Remedies to Forget

Patricia Woolsey WANTS a remedy for the 1870s

It’s hard to change an empire when you’re stuck in the house. The Daughters of Two Pan marched in front of the whore house and saloon, but we scattered like twit sparrows when that hussy with the jutting big bosom shot at us.  We haven’t been back since.

A colorful colorectal cure

My two little ones came down with the grippe*.  I sliced up a huge bowl of white onions and a few wrinkled radishes, just like my grandma used to do.  Covered it with oil and forced the boys to eat it. Then they washed it down with a hot tea mixed with honey and schnapps.

From the way they sulked and hollered, you’d think the cure was killing them.  Silly boys.

Then I wallpapered their chests with a mustard plaster and put them to bed. The whole shebang made sweat ooze from their pores like they were being roasted alive. (Although, Henry, my husband, said it was the schnapps tea that made them mercifully delirious.)

Perhaps, he’s right. I startled awake from my beside vigil and Elias, the six-year-old, was absent.  Henry found him headed down the road—sound asleep. I attached a string from his toe to my arm so I’d  know if he tried to fly the coop again. I’m literally tied to the bedside, pouring water into sweating boys, instead of running harlots out of town and bringing a school teacher to this valley.

Henry says the west has its own culture. “Don’t hurry change.”

Bull Hockey!!! Even though Henry has a touch of frostbite from busting ice off animals’ water troughs and caulking cow’s ears,  he’s talked himself into loving Oregon. There’s not a doctor for 18 miles, and for that, I’m making him take off the mustard plasters attached to the boys’ chests.

Let me tell you, it’s hard to change an empire with kids hollering that it feels like a layer of their skin is being ripped off.

These remedies are journal memories of the 1800s and not recommended for use (even if you like onion, radishes and schnapps)

Angry Upset Scream Screaming Smiley Smilie Smileys Smilies Emoticon Emoticons Animated Animation Animations Gif           (*grippe=influenza, sweating sickness, Spanish fever)

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About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in A Laugh, Humor, Pioneer Friday in Two Pan, Satire and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Remedies to Forget

  1. ansuyo says:

    My husband lived through the enema cure mentioned above. My parents plopped me on the couch with comic books and tv, letting it work it’s way out. I don’t think I want this woman any where near me when I’m sick 🙂 Angie

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  2. El Guapo says:

    I remember being told in college that alcohol kills germs. Not sure if I interpreted that correctly, but whenever someone chided me for the amount I drank, I just extolled its health virtues.

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  3. Red says:

    At our house agave cured everything. If it could survive tequila, it deserved to kill you. Pun intended. It was always the sissy version (with salt and lemon), but a warm tequila does the trick. (But mescale tastes so much better. Chewing the worm was better than the lemon shot.)

    Red.

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  4. Nisha says:

    My mum gave used to give us a shot of whiskey mixed with hot water when we had the flu. But my personal favourite is ginger brandy. It works wonders. I’m sure Schnapps works just as well though.
    He he 😉
    Somebody above mentioned Onion tea??!!! What on earth…?

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  5. Orice Klaas says:

    It’s almost scary to admit, but when I feel myself coming down with a cold, I use a similar remedy called the “Wet Sock Treatment” to induce sweating.

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  6. I have never heard the term ‘grippe’ used before, but like usual you inform while entertaining us with your tales. Another nice piece.

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  7. Rose L says:

    My grandma, who I swear was always over 80, had one main idea of a cure-all—-enema’s. You had a sore throat, she say, “give ’em an enema.” cough=enema. Headache=enema. Upset tummy=enema. Sneeze=enema.
    I felt sorry for my dad.

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  8. Beth says:

    As usual, I learn so much from this blog. I now what not to do for so many situations. Thanks Barb.

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  9. JustI says:

    What a hoot! By the time I was born (in the 50’s) Vicks VapoRub was already on the market. Goodbye mustard plasters! My mother used VVR for everything. If we had a cold, my mother put an old coffee can on the stove and boiled water in it with a huge dollop of the VVR, then she would take the can off the stove and put it in a brown paper bag and make you stick your head in the bag until your nose was running and eyes were watering. Not to mention slathering our chests with the stuff.
    I’ve been treated to Digipic’s whiskey, lemon juice, and honey remedy as well, but in a shot glass. I have a feeling that I’d be in a coma if I had to tolerate a King Kong Toddy!

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    • Barb says:

      Aaaahhhh Vicks. I couldn’t write about because I’m trying to stay in 1870…but I love a chest full of Vicks. Nothing says: “I’m sick. Leave me alone,” like the nose-tweaking bouquet of Vicks.

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  10. Barb says:

    So…If we opened a Cough & Cold Bar (kinda like a Jamba Juice for the ill). Our menu would list:
    (See ingredients in comments below)
    Onion Tea
    King Kong Toddies
    Cod Liver Oil shots
    Brand-ades (brandy and lemonade)
    Onion/Radish/oil Stew, served with a side of mustard plaster.

    Just visiting this bar would either kill ya or cure ya.

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  11. That was funny, I laughed so hard when I read the line about the onions; my husband swears that a concoction of white onions with a couple spoons of sugar, is the best remedy for a cold. He runs to make this remedy, as taught by his mother, anytime he feels a cold coming on. Too funny!

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    • Barb says:

      Does he feed this concoction to you when you’re ill? Onions are also supposed to act as a preventative, so let us know if he gets sick less often than you this cold and flu season.
      I was shocked when research showed the herbal healing properties of onion (as Roxie points out below). I’ll take mine in lasagna. Thank you.

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  12. dan says:

    Even as late as 1960 Doctors were prescribing mustard plasters. Home remedies work extremely well for me. I have become so healthy I can suffer a hangover and not feel much worse than I do at this very minute.

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  13. I suspect the phrase ‘if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger’ started with home cures like this. And scarily, lots of the older medicinal cures are sneaking back into fashion. I read somewhere that doctors are again using leeches on patients. I would be out of that surgery like a shot swearing that I was better.

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    • digipicsphotography says:

      Yes, leeches are used, especially with a severed limb that has been re-attached. The leeches actually inject a numbing agent and as they suck the blood they force the area to increase blood flow to the re=attached limb. Thus they increase the speed of the healing process.

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      • Barb says:

        I know God made leeches for a purpose, but they’re creepy. I still remember the panic from wading in a back country mountain lake and coming out with a leech attached. i tried to tear off my leg like it was a snake. And as Digispics points out, their non-clotting spittal allowed the site to trickle blood for while. Now I let someone go into a lake before i do.

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  14. Elyse says:

    Barb, I am SO glad you added the disclaimer. I was so tempted to make that white onion/radish/oil stew for dinner. And then I could have sued you! But alas, I am forewarned.

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    • Barb says:

      Well, considering the elite intellectual level of my readers, the disclaimer surely wasn’t necessary, but what if this were reblogged on some hootenanny and holler site? Some of their back country moonshine and roadkill remedies could take a wrong turn by adding radishes and mustard.

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  15. Margie says:

    Old time solutions! One time my toddler and husband were both taking a nap on a blanket under the tree in the back yard. I had to go into town, so I carefully tied one end of a string to the kids ankle, and the other end to the husbands ankle. I knew that neither one of them would get too far without alerting the other!

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  16. souldipper says:

    The mustard plasters were remedies still used in my youth, but I never experienced one. Too damned busy scouting the countryside to be sick. The onion/radish concoction must have removed everything from the poor lads’ innerds! Did they still have voices?? Bet they loved cod liver oil after that experience. 😀

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    • Barb says:

      I talked to a lady who was trained as a nurse in the 50s. One of the first lessons in her education was how to properly apply a mustard plaster. Done improperly, it’ll blister the skin as though it’s been burnt.

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  17. Jenny says:

    Here’s another couple old remedies. For a fever, pile on the blankets until sweating ‘breaks’ the fever. Lemon juice dropped onto a teaspoonful of sugar till it bulges and then take it like medicine to cut the phlegm of a sore throat and still the cough. My personal favorite, brandy and hot lemonade.

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    • Barb says:

      Till it bulges? You mean it grows like The Blob from the spoon? We’ll add your brandy and lemonade to the Cough and Cold Bar menu: Brand-ade: For where it hurts.

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  18. Spectra says:

    They probably wouldn’t have passed these remedies along if they hadn’t had some positive results. I was just reading that during prohibition, sales of alcohol were banned, with exception given to use in religious ceremonies (you know, like if you need to drink Jesus’s blood or something) and medicinal purposes. I suspect many a hot scnapps tea passed for a prescription to cure cramps, headaches, colds, body aches, insomnia, sinus troubles, irritable bowel and even hiccups. All diseases any one could have faked by 7 pm on any given Saturday night 😀

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  19. Great descriptions of tough times in Oregon. Is this from your book? I liked it.

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    • Barb says:

      Thanks Myra. This is new material born from the suspicion of change. Fridays looks at change in the past. Mondays examines change in the present. That way I always have something to wrinkle my nose at.

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  20. Roxie Matthews says:

    Onions (and garlic) contain antiviral and anti-bacterial agents and are actually useful to fight flu and colds. And viruses live in a very small temperature range, so raising the body temperature to fever heat can kill a lot of the germs. The old remedies worked pretty well if you had nothing else. Cod-liver oil probably prevented more illness than we know. But there’s a great deal to be said for modern medicine!

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    • Barb says:

      Oh….so that’s why a good sweat worked so well. Leave it to you Roxie to suggest cod liver oil. Have you ever choked down any of that stuff? According to my fancy-pants resoucres (Wikipedia), it was given for rickets, but we’ll add that to the drink list at the Cough & Cold Bar: Take-out available.

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  21. Those old remedies seem so outlandish when we consider our ability to get whatever we need at the corner drugstore. But those old remedies were often based on some of the same ingredients in today’s medicines, and often worked pretty darned well. My grandmother used to concoct some godawful “medicines” for me when I was a kid. But whattaya know? I’m still here.

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  22. My dad loved…absolutely loved…grabbing the orange mercurochrome and painting any cut or scratch for all the world to see. And, no we couldn’t cover it with a band-aid because the wound had to breathe.

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    • Barb says:

      I forgot about that stuff. I always wondered why it was orange. I googled it just now and found it’s not readily available in the U.S. anymore due to its low level mercury content. (Thanks for painting us with mercury, Mom and Dad). But good news, we can order it from other countries. Too bad those pioneers didn’t have the internet.

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  23. Did the boys survive? Seems to me that’s the final test of the remedy. Probably grew up to become regular patrons of the ladies of ill repute.

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  24. Okay Barb, when you write this stuff, do you do it in costume? You know, to get in the mood of the piece? How much research do you do? Or, do you have multiple personality disorder, which would answer a lot of my concerns. Scratching my head (do you have an elixir for that too?), Margie

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  25. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    Some of the “remedies” they had back then was unreal, it makes you wonder how some of them started, and carried on down the line, surely there would of been only a minority of them that actually worked. You really have to feel sorry for the kids.

    Like

  26. digipicsphotography says:

    When I got a bad cold as a kid my dad would fix me a hot toddy…a shot of whiskey, a tablespoon of lemon juice, sugar or honey and hot water all in a glass that seemed fit for King Kong. And I had to drink it down. It was nasty! But it did the trick.

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    • Christie Coykendall says:

      I still use ‘Onion Tea’ for a cough. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil with two yellow onions (I like organic ones) cut in chunks. Add a handful of Fenugreek seeds, two teaspoons of Thyme, a tablespoon or so of fresh grated ginger (I keep a ginger root in the freezer) and even some good quality catnip. Allow the mixture to steep at low heat for 20 minutes. Strain and drink with LOTS of honey. When I make a batch I keep it in the ‘frig and heat up one cup at a time. This will clear up your mucus and stop coughs for hours. It works!

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      • Barb says:

        I had to google fenugreek to see what kind of animal/tree/vegetable the seeds grew into. I’m guessing the solution tastes pretty musty or why do you need a gallon and a half of honey to wash it down? If this works, I’m coming over to your place and pronounce you Onion Queen. Thanks for stopping by with a home remedy.

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    • Barb says:

      Digipicsphotography, This sounds like a stomach churner. We’ll add your King Kong Toddies to the Cough & Cold Bar menu. (Did it cure you from enjoying whiskey later in life?)

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      • digipicsphotography says:

        Not much of a whiskey drinker, or any other alcoholic beverage. Could be that the toddies had something to do with that, LOL.

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        • Barb says:

          I’m guessing it knocked you out, so you didn’t care that your nose was plugged with a slug of goo. Proof that toddies make mouth breathers out of us.

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    • Beth says:

      My parents did the same. And they gave us codeine cough syrup. It cured us at the time, and we are still here after many, many years.

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