I’ve always wondered how people cured many common ailments in the 1800s when they didn’t have the cornucopia of medications and physicians that we have today. I got my hands on a copy of The American Frugal Housewife , by Mrs. (Lydia) Child, first published in 1833, and she suggested some interesting remedies for various illnesses and conditions. I can’t guarantee they’ll cure what ails you, but they’ll certainly amuse you!
Bruises: Constant application of warm water is very soothing to bruised flesh, and may serve to prevent bad consequences while other things are in preparation.
Burns: If a person who is burned will patiently hold the injured part in water, it will prevent the formation of a blister. If the water be too cold, it may be slightly warmed, and produce the same effect. People in general are not willing to try it for a sufficiently long time. Chalk and hog’s lard simmered together are said to make a good ointment for a burn.
Cancers: The Indians have great belief in the efficacy of poultices of stewed cranberries, for the relief of cancers. They apply them fresh and warm every ten or fifteen minutes, night and day. Whether this will effect a cure I know not; I simply know that the Indians strongly recommend it. Salts, or some simple physic, is taken every day during the process.
Corns: A corn may be extracted from the foot by binding on half a raw cranberry, with the cut side of the fruit upon the foot. I have known a very old and troublesome corn drawn out in this way, in the course of a few nights.
Headache: Half a spoonful of citric acid (which may always be bought of the apothecaries) stirred in half a tumbler of water, is excellent for the head-ache.
Sore Throat: Loaf sugar and brandy relieves a sore throat; when very bad, it is good to inhale the steam of scalding hot vinegar through the tube of a tunnel. This should be tried carefully at first, lest the throat be scalded. For children, it should be allowed to cool a little. A stocking bound on warm from the foot, at night, is good for the sore throat.
Stings: A raw onion is an excellent remedy for the sting of a wasp.
Stomachache: Whortleberries, commonly called huckleberries, dried, are a useful medicine for children. Made into tea, and sweetened with molasses, they are very beneficial, when the system is in a restricted state, and the digestive powers out of order.
Teeth and Breath: Honey mixed with pure pulverized charcoal is said to be excellent to cleanse the teeth, and make them white. Lime-water with a little Peruvian bark is very good to be occasionally used by those who have defective teeth, or an offensive breath.
Toothache: A poultice made of ginger or of common chickweed, that grows about one’s door in the country, has given great relief to the tooth-ache, when applied frequently to the cheek.
Warts: It is said that if the top of the wart be wet and rubbed two or three times a day with a piece of unslaked lime, it cures the wart soon, and leaves no scar.
Wounds and Cracked Lips: Nothing is better than ear-wax to prevent the painful effects resulting from a wound by a nail, skewer, &c. It should be put on as soon as possible. Those who are troubled with cracked lips have found this remedy successful when others have failed. It is one of those sorts of cures, which are very likely to be laughed at; but I know of its having produced beneficial results.
Okay, I think I’m going to draw the line on using ear-wax on my lips, but perhaps a little huckleberry tea for my next tummy ache might be worth a try! All I can say is “many thanks” to the person who invented Chap-Stick. (Just don’t tell me what it’s made of!)