Article Thirty - four
A few of the old time remedies, customs , and the old time ways of getting things done back in the middle of the nineteenth century and later, comes to mind. At that time, most every house wife and mother had a remedy for most every ailment that their children were likely to become infected with.
When a kid took a bad cold, the remedy was "bone set tea." Bone set is a weed that grows in swampy land and the leaves are the part used to make the tea. The tea was bitter and the patient didn't like it, but if you put some sugar in it, most kids could be persuaded to drink it. If they could be forced or persuaded to drink a pint or more of strong bone set tea and immediately go to bed and cover up, in about 15 or 20 minutes the patient would break out in a profuse sweat. If you could keep the cover on until the effect of the tea wore off, the patient would get up the next morning free from his cold. I know that this remedy worked because I used it many times and many times wished for it, when I didn't have the bone set to make the tea.
If a child took a bad case of "croup" the old time remedy was to give him something to make him sick. This was easily done by soaking strong leaf tobacco in water and tying it on his breast just below his chin, and the fumes from the tobacco would tend to make him sick enough to relieve the croup, or common scotch snuff would do just as well.
If a child got infected with worms the old timers would make a strong tea out of the leaves of a weed that is very common here in east Tenn. and is a common nuisance in tobacco beds. It is called "worm weed" by some people and "Vermifuge Weed" by others? but I believe that the Botanical name is "Chenepodium".
During the war between the States, i.e. the civil war, my wife's grandmother. Mrs. Lovina Fleener, who lived on the land now owned by her great grandchildren Mack Rader and his sister Mrs. Charlsie Robesong had four or five children that she decided were wormy and she gathered a lot of the worm weed leaves and made a batch of strong tea and sweetened it with sorghum and set it out on the back porch to cool. While it was cooling a lot of Rebel Soldiers came up and demanded to be fed. So she decided to bake them some bread and feed them and maybe she could get rid of them. While she was baking the bread, the soldiers found the worm syrup and tasted it and decided it was honey. When she got the bread baked, the soldiers wanted some spoons to eat that good honey she had out on the back porch. She told them that it was not honey, that it was worm syrup. They said "0h you are lying, we know what it is." She told them to go ahead and eat it if it was so good, that if they had any worms in their guts she would guarantee them they wouldn't have any by day after tomorrow.
Another old time remedy for lung infection, was known as the "Onion Poultice". I personally know of one little boy who first had whooping cough which developed into pneumonia and the doctor did everything that he possibly could but he grew gradually worse until the doctor was ready to give him up. My oldest sister went to the home of the little boy and prepared the onion poultices and stayed all night and as soon as one poultice became cool, she would have another ready to apply to his breast. When the doctor came the next day he was looking pretty glum. He put his stethoscope to the boys body and exclaimed "Why, he is better" and in just a short time the boy was well and O.K. The family never did tell the doctor about the poultice, and I guess he thought the rest of his life that he had cured the boy. Well, maybe he did. It might have been him. It might have been the poultice. It might have been the Good Lord. Nobody knows.
So far, I have told of the old time remedies that did the job, and good. Now, I will tell of one that I never had any faith in, but lots of people did and used it. The old time sure cure for the measles was a tea made from the droppings of a sheep. I heard of one young lady who had the measles and was feeling so bad that she sent her father to a neighbor who kept sheep to get some droppings to make her some tea. When he came back with the droppings, while her mother was making the tea, she said "Mama, while you are making the tea, bring me a few of them to be chewing on while you are making the tea".
So long folks, I wish you luck and plenty of it.
These articles were written between 1972-1975 by Estil Barb Bible for a local newspaper (the "Greeneville Times" in Tennessee). He wrote these articles after he was past ninety years of age, and they appear just as he typed them.
As a memorial to him, and to preserve a bit of the past; these articles were published by his granddaughters, Janie Bible Hurley and Elizabeth Bible Wiley.