Home Remedies from Foxfire 1
I bought my copy back in '72 for $3.95, when it first came out. I listened to old time string band music back then and knew of bunch of hot fiddlers, banjo players, double bass, guitar--a great batch of muscians in a band called the Swamp Root String Band. They were a hoot. Anyway, they got me interested into things old time Appalacian. Foxfire was a natural.
Amazon has some of them, of course.
Along the way I acquired a bunch of the Foxfire books, but it seems only volume 1 and 2 remain with me. Damn. When I moved here I had to get rid of hundreds of books, boxes and boxes of (sob) my good friends. As much as I hated that, it had to be done. And it is a relief not to have to move dozens of boxes of books anymore. Now I use the library all the time.
Foxfire has a chapter on home remedies that I want to share with you. Try to keep an open mind about these things. These were not stupid people, not a bit. They could and did live strong, vital, active lives. They wouldn't have used these remedies if they were ineffective. So some of them are bound to be, and these are the ones I've mentioned here. Others of the remedies just make me hoot and holler, as I have a highly developed sense of the absurd. (My comments are in bold. I really enjoy these things. :) Still, that doesn't mean the thing wouldn't work--for all I know they might. I've only typed up a few of the remedies, buy the book. There's tons more great info and lore in these books than just the Home Remedies chapter.
I'll quote you the intro in full, and then cite a few of the remedies in each category. Might as well, we just got snowed in again with a mini-blizzard. Ain't much else to do and this is kind of fun. Enjoy.
The scarcity, until very recently, of medical facilities in the remoter rural areas of this country has been so well documented that it needs little repetition here. Nevertheless, despite the lack of facilities, peopole did get sick and often needed help. The fact that help wasn't there didn't eliminate the need.
And so, as with everthing else, there were forced to make do with what they had on hand. As Harriet Echols told us, "People, y'know, didn't have a chance of runnin' after doctors back in these mountain areas. They weren't close, and where I was raised, it was twelve miles by horseback to th' nearest doctor. They got a cut and it was too bad. They used th' turperntine and sugar or kerosene oil as an application to kill infection; and of course kerosene oil in those days was scarce because people had to use it for light, y'know. That's all th' lights we had except th' pine knots in th' fireplace."
The end result was a staggering body of lore, a portion of which is included here. Some of the remedies undoubtedly worked; some of them probably were useless; some of them--and for this reason we advise you to experiment with extreme care--were perhaps even fatal (taking large quantities of whiskey for snake bites, for example). "It was a chancy business," as Molly Green said of her remedies. "If it hit, it hit; and if it missed, it missed."
But the remedies themselves stand as a weighty testament to the ingenuity of an all but vanished race.
Drink a mixture of honey, vinegar, and moonshine.
Make a tea from either the seeds or leaves of alfalfa.
Drink powdered rhubarb dissolved in white whiskey.
A magnet draws it out of the body.
In one pint of gin, place several pieces of the heartwood of a pine tree. Leave them in the gin until they turn brown. Then take one teaspoonful of the mixture twice a day.
Suck salty water up your nose.
Smoke or sniff rabbit tobacco.
Swallow a handful of spicer webs rolled into a ball.
Keep a Chihuahua dog around the house. (Who knows?)
Gather leaves from ginseng, dry and powder them. Put the powder in a pan, place a hot coal on top of it, and inhale the smoke.
Place a spider web across the wound.
Apply a poultice of spirit turpentine and brown sugar to the wound.
Use a mixture of soot from the chimney and lard.
Use pine resin.
When the sap is up, take the green bark of the wild cherry and boil it to make tea.
Take the young leaves of the poke plant, parboil them, season, fry, and then eat several "messes."
Make sassafras tea, using the roots of the plant.
Make a mixture of red clay and water. Put splints on each side of the arm and plaster it up with the clay. When the clay dries, put the arm in a sling.
Boil chestnut leaves and place the resulting ooze on the burn.
Bind castor oil and egg whites around the wound with a clean cloth.
Linseed oil will draw the fire out.
If the person has never seen his father, he can draw the fire by blowing on the burn. (??)
Apply a mixture of camphor, mutton tallow, soot, pine tar, turpentine, and lard to the chest.
Make an onion poultice by roasting an onion, then wrappign it in spun-wool rags and beating it so that the onion juice soaks the rags well. Apply these rags to the chest.
Render the fat of a polecat. Eat two or three spoonfuls. This brings up the phlegm. (Skunk oil again, methinks.)
Eat raw honey.
Wear a flannel shirt with turpentine and lard on it all winter. (And make lots of friends :)
Make a tea from the leaves of boneset. Drink the tea when it has cooled. It will make you sick if taken hot. Leaves of this plant may also be cured out and saved for use during the winter months.
Make a tea from powdered ginger, or ground up ginger roots. Do not boil the tea, but add the powdered root to a cup of hot water and drink.
Boil pine needles to make a strong tea.
Parch red pepper in frount of the fire. Powder it, cook it in a tea, and add pure white corn liquor.
Drink whiskey and honey mixed.
Drink red pepper tea.
Tie an asafetida bag round a baby's neck for six months to keep away six months' colic.
Drink sampson's snake root tea.
Boil two or three roots of ginsend in a pint of water, then strain and drink.
Put some ground ginger from the store in a saucer and add a little sugar. Put it on the tongue just before bedtime. It burns the throat and most of the time will stop coughs.
Dissolve four sticks of horehound candy in a pint of whiskey and take a couple of spoonfuls a day. This is also good for TB.
Boil one cup of wild cherry bark in a pint of water. Add some syrup and cook until it gets thick.
Squeeze the juice out of a roasted onion and drink.
For a baby, pour a mixture of turpentine and white whiskey into a saucer and set it afire. Hold the baby over the smoke until he breathes it deeply. This loosens him up.
Put some groundhog oil on some hot flannel rags and place the rags on the child's chest.
Take a tea of red oak bark.
Drink some blackberry juice.
Tie a bag containing the sufferer's nail paring to a live eel. It will carry the fever away. (This has got to be my favorite of the zanier suggestions!)
Boil two roots of wild ginger in a cup of water, strain, and drink.
Gather some boneset, put the leaves in a sack and put it in the sun to dry. Make sure it has air or it will mole. Then cook the leaves in some water, strain and drink.
Chew rabbit tobacco.
Boil catnip leaves to make a tea, and give the child about a quarter cup. Use one cup of leaves to make him sleep.
Bind wilted beet leaves on the forehead.
Tie a flour sack around your head. :)
Pour hot water over mustard leaves to rouse their odor and strength. Bind these leaves in a poultice to head with a cheesecloth strip.
When you get your haircut, gather up all the clippings. Bury them under a rock and you will never have a headache. Old-timers would never allow their hair to be burned or thrown away as it was too valuable.
Eat ramps and garlic. You can eat them cooked or raw.
Take a teaspoon of peanut butter.
Whoops. Gotta go do some chores, feeding cats and ducks and getting snow off my car. Stay tuned for part two.