Saturday, August 27, 2011

Forgotten Skills or Wives Tales 5 ?

The skills of our grandmothers didn't stop at the kitchen garden or household. They were also responsible for the medical care of the family and animals. As the dog days of summer end I think of the things my mother did to keep us healthy and feel they should be included. 

Dog Days are the hottest, most sultry days of summer in late July and August.  We are definitely there although the heat is no longer in the 100 degree range here but everything is still, almost stagnant. With almost 6 inches of rain this month the mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks are terrible.

This is when as kids mama always started feeding us those little yellow lemon flavored cream of tartar and sulfur wafers. It was to prevent what she called Indian Fire. Indian Fire is actually a skin condition called Impetigo. As kids we would get mosquito and chigger bites and then scratch them. Running around all summer playing the germs would get in those bites and once one kid got it everybody did because it is highly contagious. These little yellow wafers were great. I wish I could still find them for my grandchildren. Of course they worked and were cheap so naturally they are no longer available. 

This is what Wikipedia had to say about Impetigo!
Impetigo is caused by streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Methicillin-resistant staph aureus is becoming a common cause.The skin normally has many types of bacteria on it, but intact skin is an effective barrier that keeps bacteria from entering and growing in the body. When there is a break in the skin, bacteria can enter the body and grow there, causing inflammation and infection. Breaks in the skin may occur with:
Animal bites
Human bites
Injury or trauma to the skin
Insect bites
Impetigo may also occur on skin where there is no visible break.

Anyone other than me remember those little yellow tablets? They worked great on the dogs for flea bites too and were great for acne!

Poison Ivy

If you live on the farm sooner or later you are going to run across poison ivy or poison oak. If we played in the woods and mama thought we might have been exposed to it we were given a bath with a little bleach added to the warm water. After we got out of the tub we were dried off and rubbed down with rubbing alcohol on a wash cloth. Between the two I don't ever remember getting a bad case of poison ivy.

What do you do for poison ivy?


I am going to share with you my mother's secret face mask! It's rare, mysterious and exotic. It leaves your face feeling soft and smooth. If you have acne it dries it up. It is oh so expensive.

Rub it on then let it dry for half an hour then wash it off. Do this twice a week and see if your skin  doesn't improve.......

Try it !!

Splinters, Cuts, Sores and Infections

My mama thought she could cure the world with vinegar. She used it for everything from cleaning the house to treating open wounds and sores. If we had a splinter or open cut that even looked red she would make a dishpan full of hot water add 1 cup of vinegar and salt. We would soak the wound in that. If it was a splinter you could literally sit and watch it draw out not only the splinter but also the infection. Boy did it burn for that first few seconds though : )

Anyone remember Merthiolate?

Boy would that stuff wake you up when painted on a wound !


Had the sniffles or a cough coming on. Mama reached for that little blue jar. Bet yours did too!

I bet my mother went through hundreds of bottles of that stuff in her lifetime.

Now my grandma had a whole different approach on this cold thing. Her secret ingredient.

She started with a pint jar about 2/3 full of whiskey. Then she added a hand full of peppermints and let the whiskey melt them. Then she filled the rest of the jar with honey. She kept this in the fridge at all times.  After all yo never know when a cough might come on. Oh my I assure you you might have been sick but you slept well and you were really happy sick or not !

According to grandma they used to prescribe whiskey for everything. Tooth ache, labor pains, they even gave some to a new born lamb or calf on a cold night.

I'm hearing those banjos again ...............

Okay guys I am throwing this one back at ya! Let's hear those wives tales and cures of grandma's.

What was the strangest cure that you remember as a kid.

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Return To Verde Farm


  1. Yes I do remember merthiolate! Burned like the dickens but it kept infection out. You forgot soda water for fever blisters and upset tummies!

    And a couple of those I've never heard of like the wafers and M&M as an acne cure!

    Personally, I think we are better off avoiding doctors for things like this.

  2. This is a family joke here. If anything was wrong from an engrown toenail to a toothache, the first question was, have you been to the bathroom and if that was a yes, then we put alcohol on it. It was really not that extreme but Granny was a midwife and believe it or not, if your bowels were working good, alcohol solved almost every thing else.

    For a severe case of poison oak, which I had when I was pregnant with our first, a paste of sweet cream and baking soda...don't use Borden's Condensed mistake. It's a gritty and sticky cure but it sure cleared mine up. I was breast feeding and my daugher did not get poison oak for almost thirty years!

    Also, when I had a severe case of tonsilitus, or so the doctors thought...nothing would cure it. I had a new tooth coming in, and sores all in my mouth (I know, disgusting!) Dad gave up on the doctors...I got about a quarter cup of Wild Turkey every four hours. First one was horrible, second, not so bad, third time, I was waking up to drink it. After two days in a stupor, I woke healed. All that alcohol killed what ever it was...and I never took to drinking, either.

  3. Gail I had to laugh at the bowel thing! My mother in law was the same way. My brother in law was terminally ill and bedridden and she kept slipping him prune juice to move his bowels in the hospital. The nurses were about ready to kill her but she was 90 so what could you say? Then when he did pass away there was a no resuscitation order so they let him pass. She was sitting at his bedside and crawled on the bed and slapped him and threatened him not to die. She hit him so hard she resuscitated him : )

  4. I forgot the Vicks! I still use it to this day when my nose is stuffed. Just a small smell on your upper lip, keeping the breathing easy.

    AS children if we really had bad congestion, we were fed baked onions, which I still love. In the worst cases, Mom would boil Vicks and Ben Gay in a pot, make us breath the steam with a towel over our head. Got that congestion moving out!

  5. I remember the methoilate, my grandmother held me down & swabbed my throat with when I was about 5-6. I fought like the devil, but I never had another sore throat for 40 yrs. Mothers go to was coal oil. I cut my foot really bad on a broken jar, mother opened up a lamp & poured coaloil on it,wrapped it & told me to go play.

  6. Some of those cures were hilarious :o) but it seems they worked..:o) My cure for my kids was "Father Johns Cod liver Oil" once I started giving them a dose a night ..there were no more colds in my house.

  7. Brings back memories of my childhood for sure. We used the vinegar soak many times,mother would soak strips of brown paper bag in a bowl of warm vinegar and then wrap what ever ailed us with those strips. I must admit it worked ! Vicks was a staple in the medicine cabinet as was merthiolate. We were given whiskey mixed with honey and lemon juice for coughs.
    I still rely on some of these old remedies and my kids who are all grown now kid me about hearing the sound of those banjos !!!!!! HAHA !!

  8. My husband remembers Merthiolate and he also remembers mercurochrome, they called it Daddy medicine because it burnt like crazy and their daddy was the only one "tough" enough to use it. When ever they skinned their knees or cut themselves they would come crying to their mom and she would threaten them with the daddy medicine if they wouldn't quite down and quit their howling so she could patch them up!!

    I remember Sweet Oil, when ever we got the ear ache mom would take a teaspoon pour some sweet oil in it and then hold the teaspoon on the coil burners of the stove till it was hot, then she would lay us down on the ear that didn't hurt and using a qtip she would soak up that warm sweet oil with the qtip and drip drops of it in our sore ear, then she would put a piece of cotton in our ear and then we had to lay there with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel on that sore ear filled with the sweet oil. By the time you were sick enough to ask for the sweet oil treatment you were pretty sick and I always remember being so sick that I would fall asleep and once I woke up I felt alot better. So much so that I am 34 yrs old, my husband and I have been together for 15 yrs and one winter early on I think we had only been together a yr or so then I was so sick I begged him to drive me home to my mom so she could fix my ear. He would have been happy to take me to the dr but I wouldn't go, never went as a child didn't see the reason to go now, just take me to moms and she will fix this. Sure enough I got to moms she filled my ear with sweet oil, packed it with cotton, put a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel on my ear and I feel asleep, I was so sick, I woke up a few hours later and felt SO MUCH BETTER!! He teased me a little about having to go home to Mommy but I didn't care I felt better.

    Mom said when she was little and got the earache they would take her to her grandfather and he would blow pipe smoke in her ear and that always cured it.

    I remember before neosporin we used BagsBalm on all cuts and scrapes, it works, I still keep a can on hand!!

  9. Of course they worked and were cheap so naturally they are no longer available.
    Exactly. So annoying.
    I need to remember this post for the next time I get into poison ivy. I've taken dozens of pictures of all the poison ivy on the farm. It's ate up with it. Ugh.
    I remember both Ms, haha. And my grandmother always put Vicks on my chest when I was congested.
    None of the men in my family will use it. Their loss, haha.

    You all have a great week!

  10. yes I remember all of those! And my best friend had impetigo when we were little-it was bad!!!

  11. For cuts it was Mercurochrome and for cold a little whiskey warmed up.

  12. This is great. My grandmother would soak wounds in a pan of warm water with lysol in it. It actually didn't hurt like you might think. It did seem to work.

  13. My mom, a devout baptist would give me a shot of blackberry brandy when ever I had diarrhea. We also always had a babyfood jar full of Carrot Salve in our refrigerator, made by my German grandmother. LOVE this post.


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