It seems like there is a pill for almost every ailment these days. ‘Computerized pills’ as someone we know calls it. And yes, when the technology and means are available to produce specific targeted solutions, why not use them? But it gives one pause to consider what we did before the influx of modern knowledge and state of the art tools, made healing the mammoth arena it is today. How did man survive in days long gone?
Desperate need and innate understanding of nature plus adapting what was readily available played a big role in producing solutions before we could just hurry off to a drug store or pharmacy. Were they perfect and did they always work? Obviously not, but they did have some healing and preventative powers and did save some lives.
When you have only limited resources at hand you learn to improvise and if something worked the remedy was passed on and down, maybe altered or added to as the situation dictated. What was just a weed in some circumstances became a valuable tool in another. Take the lowly dandelion. The roots could be substituted for coffee. New tender leaves made a tasty salad. Or they could be made into a tea that was good to cleanse the liver, kidney, gall bladder and urinary tract.
Hawthorne berries were used to treat angina and irregular heart rhythm disturbances. Catmint made a relaxing tea for nerves and muscles. Chamomile was another healer. Crushed, heated plantain leaves were used to draw and heal abscesses and bites.
I have in my possession an old ledger dated 1885. It was the accounts book for a General Store owned and operated by a John Donaghy. The graceful, spidery handwriting lists the date of purchase, name of item, price, and the name of the person running the tab.
The information in these yellowed and crumbling pages is fascinating in its own right. Shoes: $1.75 a pair. 1 pound of tobacco: 45 cents. 1 pound of soda: 5 cents. 2 3/4 yards of tweed: $1.65.
But somewhere along the line the ledger was also used as a scrapbook. Many of the pages are pasted over with clippings from newspapers and magazines. These clippings contain recipes, household hints, advice on anything from the best starching methods for muslin, to making varnish, repairing leather, butchering, and the latest in sewing fashions. And they come from papers circulating in the early 1900 hundreds.
And of course there are many health suggestions and home remedies. Here are just a few.
If a child should swallow any dangerous substance, immediately slip down its throat the white of an egg which will form a curd around it and thus prevent serious effects.
At the first indication of diphtheria in the throat of a child, make the room close. Pour into a tin cup equal parts of tar and turpentine. Hold the cup over the fire so as to fill the room with fumes. On inhaling the fumes the patient will cough up and spit out all the membraneous matter and the diphtheria will pass off. The fumes of the tar and turpentine loosen the matter in the throat thus affording the relief the skill of a physician often fails to give. (!)
Treatment for pneumonia: take 6 -10 onions, chop fine and put in a spider over a hot fire with equal amounts of rye meal and vinegar enough to form a thick paste. Stir it thoroughly with the onions and simmer for five or ten minutes. Then put it in a cotton bag large enough to cover the lungs and apply to the patient as hot as it can be borne. When it cools apply another, continuing to reheat the poultices and in a few hours the patient will be out of danger. This simple remedy if used in time never fails to cure this too often fatal malady. Usually 3 or 4 applications will be sufficient, but continue always until the perspiration starts freely.
Mouldy bread can be used as a dressing for ulcers and dirty wounds. ( a precursor to penicillin). Burdock leaves crushed into a pulp, and linseed, and bread and milk are also good as a poultice.
A cure for falling hair: rub slices of lemon thoroughly into the roots and over scalp, then wash with warm soft water.
Uses for sassafras: the dried bark placed on a pantry shelf will drive away ants. The dried roots used for smoking meat gives it a nice flavour and makes it fly proof. (!)
Treatment for burns: 4 ounces of boracic acid ointment, 20 grams of Hydrochlorate of Cocaine. Mix the cocaine thoroughly with the ointment. Apply to a clean cloth and cover the burn. Cover with a clean bandage. The cocaine deadens the pain and makes an excellent ointment for burns. Dress every day. (!!)
And this is my favourite: Don’ts for thin women. Don’t walk to excess. A short walk will be beneficial but long walks are flesh reducing. Don’t stay up late at night. Get at least nine hours of good sleep. A woman needs more sleep than a man and nothing keeps her in good condition like lots of sleep. Don’t wear black. Black has the tendency to make anyone look slender. Light clothes are the most becoming. Don’t forget that a well rounded figure makes you look younger and is considered a mark of beauty. Starchy foods, massage, moderate exercise, rest and sleep should produce this.
Regardless of any day and age I came across one recipe that will provide good health to us all.
Recipe For A Happy Home
4 cups of love
2 cups of loyalty
3 cups of forgiveness
1 cup of friendship
5 spoons of hope
2 spoons of tenderness
4 quarts of faith
1 barrel of laughter
Take love and loyalty, mix thoroughly with faith. Blend with tenderness, kindness and understanding. Add friendship and hope, sprinkle abundantly with laughter. Bake it with sunshine. Serve daily with generous helpings.