Our ancestors seldom went to the doctor Baking soda and orange juice was a great cure
except for a serious matter. Large areas of the for heartburn. What a ﬁzzy little feeling this
countryside saw folks having to travel long would create in your mouth!
distances to get service. Therefore, families
relied a lot on home remedies to cure what Sugar or honey made some of these
ailed them. Like favourite recipes, these cures concoctions more palatable, especially when
were passed on from generation to generation. gargled with lemon and ginger. Honey was also
applied to treat skin infections and burns.
Besides the elixirs and potions sold as cure-alls
for everything from gout to pneumonia, Soups of all descriptions, especially chicken
Grandma’s home remedies were also regularly and consommé were associated with the sick
used. room. It was common practice to fumigate this
cloistered area by striking kitchen matches to
An article by Lee Abler called Country Cures emit a distinct sulphur smell.
tells of many such concoctions. Some of those
old-time, so-called cures seemed pleasant Then there was the rhubarb sauce! We all
enough while others were downright enjoy rhubarb baked in a pie, but Grandma had
frightening. another use of it - thinning one’s blood. The
ﬁrst spring batch of this tart plant was made
For many of our readers, this just might be a into a sauce and spread on toast. Puckering
walk down memory lane. Some might still be children were required to eat this until
using one or two of those remedies. Grandma had determined their blood had been
One pleasant cure involved cinnamon oil that
was to be rubbed on unwanted warts, no To ward oﬀ germs there was another spring
Compound W back then. Another favourite tonic made with the wild greens of dandelion,
was baking soda which had dozens of uses leek and purslane cooked with garlic, mustard,
from kitchen to bath. bacon grease and vinegar. It caused many
Grandma liked to tell tales of her own childhood and having to eat goose grease, drink
horseradish syrup and ingest copious amounts of castor oil. Back then kerosene applied
to one’s scalp was a handy treatment for head lice!
It seems children were led to believe that their maladies were worse than the so-called
cures they had to endure.
A sore throat apparently gave rise to one of the nastiest treatments. As soon as one
announced being so aﬄicted, Grandma would spring into action. She would smear a
gooey store-bought salve on an old stocking. The smelly sock remained wrapped around
your neck until you ceased to complain of the symptom.
Even worse than “The Sock!” was the infamous mustard plaster. It was reserved for the
croup. Pungent black mustard seed, ground into a powder, was mixed with ﬂour and
water into a gooey paste. The paste was wrapped in cloth and placed on the patient’s
chest for about 20 minutes (sometimes to the back for another 20 minutes) to relieve the
hacking cough associated with this malady. The original theory was that the heat caused
by the chemical reaction of the mustard would draw out the poison causing the aﬄiction.
My source reports that it smelled like hotdogs and sauerkraut that had been that have
been left out in the sun. It stung your skin and singed any chest hairs. “DON’T MOVE!”
“It’ll sting even worse!”
This menacing patch would dry and cool if left on overnight. Removing it was a painful
process, best done quickly while the patient held his breath. Discomfort of croup paled in
comparison. Children were often seen with large pink patches on the chest as a painful
Here are a couple of cures I just couldn’t “digest”. One frightening preparation involved
boiling cow dung in water and gargling the potion three times a day until your cough was
gone. Equally disgusting was
eating owl eggs to cure a hangover.
Hopefully, Mrs. Woodrow may
have been a proponent of the
former remedies, but of neither
Some of the more absurd
concoctions can be summed
up with the most ridiculous one
I read. To cure an earache, have
someone blow tobacco smoke
into your ear ﬁve times a day
and chant, “Hurt! Hurt! Go away
in to a bale of hay!”
As much as we do not miss any
of these cures from Grandma,
we sure do miss Grandma!