Recently, a reader sent in some very old home remedies, ranging from cocoa leaves, to heroin, to salves and poultices for aiding and curing ailments from days gone by. He commented to me just how unbelievable some of these remedies were, but back then the problems they "cured" were real, and in my mind, some of the old, "natural" cures were good, and did the job.
Some of these cures simply fell by the wayside as something better came along. Then again, some of them were just prohibited by the government. They worked, but we were told they weren’t good for us. We just didn’t need the government telling us what was good and what was bad ... get it?
Today, even the famed "Black Iodex Ointment" that worked so well for getting splinters out and healing open cuts and all manner of fungal infections is no longer made of the same ingredients. Just ask your pharmacist—he’ll tell you the government has prohibited some ingredients from being used any longer. You can still buy Black Iodex Ointment, but it just doesn’t work the same because it really ain’t what it used to be.
Somewhere in the recesses of my bathroom counter I always had a little jar of Iodex. Today, a tube of Hydrocortisone is the norm and the little jar is among the missing.
The future is here and it’s not all that good when it comes to common sense and home remedies. And so it was that Ned, my bud from the old days, had this comment:
“You missed one that I remember when I was a kid. My grandmother always had a bottle of Nervine and it was about 50 percent alcohol. If I stayed with them overnight and had a cold or cough, I got a dose. I'm not sure it did any good for my cold or cough, but it put me to sleep.”
Another bud, Pat Wallis, may not be nearly old enough to remember firsthand some of the old-time remedies, but he did recollect what his grandmother had: “Grandma Wallis had this glass tube in the bathroom that you put water into with a little bit of salt, and then put it up your nose. Ah yes, the old nasal douche. Believe it or not, that’s what it said right on the fragile cardboard box it came in. I used it when I had a bad sinus headache, which I did frequently as a kid. One day, she pulled it out of the medicine cabinet and just gave it to me. I suppose no one else would be using it. Anyway, I used it sporadically over the years and somewhere along the line it went missing in action.”
Ned’s grandfather always had a bottle of Sloan's Liniment on hand that he used for sore joints or muscles. Rub it on and it would just about set you on fire. They used it on horses, too. There was always someone who would travel around selling those things—they made their living that way.
His grandmother also had a Violet Ray Machine that someone conned her into buying. You plugged it into the electric socket and it flashed what looked like blue electricity in a glass tube. But I think it was a hoax, and I don't remember what it was supposed to be used for.
Most of the time Ned’s grandparents used kerosene lamps instead of electricity, and the wood stove was used for cooking and heating the bath water. The drinking water and bath water was brought in with buckets from the spring house.
They had an outhouse with the Sears Catalog. I fired my first shotgun at the side of the outhouse with my grandfather. One of my grandmother Addie’s favorite expressions when someone was a little off-center was, "He’s crazier than a [expletive] house rat!"
That was about the only bad word my grandma Holden would ever utter, and it was spot-on for someone who did a really dumb thing.
It was her remedies that made me well, that I endured without question, because it was my grandma, and she knew what was best for me when I was busted up, in pain, covered with poison ivy or had an embedded cedar splinter in my palm.
She taught me to sterilize a needle, probe out the splinter if I could, and if I didn’t get all of it, then the Iodex was packed on the injured area, and a band-aid put on for at least 24 hours. More often than not it was longer, and when the band-aid came off, there in the gauze was the remains of the splinter ... to me it was amazing.
Thus, as I grew up and on my own, there was a jar of Iodex in the drawer, along with the needle, straight pins, band-aids, gauze, rubbing alcohol, peroxide and witch hazel.
To this day, I rely on my own advice and treatment if possible. For the really bad mishaps, I’ll give in and take a trip to "Doc In A Box," AKA .
There was the time I was up on the tractor and not paying attention to the branch coming my way. When I reached out to move it quickly, my hand took a slash from the branch. But sooner or later the ointments are laid on, and along with time, the cuts and assorted mishaps heal.
Taking care of myself the old-fashioned way is just the way I was raised. In the back of my mind, there’s Addie Norris Holden telling me not to be afraid, stay calm and do the right thing.