Today people use everything from antibiotics to essential oils in dealing with illness, but many years ago our ancestors dealt with illness in many different ways. I can’t help but shudder as I look at some of the old time family remedies that have been handed down on both sides of my family .
In my rather large file box of recipes I recently came across several such family “recipes.” I remember copying these recipes years ago from my mother’s cards, not because I planned to try them anytime soon, but because they were “family recipes” and I found them intriguing.
Aunt Sylvia’s Canker Medicine1 pt. water3 T. sage (rubbed)1 T. alum1T. borax1/2 c. honey1 tsp. golden sealBoil water and sage together about 5 minutes. Cover and let set to steep. Strain and cool. Add alum, borax, honey and golden seal.
Throat Swab1 pt. iodine6 pts. glycerineMix well and paint throat.
16 drops glycerin
1 drop carbolic acid
Drop in ear
Curious, I did a search in Google books and found several very similar recipes, predominantly from the 1890’s.
In a three ring notebook, I also have a collection of family stories and recipes that have been shared with me from distant cousins in my patriarchal line. Among the recipes, I found instructions for a “poultice.” The recipe directed you to go to the woods and get pieces of pine. Next you were to dig a hole “in a clay bank on the side of the road” and place the pine inside the hole with a pan placed beneath the pine to catch the tar. Next, you were to cover the hole in order to keep the heat inside. The tar would then boil out of the wood and run into the pan. Next you were to saturate the cloth with the tar and melted lard. (Instructions indicated that the lard helped to keep the tar from blistering the skin.) This poultice was then placed on the chest of the ill person to draw out the congestion. Another recipe prescribed a cloth saturated with kerosene and melted lard that was then placed on the sick person’s chest. I assume that these were the precursors to the Vicks my mother use to put on us when we were sick and, while we hated the smell and the sting of the strong salve, I can see that it was a definite improvement over earlier times.
As much as I fear the flu today, I think I would have feared it more years ago knowing that along with the misery of being sick, I would be subjected to such “cures." What remedies have been passed down in your family?
Picture: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret “An Accident” Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013