Appalachia Appalachian Medicine

Remedies from Blind Pig and The Acorn Readers


Dolores: 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.

Pamela Danner: 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.

Gayle Larson: 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.

Mike McClain: 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.

Rachelle: Bear oil is very good for the earache I always keep some on hand.

Gary Powell: Years ago my daughter had a bad earache. It was late so we went to the drugstore. Druggist had heard of sweet oil treatment, but wasn’t too confident. A plumber that I worked with was in the drugstore and heard us. He said to put nosedrops up her nose. That a blockage was what caused the pain. We did this and it worked like a charm.

Sheryl Paul: I took several herbal certification classes, the most useful thing for an earache was to heat an onion cut in half in the oven until hot, wrap it in a dishtowel and place them on both ears. First thing taught is to treat both ears, nostrils, or what ever else there are two of.

Ed Ammons: My father smoked Prince Albert and blew smoke in my ears when I had an earache. It might have been the placebo effect but it worked for me. The earache would go away within a few minutes and wouldn’t come back for months.

Joe Penland: Jackie Gleason said the best cure for a toothache was to keep a steady stream of liquor flowing over it.

Kerry in GA: When we have colds around here, we drink the broth off cooked onions. My Granny told me about this several years ago. You put as much salt as you can stand in the broth and it really seems to help especially if you have a sore throat.


If you’ve got any remedies to share, please leave a comment and tell us about them.


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  • Reply
    February 28, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Sweet Oil-My mother always used sweet oil (olive oil) for earaches. I use it on my kids and it works. I heat it up and then check the temp on my wrist and drop a few drops into the kids ears. When they get an earache they come looking for it.

    Honey, Whiskey, and Lemon-My mother would always make a concoction of honey, whiskey, and lemon juice, heat it on the stove, and make us kids take a teaspoon or two of it when we were congested or had a cold. There is a famous story of my brother as a wee little guy making a face when my mother gave it to him. “What’s wrong? Not enough honey?” she asked. “No. Not enough whiskey!” my young brother said!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    When we would get a sore throat, Daddy would have us dig out a dirty sock we’d worn the day before. Then, he’d use a big safety pin and pin that nasty thing around our neck. Can’t imagine how it worked but by the next morning, the site throat was gone. Have used salt pork for drawing infections and I’m here to tell you, it sure hurts… but it also works. I’ve used on myself and others as well as calves and goats.

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    February 24, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    When I was a boy, there was a product from the Rexall Drug store called “alcalol”. When we got a sore throat, Mom would wind a cotton ball around her finger, dip it in the Alcalol and swab our throat. It tasted awful but it sure helped alleviate the sore throat. When I would get a cold, Mom would slice an onion in thick (1/4 inch) slices, butter 2 slices of bread, cover the bread with the onion slices and then tell me to eat the whole thing! Onion Sandwiches! I’m sure it helped to clear the sinuses! One time I ran my arm through the wringer of the washing machine. Mom cut open some brown paper bags, soaked them in turpentine and wrapped around my arm. The soreness was gone the next day!

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    February 24, 2018 at 10:37 am

    I hate to post a new remedy, but this one works so well, that I just have to share. You may already know this. WD-40 uses fish oil as its main component. I keep a saucer of WD-40 on the kitchen counter. Any kind of bug bite or bee or wasp sting is rendered “fixed” just by dipping your index finger in the WD-40, and touching it to the spot where the bite or sting just occurred. The quicker the better. The pain goes away in minutes, and within a day, you don’t even know where the bite or sting was. It’s magical.. Best Chiggers remedy I’ve even found. One touch, and the chigger dies and the red mark is gone by morning. Works much better than tobacco, or any other home remedy I’ve ever heard of. Also works for me on Poison Oak, pimples, fungus, and minor cuts and scrapes. Something about the fish oil… Contrary to popular belief, WD-40 is not petroleum based. Of course, use it very sparingly. Repeat as needed.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Thought you might like to look at the following link for more information about elderberries, esp. relating to persons who have compromised immune systems. What’s “good for the goose” is NOT always “good for the gander”. Also, it gives a recipe for elderberry wine.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Camomile tea (in New Mexico, we call it by its Spanish name, manzanilla) is good for colic in babies, and any stomach
    discomfort in anyone else as well. Mama used to put bluing on ant bites, but I don’t think people even use that on washday anymore. Castor oil rubbed on arthritic joints helps with the pain. In Mexico, castor oil is called “La Palma de Christi,” the hand of Christ. Rub it in gently until it has been absorbed. It will still be a bit greasy, so don’t do it when you have on good clothes. Bedtime is ideal.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 8:52 pm


    Grandma used iodine to paint our tonsils if they were infected. I used apple cider vinegar for a lot of things. Yeast infection, urinary problems, and so many more. Right now I believe my husband has pleurisy. I can’t remember what she used for that.

    We’ve had bad flooding in our area. If you have a chance, please drop over and see the photos.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Mom used sweet oil in our ears for earache, and then we would fall asleep with a heated iron wrapped in a towel resting against the affected ear. Springtime we would go hunt wild greens to overcome the winter blahs. We drank Sassafras tea, and I found later it is a natural blood thinner. This is not a real old remedy for loss of appetite, but Eldertonic used to be used with great results. It was once prescribed by doctors, and can still be purchased if you ask the pharmacist at some pharmacies. It has been replaced by expensive pills. A piece of fat back taped on a boil will make it come to a head.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    February 23, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    I agree with so many of your wonderful commenters, esp the buttermilk, saline for sinus, (now there’s Nasacort!) and have heard very good things about elderberry which I have ordered but it hasn’t arrived, in 3 weeks.?
    Granny kept acifidity and camphor made up and ‘it ‘cured’ about everything’. If it didn’t help by rubbing it on your skin then she’d make you drink some with water. It was AWFUL!!!!
    When my grandfather’s mother went to live with them (1930s) she loved for the household to wait on her. Grandfather told her one night after continued whining to go make herself a dose of soda water, to which she replied “who ever heard of medicine you have to make yourself helping ‘abody’!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    I enjoyed all the commenters and their remedies for different ailments. One can learn much about treating things on the Blind Pig. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 11:41 am

    When I was a small kid, before penicillin, my grandmother had me eat bread that was slightly moldy spread with peanut butter as a cure for my cold/flu. Much later the world learned where penicillin came from. Blue mold.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 23, 2018 at 11:37 am

    i remember having a chunk of fatback taped onto my chin where I had a “risin”. Mama always put epsom salts in a clean cloth, tied it around the wound and kept it wet. It usually worked. Daddy would put a heating pad on top of the “salts pack” and it would work faster but it was pretty painful.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Buttermilk works for bellyaches, sore throats, thrush and yeast infections in the digestive tract. Buttermilk coats your mouth, throat and the lining of esophagus and stomach. If you don’t believe me drink some and let the glass dry out before washing it. It is very hard to remove without soaking.

    The lactic acid in buttermilk kills many yeasts, fungi and bacteria. That’s how buttermilk works. The natural bacteria in it eats the milk sugar and produces lactic acid which kills off other bacteria. And the lactobacillus acidophilus and other bacteria in found in buttermilk are probiotic. Many modern medicines kill off essential systematic bacteria in their efforts to kill harmful ones. Buttermilk can help reestablish these throughout the digestive system.

    People don’t drink buttermilk because of the taste but eat yogurt, cottage cheese and other soft cheeses which have similar tastes. I am the opposite, I prefer the buttermilk. Cornbread, onion and yogurt don’t sound right to me.

    My Appalachian ancestors may not have known all the scientific gobbledygook associated with buttermilk but they knew it was good and good for you.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Always drank spice wood tea in the spring

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 10:12 am

    My Dad always made spicewood tea in the spring

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 23, 2018 at 9:40 am

    .A friend takes 500 mg. of magnesium and 50 mg. of b6 for prevention. He has had only one stone in the last 6 or 7 years, His doctor said to give up all carbonated water and drink more lemonade.
    I’m not a drinker, but know a man that would get off by himself, and drink beer until the stone passed.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Turpentine, That’s what my mother used any time I got a cut or scrape. Salt bath, that’s what we used after a trip to the blackberry patch or woods, it killed the chiggers.
    The last time I went to the drug store to get a fresh bottle of turpentine they no longer had it for sale.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Martha, back in the day when hospitals had small refrigerators in the patient’s room, they asked what brand of beer was preferred and stocked it for kidney stone patients. My cousin was admitted and spent a day or two drunk as a skunk. During my last attack of kidney stones, my sister drove me to the hospital with a cop right behind her all the way. I thought I would die if she called 911 and had to wait for them to arrive. I told her to put on her flashers and pass every car on the expressway and I would pay her fine or get her out of jail. The doctors told me they had seen grown men beg for morphine when they had kidney stones. I can’t stand to even smell beer but I would not have a problem drinking a case of it if I get another stone. And they tell me I will. So, I know how you feel, Martha.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 23, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Turpentine for cuts and smashed parts. Onion poultice for infected wounds. An old couple’s remedy for piles was cream of tartar, sulfur, and petroleum jelly in equal parts.
    While visiting this old couple , as a boy with my Dad, their parrot took a cussing spell. The old man laughed for he had taught the parrot to cuss.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 9:00 am

    It might have been here on Blind Pig And The Acorn where I read about pork fat drawing out small pieces of glass from the body. I got a sliver of broken glass in my foot that caused extreme pain with each step I took. Nothing worked, so I tried the bacon wrap. I placed it on the area where the glass was and wrapped and taped it until I looked like a mummy and went to bed. I had visitors from out of town that night who made fun of me for doing such a silly thing. To our amazement, when I unwrapped my foot, there laid the culprit glistening like a diamond on the piece of bacon.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 23, 2018 at 8:57 am

    My Grandma would dig mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) root in the spring, wash them and loosely fill a quart jar with them and fill with water. She kept it in the refrigerator and drank it a bit at a time. She said it was “good for the kidneys”. It is bitter, I can vouch for that.

    She also said what we called rat’s vein (Chimaphila umbellata) was good for the kidneys. It is very bitter as well.

  • Reply
    Troy Carroll
    February 23, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Alka Seltzer will also draw the pain form a Bee Sting

  • Reply
    harry adams
    February 23, 2018 at 8:13 am

    I am a big believer in saline wash for sinus infections. I used to get sinus infections often and because of air travel they were very painful. I started using saline solution to rinse out my sinuses and they quickly went away.
    It is very cheap at pharmacies or make your own with distilled water. I read that many colds are not virus related but bacteria that thrive in the warm moist sinus cavities. The salt destroys the bacteria.
    Of course the other alternative to doing this is visit a warm beach area 3 or 4 times a year and breath the salt air.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 23, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Turpentine was one of the most used cures in our house. When I got a boil on my backside my father heated up a small bottle like you would heat a baby bottle, turned it upside down on the boil and it popped right out. I am sure I was screaming but it worked. It had great pull. We always had a bottle in the medicine cupboard right beside the Raleigh Salve.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 7:45 am


  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 6:33 am

    I’m a big crusader for the elderberry, good lord willing I haven’t even gotten a cold in years since I started taking it.
    My Father in law every year would get an upper respiratory infection and he would be at the Doctors office just like clock work, my Wife told him my results and he started taking it 3yrs ago and has not had the infection since.
    We were lucky enough to get a book about Tommy Bass an old herbalist in Sand Mountain written by Darryl Patton, that’s where we first read about it, Darryl has a web site called The Southern Herbalist, Wal-Mart sells it in a liquid called Sambucol , I get mine in capsule form and take it everyday.
    Also I’m growing the hair on my head back, by taking a tablespoon of safflower oil every night before bed, started it back last fall, it’s not fast but new hair keeps coming in and it’s much thicker than last fall, this is just amazing.

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