It would have taken a curious groundhog indeed to leave the warm security of his burrow just to check the weather today, even though the sun did shine. With no tender buds to nibble, nor fresh, green grass to nourish a groundhog, it was much better to snuggle down a little closer in his den and finish his winter’s sleep. Anyway you slice it there will be six more weeks of winter.
We really haven’t had much winter weather—just one cold spell with snow and lingering snow showers and some ice storms. It’s not over yet. Mother Nature sometimes pulls some surprises on us.
I can’t seem to get away from the old time home remedies that we used when I was a kid. I have had some more feedback from readers who have used the home remedies with success.
One of my sister’s neighbors mentioned using a few drops of lamp oil on a teaspoon of sugar for croup. His wife had taken it, and it worked. One of her relatives is a nurse, and she just scoffed at it. Later, she had occasion to use it, or give it to someone else, and found out that indeed, it did work.
A lot of the medicine we used in my younger days has fallen into disuse. My friend Sue says she remembers “paregoric” but didn’t remember what it was used for. I can remember mothers putting it into their baby’s bottle to ease a stomachache. No wonder it did—it was a camphorated tincture of opium used to relieve pain. Catnip tea was used for the same purpose—and a whole lot safer, I know.
Another product that Sue mentioned was Goodies headache powders. I think these were packaged in individual little envelopes. Grandpa swore by “Anderson” tablets, which were Anacin tablets. Anderson tablets and Sen-Sen were two things he felt he couldn’t do without. And his Brown Mule chewing tobacco.
The plant which we called coltsfoot actually wasn’t coltsfoot at all. It was a heart-shaped evergreen plant that grew close to the ground, and sported a tiny brown flower. It is actually a species of wild ginger, and can be used as such. The leaf is quite bitter (trust me, we tried it) but the root, when cooked, is supposed to resemble ginger. I will let you know this spring. Ginger tea is supposed to relieve nausea and motion sickness.
The true coltsfoot is a tiny yellow flower, resembling a small dandelion, and blooms long before the leaves appear. It is one of the first wildflowers of the spring, and greatly cheers the heart of the hiker when he comes upon the first ones.
I have a niece who relies on coltsfoot tea as a remedy for her children. The leaves are dried, then, stored away in a dark, cool place. When the need arises, she brews a teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of boiling water. I have made cough drops from coltsfoot leaves.
To make the cough drops, brew a strong tea with the dried leaves. Strain, add half as much sugar as you have tea, and boil until it reaches “crack” stage. Pour out on a buttered cookie sheet, and when cool, crack into pieces. This tastes a whole lot like horehound candy, but is effective against a cough.
One of the best remedies for sore throat, other than yellow root, is slippery elm. We used to be so happy when we saw Daddy bringing in strips of slippery elm (red elm.) We chewed the inner bark because we liked it, but also used it for sore throat. It is a great soother, helping the throat, the respiratory tract, and the digestive tract.
Mullein was another wild herb that Daddy relied upon. It goes by many names—velvet dock, flannel leaf, beggar’s blanket, Adam’s flannel, feltwort, bullock’s lungwort, clown’s lungwort, Cuddy’s lungs, rag paper, candlewick plant, witches candle, hog’s taper, etc.
The fresh and dried leaves and fresh flowers are used in home remedies. Daddy thought there was nothing better for chest complaints. He said it was good for bronchial complaints, hacking coughs, and lung troubles. Grandma O’Dell always used it.
I wasn’t sure how to use it, so I consulted one of my wild herb books, and waited for someone to get sick. Sure enough, daughter-in-law Sarah came down with a cold. Gleefully, I made my concoction. I stewed the mullein leaves in milk, which removed the little fuzzy hairs on it, strained it, and added sugar. I tasted it—it was awful.
Creeping up to Sarah with a winning smile, I said, “Sarah, I have something for your cold.”
“What is that?” she asked suspiciously.
“Just some herbal medicine I made,” I answered disarmingly.
“Stay away from me—don’t come any closer!” She shouted.
“It won’t hurt you” I started to say— but she was running for the house.
I still think that when God made the world that He made a cure for every ailment that mankind has. The problem is, we just haven’t figured out exactly what herb is for what sickness.
I have been feeling right poorly myself. I’ve had something since last Friday that keeps hanging on and keeping me nauseous. This evening I realized that I had a fresh ginger root in the refrigerator and made a cup of strong ginger tea. If I’m not better by tomorrow, I will have to have some sassafras tea. That’s mountain medicine at its best.
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