Appalachian Medicine Heritage

Medicinal Remedies From Appalachia

blind-pig-readers-remedies

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)

For Colds:

  • 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)

For Coughs:

  • 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

For Sorethroats

  • 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.

Tipper

p.s. I used The Foxfire Book for reference.

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76 Comments

  • Reply
    Travlin-man
    November 21, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I had 104 warts all over my hands and an Old man who lived out the road from us said he could take them off.He told me to bring him 104 grains of corn 1 grain for each wart.
    I did and he put the corn in a small tobacco sack and put them in his pocket and said your warts will be gone before you know it. Within a week they were all gone without a trace and I never knew when they left just woke up one day and they were gone.
    I know this is hard to believe and I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me.
    TM

    • Reply
      Venema
      May 4, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      Love this!
      My brother had warts all over his hands as a child and my grandmother told him, in private, to take a dirty dish rag from the kitchen, wash his hands all over with it, take it out back of the house, hide it under a rock, not tell anyone about it, forget about it and he would wake up one day with them gone.
      He did what she said and only told what he had done after my mother noticed they were gone. Amazing.
      Later in life my mother was given an old script of specific words to be said when rubbing someone’s wart that made the wart go away. The person had chose her to pass the gift on to.
      This was usually done when holding a person’s hand while talking to them. I remember hearing her asking someone if they believed it would go away and then proceeded to whisper something as she rubbed the wart.
      It is only to be passed down to one person and whom ever is chosen can only tell the one person they choose to pass the gift on to.

  • Reply
    Mary Labrecque
    November 27, 2016 at 6:33 am

    I’m 60, type 2 diabetic…and here recently “pancreatitis”. My pancreas is due to misdiagnosed dyhadration and Dr giving me dieretic that furthered the dyhadration. Giving me pancreatitis.
    I remembered a remedies from Granny Brown(dutch/Blackfoot Indian). Apple vinager but thick with apple. She would take 1 c vin, 1 tsp raw honey, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tbl so cinnamon. Heat it up. With 1 quart water(purified) …drink 2 1/2 cups day. My numbers have dropped in diabetes. And my stomach is healing.
    Cold remedies from Indian Granny
    1 lemon
    1grapefruit
    1apple
    Slice up into a pan peels & all
    Add 1 tbl so
    Cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg
    Raw honey for covering the bitter
    Boil leaving peels in, place in a mason jar let sit over nite.
    Cough / fever reducer
    Worms
    Fresh tobaccy (tobacco) eat one healthy pinch twice a month.
    Sinus infections
    Smudge home
    Pineneedles, sweetgrass, sage
    So many remedies my Granny lived to be just almost 100
    Vegetables, fresh chicken, wild berries and flowers she always said was the manna from the lord.

  • Reply
    Virginia
    January 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    For chiggers. Our family got them fishing in tall grass. Our old time Dr. Said put finger nail polish any where they go. The finger nail polish suffocates them. It did work.

  • Reply
    Nan Mathews
    September 20, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Many of the elders back then dipped snuff. The yellow labeled glasses of Dental Scotch snuff were everywhere. If you got a bee or wasp sting the old ones would reach back in their mouths and get a daub of that snuff and rub it into your sting. It worked well. You learned to hush-up if you got stung.

  • Reply
    Nan Mathews
    September 20, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Onion cough syrup: bake fist sized onions, whole and not peeled, till they are soft and the juice is running out nice and light brown. Give a few tablespoons as the sick one can take it. Bottle the juice and keep it cool. Warm it to keep dosing. Use the onions without the peel to make a soup for the sick ones.
    Horehound cough syrup: Pick strong smelling horehound while it’s warm. Be sure it is clean. Chop it up to fit in your pot. Bring fresh water to cover the herb. Never boil it but steep it a good hour. Press the herb and let it cool in the water which should be reduced by about half. Strain it, pressing the herb in a jelly bag over the water. Begin steeping again and this time add good cane sugar if you have it till it is sweet. You can make candy or syrup at this point depending on if you want lozenges or syrup. It’s strong so you only need a teaspoon or two. Keep it cool and make it up as you need it or you can can it. It spoils as a syrup so you might make just a little syrup and the rest in drops. The syrup works the best.

  • Reply
    Jan Jones
    February 26, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    I was raised in the back country of MO. As a child we kept a coal oil when we got a cut, bee sting or what have you there was a corn cob in it so we dabbed it with coal oil. For cough mom took a lump of sugar put 2 drops of coal oil on it and we ate it, guess it helped. We used lard for chapping works great. I wear hemitite magnets on my arms for pain work great, have one around my 17 year old too, runs like a deer.
    my grandmother was from Tn she had a saying and remidy for every thing, wish I could remember them.
    Started taking whiskey and horehound candy for my cough hope it works.
    enjoy your articles.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    December 8, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    BettyB-thank you for the wonderful comment!!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    BettyB
    December 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    In the early 1970’s I was a small child. My daddy was from the country. My mama was not. I had a bad cold with a bad cough. I had coughed for days and Mama and Daddy had taken me to the doctor and had gotten that awful red cough syrup they use to prescribe. Well it didn’t stop my cough and I had cough until I was weak from coughing and my head hurt so bad from it I was crying. Daddy couldn’t take it any longer and against my city-raised mother’s protest; he went into the kitchen got down a saucer and some sugar and mixed in some coal-oil. He gave me a couple of spoonfuls. My cough stopped. I remember the taste of coal-oil well, it tastes just like it smells. Daddy didn’t get much protest from Mama on his old-time remedies after that. He doctored our cuts with coal-oil (kerosene) and sometimes pine-tar. He always had both on hand. If you have flies eating on a dog’s ears you can swab them down with pine-tar to stop it. He would swab pine tar around the horsed eyes for the same purpose. It’s not pretty, but it works. I do remember Mama making cough syrup with horehound candy, whiskey, lemon, and honey. While I never had worms as a kid, I know the folks down home used coal-oil as a treatment for theme as well as head lice. Daddy would boil yellow root have us gargle with it for a sore throat. I was born premature way back when it was science-fiction (1965). The doctors in Louisville decided I needed to be put on a soy-based formula, on which I lost weight. Not good as I only weighed 4 lbs at birth. So Daddy and my grandma decided I needed a Guernsey cow and grandma’s formula recipe she had from pre-WWII, which was basically cow’s milk, 2Tlbs. Karo to ea. 4oz. brought just to a boil, then cooled. I gained weight and got healthy. I know they say not to give karo to baby under 2, but I am alive. That’s all I can remember right now.

  • Reply
    Mik
    July 8, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Wart remedy: my grandmother told me to steal someone’s dish rag and hide it, she said to tell no one. The wart was gone in two weeks!

  • Reply
    Debbie Sibert
    March 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    I AM TAKING A CLASS IN APPALACHIAN CULTURE AND AM COMPILING A BOOKLET OF “OLD-TIME” HOME REMEDIES, HERBAL REMEDIES, AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE. PLEASE SHARE YOUR FAVORITE FAMILY REMEDIES. INCLUDE YOUR NAME OR RELATIVES NAME SO THAT IT CAN BE CITED. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP
    MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS [email protected] .

  • Reply
    Tiffany L.
    April 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

    For Brian in WV, I have always used Maalox and Aquaphor mixed together in a paste for my babies diaper rashes…I swear by it! The thickness of the aquaphor and the mint of the maalox seemed to do the trick for mine.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Tipper, I really liked the stories about medicine and my grandmother grew up with the Indians and they taught her so many herbs and cures. My mother Miss Julie doctored us herself from her mothers herbs knowledge and they worked too.
    tipper your web site is so enlighten to al lot of people. We love and enjoy every thing you post.

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    January 2, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Tipper, This is for Brian from WV , Lard is the best for a diaper rash. When my kids were babies we kept those gas drops for babies in business, Can’t think of the name of them but they worked wonders. We also bounced our oldest on a pillow on his tummy each evening until it wore off. He had the colic for 6 months. By then we thought he just liked laying on his tummy and being bounced. hahaha

  • Reply
    Tipper
    January 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Brian–Thank you for commenting on my site! Yikes I’m sorry about the colicky baby. I don’t have any old time remedies for either aliment-but maybe someone else will chime in on the site and leave a comment. I do remember one of my girls had a horrible diaper rash-and the doctor gave her magic butt cream that was really the name of it-the pharmacist mixed it up right there in the store. Maybe you could ask if they’ve ever heard of it-if you haven’t already tried it.
    Best wishes for the newborn-and you and your wife!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Brian
    January 2, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Hello, I ran across your site as I was doing a search on bluegrass music. My wife and I have a one month old at the house. Very colicky with gas and bad crying, doctor suggested gas drops and that was it. Didn’t help. Also very bad diaper rash, the creams don’t seem to be solving it for him. Any help appreciated. Brian in WV.

  • Reply
    Debbie
    November 8, 2011 at 9:54 am

    My mother used to make a cough syrup from an onion for my son who had asthma as a child and no perscribed cough syrup would help. She would peel an onion and slice it. Between each layer she would put a teaspoon of sugar. Place the onion in a saucer and cover. When the sugar disolved it would make a syrup. Give the syrup to the child and coughing would quieten down and he could get some rest.

  • Reply
    Marie ODonnell
    July 11, 2011 at 2:40 am

    My great-grandmother swore by acifidity bags. She wore one from the first day of Fall to the first day of Summer to ward off colds, flu, and such. My grandmother said the reason they worked was that they smelled so bad that no one, diseased or otherwise, would get close to you. So, you were safe.
    My great-grandmother was also a great believer in castor oil. OMG! Just the memory of it makes me shiver. It looked like corn syrup when she was pouring in into the spoon, but, YUK!!! It sure didn’t taste like it. I’ll never forget running and hiding every time I saw her get that bottle out.
    Another thing she did was to drink a cup of hot water every morning. She didn’t drink coffee or tea, but she said a cup of hot water every morning kept you “regular.” She lived to be in her 80’s, and was active and sharp-minded up to the last year or so. So, I guess some of the stuff must have worked for her.

  • Reply
    Martha M.
    June 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Oh, forgot to tell how to use the remedy of turpentine for worms.
    Turpentine remedy for worms
    2T. Water
    1 heaping tsp. surger
    1 tsp. of caster oil
    1/2 tsp. turpentine
    Take 8-9 drops of this in the morning, two mornings in a row. Good to use treatment every three months.
    And I guess you should use this at your own risk. But it was used by my Grandfather on all his children and they all survived and lived very long lives.

  • Reply
    Martha M.
    June 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    My Mom told me about a remedy that her father use to give them for worms. It was a spoon of sugar with a drop for turpentine. My Mother past away a couple of years ago so I have no one to ask now about it. So I looked to see if there was a remedy for worms using turpentine. And sure enough someone had posted a turpentine remedy from the Amish.
    Recipe as follows…2 T. water, 1 heaping tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. caster oil, 1/2 tsp. turpentine.
    Mom said that my brother was having a seizure and she found a huge worm oozing out of his nose blocking his breathing. She said an old man that lived beside her rushed to help and asked if she had any turpentine. He took some on his fingers and started rubbing my brothers throat. The worm came out and my brother recovered.

  • Reply
    Brett Hackney
    June 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I just found this web site.
    It’s actually pretty spot on.
    I’m from the hills of east Tenn.
    and my Grand mother spent her last 18 months living with my Mother and I.
    Her most used remedy was “Lard and turpintine”
    There is one key ingredent most leave out, and that is “camphor spirit”.
    The pure lard keeps the turpintine from burning the skin and the turpintine carries the camphor in to break the congestion. Its a great remedy, but you may have to sleep in the barn.

  • Reply
    Ruth
    June 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    my mother use to make a thick onion syrup for bad cold’s and fever. that did help a lot.
    would like to have a recipe for making the onion syrup.
    We enjoy reading all of the remedy’s of the past, amd some may still use them.
    Ruth

  • Reply
    Shirla
    April 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I grew up in moonshine country with plenty available from various relatives. Mom didn’t like Dad drinking and gave him weeks of @#$% when he did. He decided he could get away with it if it was called a hot toddy. He sure was sick a lot. LOL! When mom brought out the Castor Oil, she needed to bring out the running shoes, too. I would take to the hills until she decided it wasn’t worth the fight I put up. Turpentine and sugar for bee stings was the only remedy I ever knew. I still love using Linament when I can find it. I always look forward to my visits back home so I can buy some braided horehound sticks. The box of candy made by Virginia Beauty is the best old timey candy with real horehound. Not available in the big city. Thought my boss was going to fire me when he walked in the office and heard me talking about horehound. Silly city folks….
    Thanks for stirring memories, Tipper!

  • Reply
    J E Smith
    January 9, 2011 at 12:07 am

    30 years ago when my daughter had so many stomach ales that we just didn’t know what to do my grandma said to give her a table spoon of Black Berry Brandy 3x a day, not flavored but the real stuff as she put it. The problems cleared up in two or three days.
    When Uncle Sam sent me all over the world I always carried a pint with me and if I started to have a problem it always worked.

  • Reply
    cindi
    September 9, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    I love this old stuff,my great grandmother relyed on alot of this but instead of a pollcat she used groundhog oil for congestion oh it was awlful but brought every ounce of congestion out she’d make us drink 2 tablespons of groundhog oil on top of rubbing ya chest down with it oh how i cringe thinkin bout it for it would bring everything in ya up and out lol….. then she used white liquior, rock candy, lemon and honey with the horehound candy for a cough syrip, 2 to 4 tablespoons she’d give us then she would pile her heavy quilts on us to the point they was hard to move under and we would lay there and sweat the cold out.and as bad as i hated the groundhog oil i have to say it truely worked.for cuts and scrapes she used turpintine and apine oil or lamp oil also healed very well took the infection out red streaks would disappear and ya wouldn’t be soar the next day. she used catnip tea and sasafrass tea alot as well.lots of apple cider vinager the works she lived to be 112 years old. she also used alot of ginsang pine needles, salt water, and peppermint water for a child with indegestion or colic. she was cherokee indian.bless her heart she had remedeies for just about everything. when i seen this i automatically thought of her.i use alot of her old remedies still today alot of people laugh at the old peoples ways but we have to perserve our mountian ways so they are not forgotten with the generations to come i so enjoy reading these thank you for posting this have a great day dear.

  • Reply
    Merry
    July 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Matthew, My Granny told me of making sheep turd tea for the black measles! Her mother was a Cherokee, and had made it for all of the family and none died, apparently many did die from black measles back then. I asked my Granny how would anyone think of that for a brew, she had no idea, it was from her Mother! Never heard of the ear treatment, but Granny did paint my tonsils with iodine, which I am now allergic to!

  • Reply
    Jeanna M
    April 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I have heard of most of these my whole life living here in the mountains and real close to the people who put out the foxfire books but I had to chime in and tell Lanny that a polecat refers to a skunk in these parts. Although a weasel for wheezing kind of makes a little more sense because the old timers say that the shape of the leaves on herbs and trees, and roots also correspond with the part of the body they will help.
    Anyway, as always I love Blind Pig & Acorn blog, I consider it one of the best.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    February 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Sandra the bag contained asafetida-which was made from several different roots. Asafetida was sold in stores usually it came in small lumps.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Sandra Spencer
    February 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    My cousin, Peggy, said her mom made her wear an ill-smelling bag around her neck to school and such to ward off flus, etc. An acifidity bag it was called. Can you tell me what the contents of the bag were?

  • Reply
    Tea
    February 24, 2009 at 8:42 am

    One study found patients wearing copper bracelets absorbed an average of 13 milligrams of copper during a month. http://herbalbeauty.blogtells.com/2009/02/02/winter-savory-tea-relieve-coughs-and-colds/

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    January 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    One that I love is take a bath in ginger tea when you have a cold. It was told to me by my ex’s mom who was in her early 80’s. Seemed to work for me!

  • Reply
    Lanny
    January 23, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Okay Tipper, my favorite on your list is the one that is new to me. I looked up polecat, found out it is a weasel, so you cook a weasel for wheezing? Too great.
    I do onions for a lot of things, and instead of snorting salt water I use a netti pot.
    Before I was sick recently I did many of those things feeling the crud coming on especially the honey and ginger, other spices too and a boat load of vitamin c. Kept it at bay until I did too much partying and stopped doing the other things. And yes, prior to modern medicine I would have been dead long ago, or more careful to not get sick. Hope you get over this stuff.

  • Reply
    Renna
    January 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Never as a young child, but in my teens, I recall my dad making my mom and I “hot toddies”, which consisted of a shot of whiskey (kept on hand only for medicinal purposes!), a squeeze of lemon, and a spoonful of honey. I’m not sure that it cured what ailed us, but at least we forgot about it for awhile! 😉

  • Reply
    brit
    January 22, 2009 at 10:21 am

    wow. yuck!!!
    i love the firefox series!! for years I didn’t know there were more than one book! What a treasure

  • Reply
    Paula
    January 22, 2009 at 10:16 am

    The “tie a man’s dirty sock around your throat” has got me in hysterics! Can you imagine?!
    We always use the honey and tea treatment, and I’ve actually had a doctor recommend the salt water snort for a sinus infection.

  • Reply
    Egghead
    January 21, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    The honey in the hot tea is one I still use today and the salt water for the nose is one my mom used for the babies. Seemed to help. Now about those where you wear boiled onions around your neck or a mans dirty flannel work shirt around your neck that is kid of scary. But pretty funny too.

  • Reply
    yolanda
    January 21, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    My granny used some of these remedies. Her mother was a healer in the true mountain tradition and half cherokee from your part of the country.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    January 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    sorry you’ve been so sick – that’s no fun! We had lots of coughs and colds last winter too. Ella had strep twice – but never shared – Thank God! So far just a few sniffles and I’ve related much of that to teething 🙂
    The remedies listed here make me laugh – but I agree, modern medicine is taken from these older traditions. Feel better soon.

  • Reply
    Sara
    January 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I love the Foxfire books.
    At our house we use a lot of tea with honey.
    I’ve been drinking about 2 tbs of apple cider vinegar morning & night this winter. Can’t say if it’s kept me from getting sick, but my skin’s clearer and no UTI’s.
    I try to use garlic & onions often in cooking as a preventative measure.
    None of us has had more than mild & short-lived colds all winter, so maybe it works?

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    January 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Tipper,
    This is great about home remedies. The photos are excellent, too.

  • Reply
    Becky
    January 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Some of those make me wonder just exactly those people were doing to make them come up with a remedy.
    Pole cat??? EWWWWWW!!
    We do use hot toddy’s quite often. That’s honey, and a little liquor. Or gargle salt water.

  • Reply
    warren
    January 21, 2009 at 10:42 am

    We use vinegar for everything. I have tried whiskey for colds. We use honey for stuff too. I always had to gargle salt water as a kid. Yuck. Anyhow, we also used mustard in warm water when you need to…um…puke.

  • Reply
    Louise
    January 21, 2009 at 8:52 am

    There are some interesting things there. The fat from the pole cat is favorite.
    And whenever I have the “crud” and don’t want to go to the doctor, I “suck” salty water up my nose. I actually do a sinus rinse twice a day,and not only does it make me feel better when I’m finished, but I have cured myself of more than a few sinus infections that way without a doctor visit.

  • Reply
    Julie O'Neill
    January 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    We too suffered from getting sick a lot. Lemon and RAW honey is almost miraculous around our house.
    But the real key, is to build your bodies up. We have basically eliminated white sugar and white flour from our lives and even thought my husband and I are both teachers, surrounded by sick kids all the time, and my 2 young kids are in classrooms surrounded by stuff constantly, it always just passes us by now.
    So, easier than remedies, is just prevention. If you are getting sick this much, you might look into food sensitivities (we discovered all dairy and wheat contributed to our ails – strep throat, bronchitis, sinus infections have never returned in years since we steered clear of these irritants)…and look at how much sugar, corn syrup, white flour, etc. is in your diet.
    It feels so good to feel good! It’s worth it!!

  • Reply
    Dawn Dee
    January 20, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    I laughed out loud at some of these remedies!! I remember as a child some old next door lady put a mustard plaster on my chest to help with conjestion!! It burned my skin!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 20, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Great post and lots of interesting responses.
    My mother always made me bathe with a cup of salt in the water to kill chiggers after I had been out in the woods in the summer.
    We used warm salt water for sore throat and an eye wash for any eye irritation. I still use the eyewash on myself and my cats if they have eye problems.
    Salt solution for sinus problems–saline spray or Netipot.
    Turpentine was also always a major item in our medicine cabinet. All cuts and scrapes got turpentine. Dear ole mom also said that if you put it on quickly after the injury it would not burn and it would keep the soreness from happening.
    I frequently use salt in my bath to help with soreness or stiffness. Sometimes with the early onset of a cold a very hot bath with a quantity of salt/Epsom salt will bring on a sweat
    The last time I went to purchase turpentine it was no longer on the shelf it was behind the pharmacy counter and the Pharmacist wouldn’t sell it to me because it is poisonous. Isn’t that amazing—I used it all my life.

  • Reply
    Kathleen
    January 20, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Just loved reading all of these rememdies. I have heard some of the things like with the ginger. Blessings, Kathleen

  • Reply
    Molli
    January 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Well Tipper,
    Fresh or candied ginger will help with stomach issues of all types. I’m a firm beliver in strong tea with honey, fresh lemon and whiskey for colds.
    I’ve successfully used a thin slice of raw potato to draw out abcesses. It worked well enough on a tooth till I could get to the dentist!
    Keep up the good work.
    Molli

  • Reply
    The Texican
    January 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    The more we learn about plants and their ability to stimulate our body’s immune system, the more we realize there was value in many of these old remedies. On the other hand some were so harsh they either killed you or cured you. The numbers of people killed by these remedies were never recorded as such, but blamed on the malady that caused you to take them. Just kidding. A lot of our modern remedies were derived from the study of folk remedies. Hope the “crud” turns loose before you are forced to use the polecat remedy. Pappy

  • Reply
    Kristi
    January 20, 2009 at 9:55 am

    My Mother checked for a pulse to see if we were well enough to go to school. Her favorite saying was, “Just get up and move around and you’ll feel better.” With six kids there wasn’t much time for sympathy, but my Dad did always take time to tell us, “gargle with a little listerine” which I never did.
    All six of us survived.

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    January 20, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Growing up on the mountain, we were all recipients/victims of home remedies. Seldom was the time that any illness merited a trip to the doctor. Grandmaw Mary was a veritable fountain of knowledge when it came to time-proven mountain remedies. She was always using dried roots, herbs or berries to treat this or that, and most of them worked.
    I remember when I was little I always got earaches alot, nothing helped, even the trip to the doctor. Grandmaw Mary had told Mom to put my pee in my ear and it would help. Well Mom wasn’t about to put pee into the ear of her pet pig so she took me to the doctor. After a couple more days of me having an earache and having me cry and wail in pain, she decided that she’d try anything. She put pee in my ear (Grandmaw said it had to be the pee of a male), and you know what, a great gathering burst from my ear that night, all manner of stinking corruption poured from my head and my earache stopped and I’ve never had one since!
    The most unusual and vile home rememdies was exacted upon my Dad when he was little. He was getting chickenpox but they wouldn’t come out on him. He was running a dangerously high fever and something had to be done. Grandmaw said to boil water, drop a few sheep turds in it and stir it up real good & sweeten it with sugar. Dad then had to drink the sheepturd tea. Oddly enough, it did work well, the chickenpox came out within an hour and the fever went down as well. This was a cure that Dad has never forgotten about having to drink sheep turd tea, which he said really tasted like crap (pun intended).
    How did someone ever come up with that remedy? Who way back in the recesses of time thought that a tea made out of sheep turd would help with fevers, chickenpox, mumps etc?
    Matthew

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    January 20, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Tipper: I believe firmly in bed rest to fight most illnesses. Starve a fever and feed a cold is one I go by. Ginger Ale can do a lot for stomach ailments so I would think ginger root could help. Burnt toast will help your stomach and also drink a lot of orange juice to ward off illness.

  • Reply
    wkf
    January 20, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Well I laughed out loud at a few of these.I do the salt water gargle thing and The Deer Hunter is right about the saline up the nose. I ‘ve used a neti pot with very positive results( gross but positive). Also the Tea with honey/lemon, but it has to be Buckwheat honey.I am a bit of a “Granola”. Not quite a dirt and berry sweet feed eater. but I keep up with a good many of the Homeopathic remedies and old school ones. You can just take a Teaspoon of Buckwheat Honey for acough. That one works. Also you can use pokeberries for ringworm. That one I used on one of my horses. You mash a few berries on the affected area. Don’t eat them!! A friend of mine who was a Vet started calling me Princess Light Feather….
    But it worked.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    January 20, 2009 at 6:14 am

    I thought I would die laughing at the rendered polecat fat and the flannel shirt. I would definitely be brining up more than phlegm and don’t most guys try to wear the same flannel shirt all winter anyway?
    I am a firm believer in horehound drops though. I keep them in the house for just such a reason. Plus they don’t taste bad at all.
    Haven’t been sick in quite a while (knock on wood) and trying not to dwell on it. Hope you are feeling better soon.
    Love the history of Appalachian medicine. They seemed to work, didn’t they? I mean, look at how long some of our kinfolk lived on homemade remedies. xxoo

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson
    January 20, 2009 at 4:31 am

    These are marvelous remedies. I love this post. I woke with a bad stomach, so I will try your remedy.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    January 20, 2009 at 12:06 am

    definitely use the honey in the hot tea remedy… in fact, right now I’m drinking some because I’ve been feeling a little achy the last couple days.
    my mom’s folks were from Oklahoma and they had the kids take a spoonful of whiskey when they were sick. Mom always says she’s not sure if it was to make her feel better or make her go to sleep faster.
    i can’t imagine!! but your right, there is an awful lot of alcohol in over-the-counter cold medicines. must be something to the whiskey idea!

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    January 19, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I love home remedies and still use many I learned from my mother. She was a big believer in Castor Oil for almost any sickness, she drank a glass of water with a few drops of iodine every day for her thyroid. She used the skin of an egg to draw a splinter out. And she used a tar and tallow plaster to save my little sister when she had pneumonia. I’ve written a story about that.
    Good post.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    January 19, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I will still gargle with saltwater to ease a sore throat. I’ve heard about eating an onion a day to keep you healthy too. I can’t remember who used to do it though. May have been my great-grandmother. My grandmother would put tobacco on a bee sting and it would stop hurting.
    Some of those old remedies are right scary though! Polecat fat? Yuck!

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    January 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    I have gargled with salt water. And apple cider vinegar. Blech. My mother used to give us warmed honey, lemon, and whiskey to soothe a sore throat.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 19, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Momma always kept a jar of Black Salve around for wounds but for ailments she tried a whole bunch of stuff on me and my brothers and sisters. I’ve had hot onion poltices and Vicks Salve vaporizing and Milk of Magnesia; and I’ve had smoke blown in my ear. But I didn’t get sick much after she hung a asafititie bag on me. For good reason … most childhood diseases are caught from other kids and kids don’t hang around somebody that smells like asafidita.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    January 19, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I’ve gargled with salt water for forever. Also used Vicks or Soltice (I’d forgotten about that). Rubbed on the chest and bundled up good under the covers or either lay a warmed towel on it.
    Whiskey, rock candy and peppermint.
    Drink hot tea with honey and lemon. Or mix honey and lemon together, take a spoonfull and let it slowly sooth over your throat.
    I’ve had warmed groundhog oil poured in my ear when I’ve had an earache. Cant’ remember if it worked or not.
    I’ve snuffed salt water up my nose too. Burns like crazy but it does help.
    Good post, Tipper.
    My son had strep in 2nd grade-from August til May when they took his tonsils out. 7 different antibiotics. Poor little man, it was a rough winter.
    Get better soon. Try the honey and lemon, really does work.

  • Reply
    granny sue
    January 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of these, Tipper. My neighbor to says to mix skunk grease with Vapo-rub or turpentine to clear that chest congestion–but around here I think turpentine was the medicine of choice for most ailments.
    Mom used to make a cough cure of lemon juice, honey and whiskey or brandy. If it didn’t work it at least put us to sleep!
    I swear by the salt water gargle for a bad throat, along with lots of orange juice, plain hot tea, and scrambled eggs and toast, and chicken noodle soup.
    Also a cut onion on a bee sting, and ice on a cut or a sting. Lye soap is another miracle worker–washing with it after a day of berry-picking can help prevent chiggers. It’s good for all sorts of other itches and scritches too.

  • Reply
    Tammy
    January 19, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    My Hubby has an infected hair on his chest…my Mama said to fry an onion and use a thin piece of sheet but…we took off to the doc and got a antibiotic *smiles*
    Hubby’s mother makes vicks salve/turpentine poultice on flannel and pins them inside pj tops for congestion. Stinks…boy howdy!
    I’ve gargle warm salt water and it sooths a sore throat for sure! Also tea and honey is comforting if nothing else.
    Interesting post!♥

  • Reply
    Farmchick
    January 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    My grandma and mom used to put me under a huge amount of blankets, so I could “sweat out” my illness. Also, my grandma would use camphor oil on my chest if I was congested. Yuck…

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    January 19, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I’ve done the salt water gargle and Epsom salt soaks for injuries. My dad swore by horehound candy for a cough. I remember when my baby brother would get ‘the croup’, mom would rub Soltice (similar to Vick’s rub) on his throat, put a damp washcloth over his throat and then wrap a towel around and pin it. When he was being a pain I’d say she didn’t pin the towel tight enough… The other cure-all to mom was Milk of Magnesia. No matter why you were down, you always had to take a dose of Milk of Magnesia.
    Kraut juice was always good for “cleaning you out”.
    Hot lemonade was good for colds and coughing.
    One of my cousins was prone to earaches and her daddy would blow smoke in her ear to ease the pain.
    A couple of tablespoons of honey and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed in a glass of cold water is great for nausea, whether morning sickness or a stomach bug. I’ve used this for years.
    I’m sure there’s more, but this is long enough for today.
    Helen

  • Reply
    Janet
    January 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Yes, they had a lot of home remedies in the old days. I’ve heard of burnt whiskey for coughs. I believe my grandpa used ginger root for stomach problems. And some used folklore passed down through the generations. I was passed through a horse’s collar when I was a baby and cured of a problem I had. My grandpa blew on burns and took the fire out and he also stopped bleeding by saying a verse in the bible.

    • Reply
      Valerie Clark
      August 17, 2020 at 6:47 pm

      My father told of a similar story. He said his grandfather would place his hands on bleeding people, or animals, say three words, and the bleeding would stop. Preculiar, along with everything else that has been mentioned here.

  • Reply
    Vera
    January 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I like home remedies the best. I have heard my mom tell many times about my brother, when he was a small baby he had the croup and someone told her to burn a spoon full of whiskey and put some sugar in it, she said that she thought that he wasn’t going to make it, he couldn’t hardly breathe, she thought he would choke to death. She gave him the whiskey and in no time he was fine.

  • Reply
    Patti
    January 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Some of these would for sure make me worse before better.
    We always had to gargle with the warm salt water. Still do at times.
    Horehound candy! We always got a piece of that from my grandmother’s handkerchief drawer if we were good children.
    Patti

  • Reply
    steve.allen.ky
    January 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    My wife has a soup she mixes up from canned chicken noodle soup with whole garlic boiled up with the soup. She swears by it. Most of the onion concoctions you show remind me of her reverence for garlic.
    You have great insight on why so many of the mountain folks had to swear by these, based upon them being so relieved that they could offer their kids any kind of relief, when not so long ago, they have seen them die not just stay sick all winter.
    Hope you get feeling better.
    PS I am hooked on your post. Tell your husband and Dad they are making me into a bluegrass fan as well.
    Steve in Florence KY

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    January 19, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Tipper, Thanks for this post. I’ve heard of some of these.

  • Reply
    City Mouse/Country House
    January 19, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Wonderful mix of silly, weird, and practical and true. I swear by salt for almost everything – draws out toxins when mixed with baking soda for a bath (and relaxes too!), salt water gargling … on and on. Great post!

  • Reply
    Dejoni
    January 19, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    My dad swears by dipping a cut finger in diesel fuel.
    Sounds kooky…put he says it works.

  • Reply
    Terry
    January 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Tipper, I have used the warm salt water gargle forever. I am down with infected sinuses, and it has gone down into one of my teeth. Oh the pain. I should go get a prescription for some antibiotics but just don’t feel like going anywhere. I have been drinking alot of Earl Grey tea with honey. My Northern grandmother used a fried onion
    polltice on top of a heating pad for earaches, and you laid your ear on it. Just try not to eat the onions,lol. I wish I still had my Foxfire books. Terry

  • Reply
    Brenda
    January 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    I love reading your blog and I’ve heard of a lot of the remedies you were writing about!
    You have an award waiting for you to pick up at my place too!
    Hugs,Brenda

  • Reply
    Brenda
    January 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I love reading your blog and I’ve heard of a lot of the remedies you were writing about!
    You have an award waiting for you to pick up at my place too!
    Hugs,Brenda

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