Do you remember all the home remedies our families concocted before the advent of penicillin, corticosteroids and all the other pharmaceuticals we depend on today?
I can remember one in particular that my stepgrandmother made for cuts and scrapes, even fairly deep wounds that today would have us running for the Neosporin or to the emergency room. Every year when the lilies were blooming, she would gather their petals and soak them in a jar of whiskey. Some might think it was a waste of good whiskey, but when the inevitable happened and one of us cut ourselves, she would clean up the cut, pull a few of the lily petals from the jar, put them on the cut, and wrap a bandage around the petals. Miraculously, those tipsy lily petals worked their magic to heal the cut.
I was reminded of home remedies when I received a mailer from Master Gardener Jerry Baker, of "Garden Weasel" fame, announcing his book, "Healing Fixers, Mixers & Elixirs."
I was intrigued by several of the health tonics advertised in the mailer. One item claims to "chase arthritis pain away with just 9 raisins a day." The recipe calls for one box of yellow raisins soaked in a pint of gin until the liquid is absorbed, and then nine of those raisins a day will "keep pain at bay." If you want to "put the brakes on high blood pressure," according to Baker's "Grandma Putt," you should put a pound of peeled garlic cloves in a quart of brandy for two weeks. "A mere 20 drops a day will keep your heart healthy and happy."
If I seem to be fascinated by these liquor-based remedies, I suspect it has something to do with my childhood, when my stepgrandmother put a few drops of whiskey in my milk when I was sick just to get me to drink it - best-tasting milk ever!
I talked with several friends who recounted other home remedies they remember. With drugs being costly or non-existent years ago, many people relied on home concoctions - that worked.
One friend said her mother gave her honey, tea and a bit of whiskey for a cough. For hemorrhoids, one old-timer relied on button weed (what is button weed?) cooked down and mixed with lard to make a salve. Another person told me about his mother putting tobacco leaves on an infected abscess. Ichthammol ointment - if you can find it - is still used to draw out infection and pus from sores when modern concoctions do not work.
Even in this pill-popping age, still another person swears that his respiratory and digestive tracts are better by drinking two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water before breakfast. Vinegar is often touted as a wonder cure for many things, just as aloe plant juice is very helpful for minor burns. I must get an aloe plant for my clumsiness.
And we should not forget to use a wet tea bag to stop minor bleeding.
While the advent of modern medicines has been a lifesaver in treating illness, I wonder how many of them are made with vinegar or lilies or whiskey!