When I grew up we could not afford to visit a doctor for an illness, we relied on old timey home remedies.
For instance if you had a chest cold there were two or more things my mother tried. She pinned a flannel cloth coated with Vicks salve inside next to my body after she had heated it by the stove.
Often that worked. Another was a few drops of turpentine on a spoon of sugar. That loosened the tightness in my chest. Folks who could not afford to buy turpentine used kerosene.
Of course, she relied on Bromo Quinine for colds, too. Once while she was operating a café in Many she started me on a round of Bromo Quinine, which I think was twelve tablets.
I hated those tablets. So I took each into the kitchen for a glass of water, supposedly, but in fact, I was hiding them on a two-by-four back of the refrigerator. Mother commented on how much better I was and that Bromo Quinine was good medicine.
The cook, a small black man, loved to get me in trouble. He called Mother's attention to something lining the two-by-four.
I can just hear her as she said: "Why, those look like those tablets Juanita was taking." He said nothing because he knew what they were. I got all right from my cold but I was in bad trouble for fooling her.
Now if you had a boil or a bad sore that had not come to a head and could be opened and drained, you could put a piece of fat meat on it and overnight it could be opened and drained.
If you had a thorn or a splinter in your flesh, a small piece of fat meat could draw the thorn closer to the surface or a splinter, too.
The bark of certain trees had a medicinal value too. I believe it was red oak bark that was good for boils, and bruises. I know a poultice of scalded cornmeal, put on hot would help boils, or aches or pains from bruises.
Vicks Salve was an excellent treatment for hemorrhoids. Ammonia was first aid for an ant bite.
Now pepper tea or nutmeg tea was good for cramps in young girls. The nutmeg tasted better.
Now each spring my mother believed that everyone needed "cleaning out" and whatever she gave me surely did that. First we took calomel, followed by castor oil. Yuk yuk yuk!!! Awful, and it made you awfully sick. When you recovered you even thought you were so much better because you had felt like dying.
In 1983 I was in the Schumpert and after tests were run Dr. Holoubek ordered Castor oil. Remembering how sick it made me, I, hopefully, told the nurse that I was allergic to Castor Oil.
She found that funny because every body told her the same thing. Well, I took it. I was a deathly sick, my head hurt terribly, my blood pressure went up, and I vomited.
The doctor ordered a shot to put me to sleep. When I awakened the head R. N. came in and sat by my bed, She said for me to remember to tell anyone who tried to give me Castor oil that I was allergic to it. I had to laugh as I told her I had told the nurse that. She said: "Well now it is official on record here. No more Castor oil" Thank God for allergies.
For ordinary sluggish bowels, Syrup Pepsin worked well, as well as a dose of Epsom Salts, or as a last resort, BlackDraught. You cramped nearly to death with most of those laxatives.
My mother-in-law suffered terribly from constipation. Papaw gave her a bottle of Syrup Pepsin as a dose, at least once a month or more often. In her seventies she developed Cancer of the colon and I believe that it was too much laxative that he poured down her.
My mother developed cancer of the tube leading out of the bladder and I believe that it was caused by the 8 Anacin tablets the doctor ordered her to take, Anacin contains so much aspirin.
If an eye had a sty, my mother used Argyrols (can't spell it.)
An upset stomach might be helped with a thin gruel of cornmeal and boiling water. Also an iron (like you ironed clothes with) was warmed, wrapped in towels and placed on the lower abdomen to help the monthly cramps girls had.
If you wanted your hair to be soft and shiny, wash it in rainwater and rinse it in water with vinegar in it.
The vinegar removed all the soap from the hair. Of course the vinegar gave the hair an auburn tint.
Red bug bites stopped itching when coated with colorless nail polish. It cuts the air away from the little bugs.
Now if you caught the"itch" the only cure was sulphur and grease.
We did not have treatments for all the modern ailments such as Aids, HIV, and the old timey plagues of STDs which is sexually transmitted diseases.
Now a big old corn on a toe could be removed with an aspirin tablet fastened to it for two or three days. Then soak it in warm water and the corn would peel right off.
Salt and soda was our toothpaste. Warm salt water was our gargle.
First aid for a burn was Colgate toothpaste in a tube. It really works, folks.
Mother read that children were subject to a disease called "rickets" which afflicted young children. A dose of cod liver oil each day would prevent the disease. It caused badly bowed legs in children. Mother vowed that I would not get rickets, so each morning I took a big spoonful of cod liver oil, flavored with peppermint.
Well, I didn't get rickets but about ten each morning I started belching and burping that awful oily peppermint taste.
I could hardly study my books, and I was so sick at my stomach that I almost vomited. I lived over the stuff and sure enough I didn't get rickets, neither did the other 29 students in the class who did not take cod liver oil.
A gargle of warm water and salt helped a raw, sore throat.
A drop or two of warmed oil such as olive oil helped the earache.
Well I guess you could say we were all "Mid-wives" for people and things.
We didn't have to seek out a doctor for many years, so some of this worked. Okay?
Juanita Agan passed away in October, 2008 at the age of 85. She had been a Minden resident since 1935 and a columnist for the Press-Herald since 1995. A constant writer, Mrs. Agan had many stories written but unpublished. The Press-Herald will continue to publish these articles as long as they are submitted.