Nonetheless, I came down with two nasty cold/viruses during the flu season of 2009-2010 and needed medical care for a horrific cough and ear infection that had me deaf in one ear. Scary! Some of the doctor’s advice was no-brainer: rest, liquids, and salt water nasal spray. Therefore, Dr. Quinn fanatic that I am, I wondered how folks fared during cold season in days of yore.
Some remedies from our homesteadin’ ancestors still prevail: Breathing steam. Cooking up a pot of savory chicken soup, and mixing up Hot Toddies. (not necessarily together LOL). However, the old “feed a cold starve a fever” has definitely lost favor. Light exercise, fresh air, and good nourishment have proved to be essential to a quick return to health.
Peeking through stuff for this post, I found a number of homemade cough remedies:
** 2-3 drops of kerosene on a teaspoon of sugar.
** Equal parts of oil of peppermint, friars balsam and tincture of red lavender. Also served drop by drop on a teaspoon of sugar.
** Syrup made from wild cherry bark, mullein leaf, slippery Elm powder, coltsfoot leaf, lobelia leaf, pleurisy root, elecampane root, and licorice root.
** Syrup made from honey, lemon and glycerin.
For sore throats, homesteaders and city dwellers like usually dosed with teas made from sassafras or black currants, and the always popular and effective lemon and honey. A gargle of sage and alum mixed in a glass of water supposedly helped as well.
Cold and canker sores could be eased with tea made from the berries of wild rose bushes, or a daub of potash.
The concoction of one clove of garlic mixed in a cup of warm milk was said to lessen the duration of the cold. Interestingly, today’s doctors know that an active compound in garlic, allicin, is an expectorant.
Another everyday kitchen ingredient, the onion, served importantly as well. The housewife would slice an onion and put in the sickroom. Supposedly the contamination was drawn into the onion so no one else got sick.
Furthermore, a few drops of onion juice into an infected ear was said to clear up the miserable condition in just two or three applications! (OK, not even on my worst ear day would I have tried this.)
In 1918, the following flu ointment was developed by druggist, J.D. Higgenbotham during the flu epidemic of 1918.
2 large jars white Vaseline
2 oz. turpentine
1/4 oz. menthol crystals
2 cakes of camphor gum
1/3 oz. oil of peppermint
1/4 oz. eucalyptus
1/4 oz. oil of wintergreen
The ingredients were melted and mixed well over low heat and store in covered jars.
However, when all’s said and done, the most formidable routine therapy was the mustard plaster. I’d come across it once or twice in the books I read as a child, and the word “plaster” freaked me out.
This was apparently a very powerful treatment: To prepare, dry mustard, flour, and lukewarm water were made into a paste. The plaster was then spread on a piece of muslin big enough to cover the chest, then covered with another piece of muslin over the top, placed on the chest with tape. The chest needed to be checked in a few minutes for signs of allergic reaction or blistering. The plaster was removed after about a half hour.
One old wive’s tale suggests using the white of an egg instead of water to prevent the blistering of the skin, and that’s shown on the “recipe” above.
While I’m sure many of the above herbal treatments are still affective today, Sunday’s Parade magazine had a list of old-time cold remedies not recommended to try at home LOL. I think I’d rather cough, sneeze, and burn up than Eat snakeskin, Stuff garlic gloves up my nose, or Rub my feet with tallow and turpentine and Hold them against a wood stove. Yikes!
Stay healthy out there!