A lot has changed in the world of home remedies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The times have changed so much and so fast that it is hard to keep up. It seems that the older we get, the faster time seems to pass. With this in mind, I wanted to tell the younger generations about things we did when I was growing up, back in the ‘40s, if you got hurt or got sick. Today some people call them old home remedies.

Years ago you ran around barefooted most of the time, and if you happened to step on a rusty nail and it stuck in your foot, what would you do? Well, if you were the unlucky one and stepped on a rusty nail, the first thing you had to do was strike the wound with a paddle or something like that to make it bleed. By making it bleed, the rust would come out. Then you had to pour kerosene on it, and then take a piece of salt meat and put it over the cut. You would then wrap up the spot, leaving the salt meat over the cut, for a couple of days. After that you could take the bandage off, and the wound would heal.

If you had a headache back in this time, you would go out and cut the bark off a willow tree and chew on it for a couple of hours to cure the headache. That’s very different from today, when you can just reach into your medicine cabinet and choose from a variety of pain relievers.

For a stomachache, you would mix some baking soda in a glass of water and drink it. I can remember not long ago a friend telling my wife about using baking soda still today to help with heartburn.

Getting a cold back in this time might make you feel really good if you overindulged with this remedy. For a cold, you would drink what they called a “hot toddy.” You would warm a little water and add whiskey, honey and lemon. This is still used by some people today.

If you got stung by a bee, you would take some tobacco, wet it

and put it over the bee sting. You would also have to take a knife

blade or some tape and pull the stinger out so that it wouldn’t get infected.

Mustard plaster, as it was called, was used as a home remedy if you had pain. It produced heat and made the ache feel much better. Mustard plaster in 1897 sold for 10 cents.

Everyone had vanilla extract in the kitchen, so if you get a burn, you would take the vanilla extract, pour it on a cloth and place it on the burn. Most of the time, it never left a scar, only a small red spot.

Writing about these old home remedies brings back lots of childhood memories because I can remember my mom and grandmother using these on my cuts, scrapes and burns when I was a kid.

Doctors during this time would cost from $2 to $5 dollars, depending on the house call. Dr. Gross from St. John the Baptist Parish would ride the roads and look for the sign that you were sick and needed the doctor. If you needed the doctor and were too sick to go, you would tie a white cloth outside your home, and when he saw it, he would stop and see what was wrong.

Now you see why I say a lot has changed from years ago.

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has several displays of old medical equipment, including some items from the 1930s used by Dr. William Mogobgob from Tulane University. It is a topical medicine kit and was well used. We also have hundreds of medicine bottles from this time period. For more information and hours of operation, call Wayne Norwood at 225-294-8352.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.