What about “folk cures”?

I spent a good portion of last evening researching herbal cures used in the early 1800s for two separate books. The first is my newest one entitled “The Scandal of Lady Eleanor” (aka “A Touch of Gold”) and the second is a novella I am developing called “His American Heart Song.” Anyway, with both I found a most interesting source by Martha Bradley and written in 1756. It is called “The British Housewife.” The use of leaves of tansy to prevent a miscarriage … two drachms of gum armoniacum dissolved in a half pint of hyssop water for asthma … a mixture of comsrey roots, liquorice, curants, balm, thyme, and garden sorrel for consumption … were fascinating. We all remember such uses of nontraditional medicine. A slice of potato on a boil. Touching one’s chin to his chest to determine if he has the mumps. Silver on an acid blister. It made me start to think of how often those cures and diagnoses worked. So, dear reader if you too remember some such “miracle” to which your parents subjected you, please share with the rest of us. I, for one, would be most anxious to learn what else is out there. By the way, this is what the book says for a sprain. “Take common clay and boil it in white wine vinegar till it is of the thickness of a salve. Spread this upon a linen cloth and apply it to the part affected. Let it lie on till it is dry, and if the complaint is not removed apply a second time, and it will not fail of a cure.” Of course, Martha Bradley had never experienced the red clay we have in the South. If so, she would have known that the application of wet red clay and letting it dry would be equivalent to applying a modern day cast to the sprain. When red clay dries on something, you might as well plan on throwing it out. It cannot be removed from shoes or clothing easily.

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2 Responses to What about “folk cures”?

  1. susan A says:

    Something that might interest you is this plant middle eastern burn, and while it is smoking it is twirled above your head while telling the evil eye to leave. They are very big on evil eye. There is jewelry they where to keep the evil eye away also.

  2. I had a friend who used to burn different types of leaves to ward off evil spirits. I always found it fascinating. It is the same everywhere. As children, we do not step on the crack in the sidewalk or walk under ladders or allow a black cat to cross our path. An old wife’s tale says to boil six ounces of sassafras root and lots of dogwood root in a gallon of water, until you have only a pint of the mixture in the pan. Then you strain off the remaining water and drench a pledget in it. Then you apply the warm mixture to a gaping sore and or to a wound from surgery. It is “blessed with success,” or so they say. Although I am not certain (need to check my facts), I do not believe they have sassafras in England. I think it is purely a N. American plant.

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