When one looks at all the things that doctors and hospitals can do today to keep us well, it makes me wonder how some of us have survived so long before the days of "modern medicine." But then, we did have quite a few home remedies to keep us well. It’s a good thing we did, because the nearest doctor was miles away and the nearest hospital was another hundred miles down the road.
During the winter months, most of us kids had the "croup". We coughed a lot, especially at night after we went to bed. I’d wake myself up coughing, and Grandma would come padding down the hall with some homemade cough medicine. She made up a batch each fall. I never knew what all was in it, but it tasted a lot like molasses. I think she also put in some powdered sulfur, a bit of quinine, a pinch of salt and some vinegar. It tasted awful, but it did stop the cough long enough for me to get back to sleep.
Next morning, if I was still coughing, she would cut a strip of woolen flannel from a bolt she kept around the house. She would coat it good with mentholatum and wind it around my neck and pin it with a safety pin. I'd have to wear that until my coughing stopped. Each morning she would smear some more mentholatum on the flannel strip. After several days I smelled like a mentholatum factory.
As most kids do, I sometimes had a tummyache. As I got older I learned not to say too much about it because I'd get a good strong dose of castor oil. That was the "pits". Sometimes if she had an orange, she would squeeze one and mix the juice with the castor oil. That helped --- but not much. It sure was hard to get down, but it worked --- sometimes too soon.
Often at night, I'd wake up with a terrible earache. Again, Grandma came to the rescue. She would wake poor old Grandpa up and tell him to light up his corncob pipe. When he got it going good, he would sit beside my bed and blow smoke in my ear. You know, it worked, too. I can still remember that warm smoke, and it sure felt good going in my aching ear. Finally, I'd drop off to sleep again.
Then there was another home remedy that still works at our house. It's for hiccups. When I'd get them real bad and couldn't stop, Grandma would cut a lemon in half --- if she had one --- and have me suck on that for awhile. If she didn't have a lemon, she would give me a teaspoonful of vinegar. That most always stopped my hiccups.
At sometime or another during the school year, there was an outbreak of pinkeye. Apparently it was pretty contagious, because nearly all the kids would get it. My eyes would be red and itchy and the more I rubbed them, the worse it got. The only cure seemed to be confinement in a dark room for about three days. That meant the shades were drawn and the door was shut and I was confined to my dark bedroom. I had no company, nothing to read and nothing to do. But Grandma would bring my meals up to me. That was the best part. After three or four days, the pinkeye would clear up and I'd be turned out to pasture again. Did you ever see a young colt turned out to pasture after a spell of being shut in barn? That was me.
Grandma had home remedies for grownups, too. Each morning as soon as she got the fire going in the cook stove she put on the copper hot water kettle. As soon as it was boiling, she poured herself a steaming cup of hot water. As she got breakfast ready she sipped the hot water until it was all gone. Then she was ready for the day. Sometimes she would make me a cup of "pearl tea". To a cup of hot water, she added a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of thick cream and stirred it up. That was the best home remedy that I can remember. Not only did it taste good, it got my motor warmed up real fast.
Home remedies may not have been all that scientific, but they were the best we had. And after all, some of us not only survived, but thrived on them.