Folk remedies sometimes worked

Virginia Richards (1914-1995)

(From June 13, 1985)

Somewhere I read that the average pharmacy stocks 3,000 prescription and non-prescription drugs. The pharmacy is an important part of our lives, and it garners a considerable part of our income.

Before we left Texas, I had the prescriptions refilled for the medications I take daily. The bill was $108, for a three-month supply. It is higher each time I have them refilled.

When I was a child, we were not so dependent upon the drug store. In spring, children were dosed with a horrible mixture of sulphur and molasses. To supply vitamins, cod liver oil was relied upon. The kind I had to take was dark and thick like molasses and smelled horribly of fish.

Once, after I had been dangerously ill with pneumonia, the doctor prescribed a tablespoonful of whiskey daily for me. Mother mixed it with water and sugar, but it still tasted awful. Too bad she didn’t know about gingerale and 7-Up.

It was considered good for the health to eat wild greens in the spring. My mother gathered slick docks, curly dock, lamb’s quarter and polk weed and cooked them with fat pork. She liked greens, but to me they were bitter and awful!

As our ancestors moved westward, they brought with them dozens of folk medicine prescriptions. Did someone jab a tack or nail into his hand or foot? To prevent blood poisoning, folks who lived in the pre-drugstore era might have made a poultice of plain old sauerkraut and wrapped it with a rag over the puncture.

In those days bandages in cans were not available. Rags had to suffice for bandages.

For bleeding gums, the cure was to find a red corn cob, burn it until it was black, and then rub or brush the carbon onto the gums with a rag or toothbrush. Your dentist can tell you why this remedy was effective.

To get rid of warts, the “treatment” took more than the application of store-bought ointment. The “cure” called for rubbing the warts with a dishrag and then burying the rag in the corner of a barn.

Skillet bark tea was reported to help relieve heart ailments. The treatment involved scraping the black corrosion off a big old iron skillet, wrapping the scrapings (bark) in a piece of muslin, boiling the bag in water for an hour. The patient then drank the tea

If you have difficulty taking this treatment to heart, please note its medical foundation. The skillet scrappings are actually creosote, one of the elements of cortisone.

To cure malaria, a prescription that originated in the Ozarks calls for drinking the tea made from the wahoo plant. The scientific name of this plant is euonymus atropurureus, and it has some medicinal properties. No wonder they used the simpler term.

In the case of a cold, a child’s chest might be rubbed with goose grease or bone marrow. And a bag of asofideta worn around the neck was supposed to ward off colds.

These remedies all sound weird, but they must have seemed to work at times, else they would not have become a part of the folklore.

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