that great big bottle behind the two smaller brown bottles? I’m thinking a bottle with lots of pills or a bottle of large pills…like a “vitamin” of some sort!
    Ha, every time I see or say the word vitamin, I think of the Lucille Ball episode. She gets (accidentally) “snookered” on one of the bottles of liquid vitamins. Trying out (many takes) for the commercial, holding up and showing how to take it, when the alcohol or something in it kicks in and then she can’t pronounce (vitamin) vi-ta-vi-ta-min morphs into Vita-meata-vega-min! So funny!
    Oh well, if you haven’t seen the episode, try to see it sometime on YouTube…”it’s a side splitter”!
    I always think of natural medicines as ones you gather or dig and bring in, dry or make a tea, salve, tincture with it! The bottled ones don’t seem as natural to me…but know that folks do bottle natural remedies now-a-days!
    You will have to give us a few of the ideas you learned.
    I think the snow that is coming will slow you down a bit! Hope not! Wish I could be there! Good Luck, get out the snow cream fixing’s at least by Monday!
    It’s spitting something here right now, supposed to move East over and into the mountains!
    Great post…Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    January 23, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Mountain Medicine
    The early settlers in the mountains of Western North Carolina
    Did not go to the doctor as we do today for the treatment of
    Sickness. They had their own methods of curing any kind of
    Sickness or injury that they had.
    In every settlement in the mountains there was one special
    Person who was considered to have the power to cure every
    Sickness known to these mountain people. This person was
    Usually an older woman, and some people had the idea that this
    Person was a witch who could cast a spell on you and even
    Cause you to die. Just the same, they always sent for her when
    There was sickness in the family.
    The diet of the mountain people was mostly food with a
    Lot of fat. They ate lots of fatback and sow-belly along with any
    Salad greens that was available. In the spring, poke sale was a
    Favorite along with other leafy greens that grew wild in the fields
    And along the edges of the woods. The way that they ate was the
    Reason for their number one sickness: stomach problems.
    One of their treatments was to wear the root of rhubarb on
    A string, around the neck. This would prevent stomach cramps.
    Drinking a tea of hot water poured over the dried lining of the
    Gizzard from a chicken with a little honey added would also
    Cure the stomach ache.
    Wild cherry bark made into a tea was used for a cough.
    Also, sassafras, catnip, horehound, and pennyroyal were boiled
    And made into a tea for a cough and to treat colds. The leaves
    From the red cedar were boiled and inhaled for the treatment of
    Bronchitis. Willow tree leaves and bark were made into a tea to
    Break up a fever. Bloodroot, goldenseal, wild ginger, and jack-in the-
    Pulpit was used for the treatment of many diseases. Resin
    From the white pine was used for wounds and sores. Powdered
    Bark from the hemlock tree was dried and made into a powder
    To stop bleeding from a cut. The bark of the hemlock was also
    Good for burns. Cooked pine needles were used for toothache.
    Rhododendron oil was used for rheumatism. Snake root and
    Dried Indian turnip were made into a tea, sweetened with
    Honey, and used for a variety of aches and pains. These remedies
    Seemed to work, but who would want to get sick and take these
    Medicines? They all tasted awful.
    Bloodletting was also a common practice used for someone
    With “too much blood” (high blood pressure). Poultices were
    Used for different ailments. Mustard plasters were used to break
    Up congestion. They would be left on only until the skin began
    To turn pink. If left on too long, they would blister the skin.
    Poultices were also made from yellow root and jimson weed,
    Which were plentiful in the summer months?
    When someone had the chickenpox, they would be given a
    Nasty tasting tea made from yellow root and Indian turnip. They
    Would drink this awful tasting tea, and within fifteen minutes
    They would break out, and their fever would come down. If
    Someone had the shingles; you could take the blood of a black
    Chicken, rub it on the area, and they would be cured right away.
    For warts they notched a willow stick and buried it under the
    Patient’s doorstep or they would rub the wart with a grain of
    Corn and lay in the forks of a road.
    Then there was the treatment of the throat disease called
    “Thrash.” With thrash, the mouth and throat would be covered
    With blisters. The only known cure for this was to find someone
    Who had never seen his or her father? This person would blow
    Their breath in the mouth of the one that had the thrash, and he
    Would begin to get better immediately.
    If someone had measles and they wouldn’t break out,
    Someone would be sent to Mr. Robinson’s farm to collect some
    “Sheep pills” (sheep dung). These pills would be wrapped in a
    Thin cloth and then placed in a bowl. Next, they would pour
    Some boiling water over the bag of pills. After they soaked
    For a few minutes they were removed. A spoon of honey was
    Sometimes added to make the drinking a little easier, and the
    Liquid would be given to the patient. Within an hour the measles
    Would pop out all over the body. Then the patient was on the
    Road to recovery.
    When someone got a bad skin rash it was usually referred
    To as the “itch.” The sure cure for this was a good coating of a
    Salve made from sulfur powder and lard that was rendered from
    The fat of the hog that was killed for winter meat. It usually took
    Several days for the sores to scab over and dry. Given time and
    Patience, this always worked.
    Everyone came into contact with poison ivy during the
    Summer months. It was always present on the trees that were
    In the corn fields and other garden spots. It caused a rash that
    Would drive you crazy by its itching. If you rubbed or scratched
    The blisters caused by poison ivy that would make the itching
    Worse. The best treatment was application of a heavy layer of
    Buttermilk mixed with salt. This would stop the itching and
    Start the drying of the blisters.
    Head lice were always transferred to your head from someone
    Who had them? For example, if you were sitting at a desk behind
    Someone at school and they had lice, you were pretty sure to get
    Them. How they moved from someone else’s head to your head
    Was a mystery. But it happened. The best and sure treatment
    Was to have all the hair removed from your head along with the
    Lice. This was a problem for the girls, so something else had to
    Be done. Sometimes a good combing with a fine toothed “lice
    Comb” followed with a good washing with a strong stinking
    Balm soap that was made with Lysol got rid of the lice. The girls
    Had a much harder time getting rid of them.
    Every time someone began to complain with chest pains, the
    Woman of the house would begin to make plans for a good-hot
    Mustard plaster. When this plaster was applied to the chest area,
    It had to be watched real close so that it didn’t make blisters on
    The skin. It was left on until the skin began to turn pink, then
    Removed. It was supposed to relieve the cramps and pain from
    The chest area. But it may have been so painful that the patient
    Forgot about the real pain.
    Every settler kept several hives of honey bees. This was
    His main source for sweetening his food. He didn’t depend on
    “store-bought’ sugar. With all the bees around everyone was
    Stung sometime or another. The best and sure treatment for a
    Sting was some snuff or tobacco from the mouth rubbed on the
    Sting spot. The treatment was simple because nearly everyone
    Dipped snuff or chewed tobacco.
    There were many experts who could get rid of warts on the
    Hands. How these warts were formed no one really knew. We
    Children were told that they came from our handling a toad frog.
    We did play with frogs sometimes, but I don’t think this was the
    Cause. Some wart doctors used a willow stick. They would make
    Notches on the stick for as many warts as you had on your hands.
    Next they would have you bury it under the doorstep at your
    House. The number of notches on the stick indicated the number
    Of days before the warts would disappear. Another method was
    To rub the warts with a greasy dish cloth and not wash your
    Hands for as many days as there were warts. You could also rub
    A grain of corn on a wart, lay it in the fork of two roads, and the
    Person who picked it up would get your wart.
    Believe it or not, many of these methods of doctoring did
    Work, especially those medicines made from roots and berries.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    January 23, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I would love to have information on natural remedies. If you come across any booklet you can share I would love to get a copy.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 23, 2015 at 7:15 am

    My grandmother, Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer, knew herbal medicine. I have often wished that I had what she called her “Receipt File” that told what herbs were good for what ailment, and how to mix herbs and process them for the best medical results. These must have worked for her because she lived to be almost 102 years old!

  • Reply
    January 23, 2015 at 5:39 am

    My Wife is a walking encyclopedia,, as a little girl that was part of her past time reading encyclopedias .. I can never win an argument because she remembers things I said 10 yrs ago, but herbs and medicinal remedies she has storied from reading in a file tucked away in her head.. Here is a 49 min. video of a fellow by the name Tommie Bass who is from here in Alabama,,I think everyone will enjoy..,83

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