Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Home and Garden

Old Time Remedies I’ve Experienced

by Evelyn Horan

I was born on a farm in Gatesville, Texas, over 80 years ago. When it comes to medicinal home remedies, I think I’m somewhat of an expert due to many personal experiences.

As a youngster, I experienced a vast array of solutions for most calamities. Daily, I brushed my teeth with baking soda, gargled with warm salt water, and drank a small glass of warm lemon water provided by my German grosmutter (grandmother). When I needed a toothbrush, I used a soft, hickory twig feathered into a top of soft bristles.

A sore throat required a cloth soaked in vinegar, covered by another soft cloth both wrapped around my throat, secured by a safety pin. The remedy that caused the most distress was to gargle with salt water and vinegar. While tipping my head back to gargle, I sometimes swallowed the mixture, causing me to gag.

A congested chest required a rub with Vicks, covered by a warm cloth. At the cook stove, with a tablespoon of Vicks, held high over the flames, I breathed in the vapors of steaming Vicks. Sometimes, Mother wrapped a towel around my head, and I leaned over a pan filled with warm water and Vicks, breathing in the steam, like a present day vaporizer, which we knew nothing about in those days. These time-worn remedies helped prevent dreaded pneumonia that took many folks “before their time,” especially during the winter.

Mother believed good health was supported by a good digestive process – “regular bowel movements.” To ensure this event, a spoonful of the dreaded Black Draught was stirred into a glass and swallowed. Another ugly remedy was Caster Oil. I could hardly swallow it, but a half orange helped me keep it down. Daily Cod Liver Oil was another old-fashioned remedy for regularity.

I remember, my dad had a couple of boils on his legs. They healed when “Black Salve” was applied, as it was good for drawing infection and could be used for carbuncle, ingrown toenails, and the thickening under the toenails.

I watched Mother place a bit of whiskey on her finger and rub my baby sister’s gums to help ease the baby’s pain. She stopped fretting and nodded off into a peaceful sleep. In my childhood days, I experienced a bee sting. My mother rubbed a raw potato over the sting and removed the stinger. When I had an earache, she put warm cooking oil in my ear.

Once I was riding our mare through our front yard gate. A latch nail protruded and scraped my foot. My frantic mother poured sugar on the wound, wrapped my foot in a towel, and my daddy and she rushed me to town in our Model-T ford to Dr. Lowrey’s office. He stitched my foot after I went under from the ether he used to put me to sleep. I healed, but I still carry the scar on my right foot from instep to little toe. Sugar was often used to stop bleeding.

Growing up, I watched my elderly German grandmother soak her feet in a washtub of Epsom Salt to help keep her feet flexible and active. Then she took a back scrub-brush and vigorously brush her back for good circulation and exercise.

I could add more home remedies, but as you can see, on our rural farms, we had ways to cope with illnesses, infirmities, and accidents, without the cost of doctor visits, expensive drugs and medications. Some of these early practices I still use. Perhaps, out of curiosity, you might want to try them and happily discover they really do work for you, too!

About the Author

Evelyn Horan is a former teacher/counselor. Her articles and stories have been published many times in periodicals for children and adults in both secular and religious publications. She holds General Elementary, General Secondary, Pupil Personnel, and also School Psychologist life credentials in the state of California. Horan is the author of a number of books including Aging Requires a Gentle Attitude. Learn more about her work at



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