A conversation about Home Remedies

By Ted Como

Cobwebs on a bad cut? Warm onion on an ear ache? A hot butter knife on boils? Some may take their aches and pains and run out the back door when approached with these home cures.
Renee Downey Hart open a floodgate earlier this summer on the Ogdensburg History Facebook page when she mentioned a chat with friends about home remedies of their youth. There followed more than 130 comments with all manner of cures for ailments such as ginger ale for an upset stomach from Julie Putman Johnson, or Cloverine Salve for cuts and scrapes from Kay Dana.
Carla Sears Murdock offered that “to this day, ginger ale makes my tummy better.” She remembered ginger ale with tomato soup for a an upset stomach and opportunity to “watch my mom’s soaps.” Margaret S. Cummings offered ginger flavored brandy for a continuous cough. Helen Lonegan said a teaspoon a day of cod liver oil will keep you healthy and Andrea MacDonald remembered that “we stood in line while my mother spoon-fed it to each of us with a small glass of orange juice to wash it down.”
Carla’s family recipe for a sore throat was salt water with vinegar and a dissolved aspirin. Kate Karshick said Save the Baby was a staple for everything; “the smell alone cured me.” And Marilyn Welt said her mother put a few drops of sugar on Save the Baby to make it palitable. “It was great for a bad cough. I had a small bottle for years and my kids called it Kill the Baby.”
Susan M. Kelly remembered her father “being unglued” when her grandmother treated her brother’s poison ivy with a mustard poltice. “It spread it over his entire body.” Phyllis Graveline Stallworth wrote that castor oil, Save the Baby, mercurochrome and Vicks vapor rub were all that was needed in her home and Elizabeth Ann Pearce remembered Ginger brandy with a little honey for a cough; Charlotte Crosby, mustard plaster for chest cold; Jane Montpetit, hot buttered rum for a bad cold with a fever and a cough; Victoria Belfy, salt pork to draw out an infection and lemon juice for a cough; and Maryalice Blake, salt in a cloth bag heated in a pan for an earache.
Elizabeth Anne Pearce said she was saved from scarring with “my mom dipping me into a snowbank to put out the fire after the gas oven blew up in my face and arms. Then she covered me in vaseline.” Mariana Messina-Hart said mercurochrome was used on skinned knees while Tami LeFevre remembers Castoria “curing everything, no matter what ails you” and blowing smoke in the ear for an earache. A warm onion on an earache worked for Lisa Mehaffy-Scano. “Aspirin on a toothache works too.”
“You could actually buy coke syrup, the concentrate, at the drug store or pharmacy” said Sandy Putney. “My Mom was a firm believer in this cure for an upset tummy. I always felt better after it made me puke. That is why, to this day, I cannot drink Coke soda. Too many bad memories.”
Lisa Widrick Ditta recalled a mixture of honey, butter and lemon juice for a sore throat. “My dad would put a red handkerchief around his neck to stop bad nose bleeds. His mom had always told him to this.” A paste made of meat tenderizer and water worked for bee stings said Trevor Ricci. Sherrie Spracklin said her grandmother’s remedy for chest congestion was a drop of coal oil on a spoon of sugar. “It worked.”
Other cures included Tanya Hazelton’s powdered alum for a canker sore and bread soaked in milk to remove a sliver, Sheila Brigmond’s dose of Scott’s Emulsion every so often, Janet M. F. Young’s ear wax candles, Jane Montpetit’s raw egg white on a burn, Phil Smithers’ goose grease rubbed on the chest, Mary Romeo’s vanilla on a burn, Michael Davis’ inside skin of an eggshell on an infected cut, Patrick McMillan’s scalded milk with black pepper for curing diarrhea and Jewel LaComb’s little clove poultice bags for a tooth ache.
Don Ashley said that at his house, there were few home remedies. “The two home remedies that come to mind are the kick in the butt from my father, and the hugs from my mother. They solved most childhood woes as I recall.”

  • Ted Como is a member of the board of the Fort La Presentation Association and may be reached at tedcomo@chartertn.net.
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