As far as sickness goes-last winter was the worst we’ve had since the girls started school. Illnesses started before Christmas and lasted clean till May. Chitter and Chatter had strep throat about 5 times between them-of course they never had it simultaneously-you know when just one of those expensive tests would have been enough to prescribe medication for both of them-no they had it individually, usually a few weeks to a month apart.
So far this winter we’ve missed out on the sickness-well everyone but me. Apparently during all the Breaking Up Christmas and New Year’s Contra Dancing I caught something. Something that will not go away. Coughing, sneezing, wheezing-folks around here call it the crud. Not sick enough to warrant a doctor visit-just enough to make you feel miserable.
Many parts of Appalachia are off the beaten path-and in years past that sometimes meant going to see a Doctor wasn’t an option even if it was needed. But people did get sick and did need help-this led to many “home remedies” being used. A few old remedies:
For Chest Congestion:
- Place rock candy in a little whiskey to make a thick syrup-drink a few spoonfuls several times a day
- Make an onion poultice by roasting an onion-wrap it in a cloth-beat it until the juice soaks the cloth-then apply cloth to chest. (Pap’s grandmother swore onions were the key to good health-she ate one everyday)
- Render the fat from a polecat-eat two or three spoonfuls to bring up phlegm (I’m afraid that would bring up more than phlegm)
- Take a flannel shirt and soak it with turpentine and lard-then wear it all winter (your family might make you live in the barn)
- Boil pine needles to make a strong tea
- Eat a mixture of honey and vinegar
- Eat onions roasted in ashes
- Suck salty water up your nose (the Deer Hunter does this even when he’s not sick-he claims it makes it easier to breathe)
- Mix one teaspoon of white whiskey with a pinch of sugar-heat over a fire-and drink
- Mix ground ginger with sugar-put on tongue just before bedtime to stop cough
- Mix honey in hot tea and drink
- Dissolve four sticks of horehound candy in a pint of liquor and take a couple of spoonfuls
- Bake onions in fireplace and tie around your throat
- Gargle with honey and vinegar
- Gargle with warm salt water (Pap always made me do this when I was sick as a kid)
- Take a sock a man has worn for a week of working and tie it around your neck (oh my)
- To burn tonsils out paint them several times a day with iodine and turpentine (folks thought if you didn’t have tonsils-it would cut down illnesses-kinda like having your tonsils removed today does. I’ve had some older folks tell me they don’t have any tonsils-because they wasted away from being sick as a child.)
For The Flu
- Boil 2 roots of wild ginger in a cup of water-strain and drink
- Drink some of the brine from Kraut-it makes you thirsty and you drink lots of water-washing the sickness away
Anyone who has ever spent a sleepless night with a sick child, knows how helpless you feel. Imagine how you’d feel without modern medicine-no antibiotics, no fever/pain reducers to ease their suffering. I imagine the “homemade remedies” the old folks came up with made them feel less helpless-made them feel like they were at least making an effort-made them feel like they had something to believe in-a hope in getting their loved ones better.
It’s funny to read through the old remedies-but some of them are not that far off from todays medicine. Many many of them include whiskey or liquor-but have you ever read how much alcohol is in cough/cold medicines-a lot. And Doctors today still suggest you drink warm tea with honey. I believe through trial and error past generations helped point modern medicine in the right direction.
Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me if you have ever used any of the remedies.
p.s. I used The Foxfire Book for reference.