while browsing through a stack of books at a garage sale, I found
a modern day medical encyclopedia. Priced at $1, the book was a bargain,
so I took it home to read.
I was amazed at the number of diseases and maladies listed I had never
heard of before.
I was equally amazed at the remedies and cures offered and thought
how useful the information would have been during my childhood. Everyone
was poor, had little money for medicines or doctors and used home
remedies on all but serious illnesses.
headache, lie down with a cold washrag on your forehead. For binding
intestinal problems, mineral oil or castor oil usually provided relief.
For internal problems of the opposite nature, take a few spoons full
of flour paste.
For croup, coughs, or pneumonia you were treated with Vicks, Mentholatum
or camphor. If the problems persisted, add a dash of coal oil to the
cough syrup and another dash to the hot cloth being applied to your
chest or throat. All surface wounds of any type were soaked in coal
oil daily to prevent infection.
My big toe, wounded over 50 years ago by a wayward post hole digger,
rested in coal oil each day for weeks. Today, when I trim the toenail,
I can still smell a hint of coal oil in the air.
Aunt Ida, who as a little girl in Oklahoma Territory, jumped off the
porch onto a rusty nail in a piece of firewood and nearly lost a foot
in the process. The doctor finally gave up and told her to go home
and soak the wound in coal oil twice a day and pray for healing. The
I suspected, a detailed search of the book did not show coal oil as
a recommended remedy for any malady. I now believe use of the concoction
was for purely psychological reasons. The taste and smell was so terrible
no one complained again after being dosed.
The story is told of a Dust Bowl-era employee with a drinking problem.
When he caught the whooping cough, Grandma Trew cured his cough and
his drinking problem with a combination of whiskey, lemon and coal
oil, warmed slightly. Again, psychology and the horrible taste might
have had significant influence on the cure.
I recall one time after Grandma Trew treated me with a generous dose
of coal oil and castor oil, Grandpa Trew mischievously whispered a
warning not to pass gas while standing against a hot wood stove.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" April
1 , 2004 column
Air Verses by Mike Cox
medications were simple, gave relief by Delbert Trew
remedies would cure or kill you by Delbert Trew
Sting by Delbert Trew
tickled by itch of childhood ailments by Delbert Trew
producers, grandmas make miracles by Delbert Trew
Of all the strange, weird and confusing bits of history, none quite
compare with rain dancers, water witchers and grandmas. Each could
perform miracles if the sign was right, a fresh peach tree twig
was used or the malady could be cured with Castor Oil or Black Draught
sprung from filling needs by Delbert Trew
As a child I could always tell when my Grandmother Trew was near
as I could smell the odor of Mentholatum. A close friend said his
grandmother always smelled like Vicks and his uncle smelled like
Bay Rum. Most old families had a relative or two who smelled like
vanilla flavoring, especially if you resided in a dry county...
aided America's health by Delbert Trew
History records that between 1830 and 1860, epidemics of typhoid
fever and cholera claimed thousands of lives across America. Between
the epidemics, the third leading cause of death was amoebic dysentery
and as a result of these scourges the average life expectancy in
the United States was 47 years. Later research proved that most
of the epidemics could be blamed on improper waste disposal allowing
contaminated sewage into domestic water supplies...
by Bob Bowman
If you grew up in the country, miles away from the nearest doctor,
home remedies were something you accepted routinely....
Sallet by Bob Bowman
"Poke sallet is the best spring tonic you can find; it gets your
Medicine by Clay Coppedge
"Today we can drive the countryside and see grasses, flowers,
weeds, critters, trees and the like. Modern-day herbalists and naturalists
can still see a drug store..."
the Epsom Salt. This Kids Got Dew Poisoning" by N. Ray Maxie
Grandmothers of the past four or five generations in NE Texas around
Atlanta, aren't the only ones to know the benefits of Epsom Salt.
That age-old compound is gaining more and more attention these days
Healing Hands from Mississippi
Stops Severe Bleeding by N. Ray Maxie
Oil, Jackrabbits, and Red Roosters by Lois Zook Wauson
Kerosene by Jeanne Diver Goff
Persimmons by Dana Goolsby
Folklore reveals that superstitions about cutting persimmon trees
may help cure warts, cancer and even predict weather, even Texas