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Grandmother Wisdom

        “One grandmother is worth two M.D.s.” -Robert Mendelsohn, M.D.

Today I was stuck for a newsletter topic. I could have written about Tick Born Encephalitis but I figured everyone had had enough of bugs and brain swelling. I could have tapped an old newsletter but that did not feel right. What to do?

I read The Untethered Soul hoping and praying for inspiration, hoping that God (Universe, Creator, Divine Wisdom, Goddess of All) was listening to my pleas. Nope. Nothing that seemed ‘quite right’. Again, what to do?

So I did something that I rarely do in the middle of the day. I offered one more prayer to the Divine, surrendered again and then I meditated. Nothing was happening in this busy little head of mine and I was going to ‘empty’ what little there was in it?? Yep, I had nothing to lose. I was done asking for a drop-out-of-the-sky miraculous intervention and was prepared for silence.

Fifteen minutes later and I was none the wiser. My mind was quieter yes but no ideas falling from the sky as to what I might write. Silence. So what to do next? Why go mindless, of course and play Words with Friends, check FaceBook, revisit this morning’s cross word puzzle, check FaceBook, empty dishwasher and what the heck, check email one more time.

There it was…the newsletter. Prayers answered and gratitude offered. My mom, Gramma Betty to the grands and great-grands, had felt while I had been meditating, a deep urgency to write about a topic we have talked about several times. Wow…amazing what happens when you quit trying so hard and simply ‘empty’ yourself. I guess Divine Intervention gave my mom a poke and got her writing. So here you go…Grandmother Wisdom: Remedies from the Farm.

I am blessed to have a mom who writes and who remembers what her mother, my ‘Little Gramma’ and grandmother taught her. And now you can share in the wisdom too! Next week, I will give you the homeopathic equivalents of the home remedies mentioned today. You might be surprised!

Little Gramma Beryl and her husband Eli
Little Gramma Beryl and her husband Eli

Old Farm Remedies

Farm life and old-fashioned cures for acute illnesses were synonymous.  We had no drop-in clinics or acute care outpatient hospitals.  Access to information was handed down from generation to generation.  In fact we had doctors who appeared only once a month to see the seriously ill and those that needed tonsils removed. Mothers became skilled at using what was available in the medicine chest.

I have now entered into my 80’s and I marvel that some of the “old home remedies” are still good standbys when urgency /emergency calls.  I assume necessity was the mother of “intervention”.  Certainly these remedies became tried and true.

As I child I was prone to blood poisoning.  Barefoot all summer, I was forever cutting my feet on glass and old metal machinery.  Inevitably, if I didn’t keep the cut clean (and who could being barefoot) the cut would become infected.  My mother never thought it serious until red streaks would start to spread up my leg.  It was then time for the hot water and turpentine footbaths.  My foot was soaked worry was overevery three to four hours.  It was amazing to see the streak quickly subside and the worry was over.

Camphorated ointment for chest colds, and sinusitis was always on hand and a big thank you to the Watkins man.  It is a true testament for its usefulness as it is still in their stock and sold even today.

The other big item in the medicine chest was Carbolic Salve – also sold by Watkins and still is used by our family for rug burns, infected fingers and toes the need first aid, etc.  My boric acidgranddaughter, a soccer player treated her many rug/grass burns with it and you could always find it in her gym bag.

Mustard plasters were also common during our winters on the farm.  Mustard was mixed with flour into a paste and then spread on a flannel cloth.  This was placed on the chest until the skin became plenty pink.  Now whatever that mustard drew from the lungs was possibly questionable but it got us through many possibilities of pneumonia and bronchitis.

gym bagAlways convenient was good old dirt.  Just add water, make a mud pie/pack and place it on a bee sting.  Gone was the swelling and the stinging.

Every spring we were given a big dose of sulfur and molasses to cleanse our bodies.  I thank goodness that phased out before too long.  But we were assured this was necessary to get our sluggish winter bodies a fresh start…and perhaps it did.

Boracic Acid was used for pink eye or any eye infection.  It was also a mild cleanser for wounds to prevent infection from happening.

Then there were the ‘blue days’ when my mom would reach for Lydia Pinkham’s vegetable compound for women.

The original recipe for Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound is as follows:lydia

Unicorn Root (Aletris farinosa L.) 8 oz.

Life Root (Senecio aureus L.) 6 oz.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.) 6oz.

Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa L.) 6 oz.

Fenugreek Seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) 12 oz.

Alcohol (18%) to make 100 pints

This formula is believed to have been developed through reading King’s American Dispensatory. J. Burton, in his biography, of Lydia Pinkham, 1949, claims the addition of 8 oz. of False Unicorn (Chamaelirium luteum). I seem to remember that as recently as the 1960s it had Angelica and Cimicifuga, when it was indicated for menstrual cramps as well as menopause. I read an excellent biography of her sometime in the 1970s which documents a number of formula changes over the years [that biography might be “Female Complaints: Lydia Pinkham and the Business of Women’s Medicine,” by Sarah Stage, Norton, 1979, a great resource about Mrs. Pinkham and the patent medicine industry in the U.S.A.]. For more info visit here.

These items are still in my medicine chest and are my go-tos for minor injury and infections.  I have dropped the mustard plasters and the Sulphur and molasses. I don’t think my kids were ever put through that ordeal.  However, who knows maybe it would stand good today as well.

And the Lydia Pinkham? Some of the herbals are still used homeopathically. Can you guess which ones? What home remedies did your mom or Gramma use? Send us your comments. Let’s keep the oral tradition and Grandmother wisdom alive!

Yours in health and healing,

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