Old Time Cures

Herbal Cures From The Shenandoah Valley

These cures are recorded in Shenandoah Voices by late Shenandoah Valley historian and author John Heatwole.  I knew John and much admired him.  He’s left a wealth of information behind in his books. For a sprained ankle take catnip, sprinkle salt on it and bind it to the ankle. ‘Mullin tea’ was also used for sprained ankles.  The leaves of the mullin plant were boiled in vinegar and water and the ankle was bathed in it while it was still warm.
Turpentine was also rubbed on a sprain.  You never covered it or it would burn.~Catnip tea was made for children with the colic.~
Queen Anne’s Lace made into a tea is said to relieve backache.~Sage and honey tea is a good brew to give to someone with pneumonia.
~Drinking tea made from aromatic sage is said to keep a woman’s hair from turning gray prematurely.~
Lobelia tea was used by Thomsonian herb doctor Gabe Heatwole as a purge.  Lobelia is an annual or perennial plant of the bellflower family.~Goldenseal and Comfort Root (*Pinelands Hibiscus or Cut-leaf Hibiscus) teas are good for an upset stomach.~If you have kidney problems, swamp root tea can be used for relief.~
Greasy mustard plaster was used on the sufferer’s chest for a deep cold.To avoid being burned by the mustard, this plaster was made with lard and spread on a cloth that could be laid on the sufferer’s chest without burning. ~

Another non-burning plaster was made with mustard, lard, and egg whites.~

A family in Singers Glen used a mustard and lard poultice for pneumonia.  When the patient’s chest started to turn red, it was removed. The patient was washed off thoroughly, and then a hot onion poultice was applied. ~

For a bad cold or pleurisy, they’d put lard on your chest with salt sprinkled on it of a night.~
A tea made of peppermint leaves will stop a stomachache.~Pennyroyal tea was used to break a fever, for upset stomach and to treat the common cold.  It is of the same family as mint and yields aromatic oil.
During the Civil War, some Valley soldiers chewed slippery elm bark when in battle or on the march. It was said to relieve thirst and hunger.~
Miss Gray Pifer of Mt. Crawford said that ‘horehound grew down near the creek. Momma made a horehound syrup with brown sugar for coughs.’
~In Page County a woman said that her grandfather smoked a corncob pipe, and if a child in the family had an earache, he’d blow smoke in the ear as a cure.  She also said for spider bite, you should cut a piece from a new potato and hold it against the bite. Eventually the potato will turn black as it absorbs the poison. ~

14 responses to “Old Time Cures

  1. Hi Beth, great collection of remedies. Some of them must have worked really well for our grandparents. An old aunt told me last winter when I coughed for too long, to boil flex seed and drink the concoction. It was horrible but it worked!!!


  2. Thanks Mona. I’ll have to remember that one.


  3. I bet if we took a closer look at the “scientific” names or the chemicals in those old remedies that we’d find some of the very same ingredients in modern medicines. Great post, Beth!


  4. Some of these old remedies really did work, although the catnip and salt probably worked because it was bound along with those ingredients.
    I saw a movie put out by a drug company showing how pharmaceuticals are made from ingredients used by tribes in Africa and South America.

    In 1967 when I was in Japan I cut myself about an hour by train from the ship I met a woman who put tobacco on the laceration and covered it with cloth to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. I let her do it just to be agreeable. It actually worked.



  5. As usual, your photos are gorgeous. I am thinking only the strong survived some of these remedies. Don’t you wonder how they came up with what to use in the first place? Amazing. I have a couple of books for my historicals and just shake my head at how inventive they were and how brave they were to take them.


  6. I always love reading your posts, Beth. Queen Ann’s lace, huh? I might try this just to see what it tastes like. Thanks for sharing.


  7. You always have such interesting posts, Beth. Thanks for sharing them with us.


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  10. You always have a few I’ve never heard of. Catnip for a sore ankle?
    Thank you for another interresting post.
    Love it.


  11. Caroline Clemmons

    I love these old cures. I wonder how many of them actually worked? I know some of them did. I was a sckly child and my mom tried anything she heard of to help me. Some of the treatments were awful, but I’m still here. LOL


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