Remember those home medical remedies when you were growing up? Earl Weinmann needs your help

I got this email from Earl Weinmann yesterday.  Earl is director of Northfield Historical Society’s SCOPE (Student Community Outreach Program Experience) and also a Northfield Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Earl WeinmannI’m nearing completion of proofreading and editing the latest work by my 8th grade SCOPE students.  As a result of the past two years of research and writing, selected eighth grade students have written a book about the history of Northfield. 

This book (which will be published this fall) will be used as a textbook in the Northfield area elementary schools.  We have 42 chapters that go back to before Northfield was a town to projections about the future of Northfield.  In each chapter we have interesting tidbits or trivia in little boxes to accompany the text. 

I’m writing to you because, in writing the chapter on the history of Northfield Medical Care, my students had difficulty finding any "fun facts" to go with the text.  I was thinking that perhaps I could use Locally Grown to solicit long-time residents to contribute a "home remedy" that they were administered as a child growing up here (we talk about the reliance of home remedies in early medical history).  The idea is, hopefully, to have your contributors jot down a few of the more interesting remedies they were "subjected" to that we could include in the Medical History chapter.

I want to get this to the layout artist by September…so time is limited…but I thought it might be a fun for students to read what the locals had to do in the hopes of "curing" an illness or malady. Of course, it must be made clear that what they contribute would be subject to this publication.  I would like to use their names as well, unless they have an objection.  If you think this sort of inquiry is an appropriate use of your blog, please feel free to submit this appeal on your site. 

Got a home remedy story? Attach it here as a comment or contact Earl via email.


  1. john george said:

    When I was growing up on the farm, I occasionally got into some poison ivy while fixing fences, or whatever. My mother would take a few mullen leaves and boil them in water. She then took the liquid, after it cooled, and applied it to the rash. This would dry up and help the itching.

    Also, if we came down with a cold and fever, she would mix some whiskey with some milk. We drank that and then she would put us into bed with a few layers of quilts over us. She would heat a few bricks on the wood stove, wrap them in towels and put then under the covers with us. That would sweat the fever and cold right out of us.

    As I think back on some of the things I endured, it is a wonder I actually grew up at all.

    August 17, 2011
  2. Earl Weinmann said:

    C’mon folks! I have two comments (one was emailed to me) but I need a few more. I hate to pull out the “let’s do it for the kids” card, but I’m reaching a deadline. I’ll take any comments…but the longer ago it was, the better. Just think, you just might be in a textbook that students read for years to come! 🙂 Thanks for considering this.

    August 18, 2011
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Earl, maybe no one here besides John wants to admit they’re that old! You might have to deploy your students on an interview blitz at some of the senior residences here in town.

    August 19, 2011
  4. linda perry said:

    when we had a cut we had either mercurochrome or merthiolate put on with a dropper.They stung like crazy , were an ugly orange like iodine ,which is used now by doctors,and mercurochrome is banned because it has mercury in it.not exactly a home remedy but definately old timey-the 50s!

    August 19, 2011
  5. john george said:

    I remember another thing we did. If we developed a boil (staph infection), we would soak a piece of bread in milk and apply that to the eruption. That would draw the infection to a head. We sometimes mixed a raw egg and flour for the same thing. I think it was called a “poltice.” The same thing worked for a splinter if it broke off so you couldn’t get ahold of it with tweesers.

    My mother was a great one to doctor any kind of sore throat, sinus congestion or cold with Vicks Vaporub (R). I think that is still used today, but it comes in a plastic tube instead of the old blue glass jar. It isn’t really a home remedy, but popular.

    August 19, 2011
  6. Even tho I am not from here, this might stimulate some memories … my grandmother was born in St. Paul … and we used to have a few home remedies like prunes for constipation (sorry about that),Lipton tea and crackers for upset stomach, we used Vicks Vapor Rub, too, in the humdifiers, iodine for scrapes, my dad would chew up rye bread for finger cuts and then wrapped the chewed up rye bread around the cut covered by a Band Aid with saliva being one of the best healing agents supposedly, we also used salt water gargles to eliminate sore throats, lemon and honey in tea for sore throats and colds, chicken broth for colds congestion,and vinegar for sunburns.

    August 19, 2011
  7. john george said:

    Speaking of saliva (sorry, this may seem kind of gross) if we cut our hand out in the barnyard, we would have our dog lick the wound. Supposedly, this would kill any germs that might have gotten into it. It gave us a little time to get to the house to wash it out and bandage it.

    August 19, 2011
  8. Robbie Wigley said:

    I took a spill on a home made scooter and tore up my back, Mom put Mercurochrome on it and I broke out it whole body hives. Nasty!

    August 19, 2011
  9. Robbie Wigley said:

    My son was doing a special project at Prairie Creek, years ago. He had to be the physician in a village during the Renaissance. He discovered that they used egg white to cover wounds with and keep the dirt out. I just read an article about that very thing being used today for burns.

    August 19, 2011
  10. Robbie Wigley said:

    My grandmother used to make a concoction of turpentine, honey, butter, bourbon and lemon for coughs. I am okay with everything but the turpentine.. scary. We also used to use tobacco on wasp stings as well as mud.

    August 19, 2011
  11. Did anyone ever use vaseline for open wounds as a protection against bacteria? It is a very old remedy.

    August 20, 2011
  12. Kate Prichard said:

    I remember hearing about my great-grandmother’s homemade painkiller; I’m told it was for arthritis but I imagine it would work for numerous aches and pains. Simply drop spoonfuls of raisins into a jar of some sort of alcohol, I think she used gin, and let it sit. Every once in a while, when you start aching, stick a fork in the jar and eat any raisins that get speared. I’ll be honest, though, I think the cure had something more to do with the leftover alcohol than the raisins.

    August 20, 2011
  13. Nathan White said:

    There appears to be a trend developing around the importance of alcohol in home remedies…

    August 22, 2011
  14. Just remembered, my grandma told me that red meat can cause arthritis. The cure, stop eating red meat.

    August 23, 2011
  15. Greg Closser said:

    I remember stepping on a rusty nail as a kid. My Dad put a piece of bacon on it and wrapped it up overnight. The next morning there were a couple flakes of rust that had been pulled out of the wound.

    I suspect it was the salt in the bacon that caused it to draw out the foreign material.

    August 23, 2011
  16. Bruce Morlan said:

    Probably late, but my two contributions are:

    1. When I was riding on Grandpa’s field tractor and started to slide off I grabbed the muffler, severe burns, which Grandma slathered with butter. I felt like an overdone corn-on-the-cob.

    2. When the loser of a fight would run to Momma, she would run a simple medical plan – “no blood, no bone, no foul” and send ’em back out into the real world. Now that’s a cost-minimizing HMO (Home Medical Office).

    August 29, 2011
  17. Earl Weinmann said:

    I wish to thank everyone for their contributions on the “Medical History of Northfield” chapter. You have given us more than I could have hoped for. Your “home remedies” were a delight to read and I believe that our elementary children will find them entertaining and a good basis for discussion. My hope is that we have the book published by the Christmas holiday. Watch for our book release here on “Locally Grown” (and other local media). A big thanks to Griff and all contributors for making an already excellent chapter even better. – Earl Weinmann

    September 3, 2011
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    Glad it was helpful, Earl. And thanks for all the good work you do at the Northfield Historical Society.

    September 4, 2011

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