Some country cures and natural remedies are better than chemicals and medicine, but some are downright scary. For generations, mountain and country folk have passed down old-time cures and home remedies. Isolated rural areas, farms, and even small towns had very little access to hospitals and medicine.
Local Native American tribes passed along their knowledge of healing, and even plantation slaves brought cures from African culture. Many times a gifted healer or a person of great faith was sought out to heal or help the sick or wounded, though most home remedies were often a “hit or miss” cure.
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t necessarily try all–or any–of these cures. Health care has advanced a lot!
I interviewed several rural North Carolinians to find out what home remedies had been passed down through out the generations. What resulted is some pretty spectacular medicine–and mythology.
1. “Talking The Fire Out” Of A Burn
The ability to “talk the fire out” of a burn is passed from one person to another. However, some rumors warn once you teach the gift to someone else, your own ability will be lost. People claiming to have been healed this way describe the process as a prayer, said by a Christian “who believes God is the Creator of the earth.” Talking, blowing, or drawing out fire is over 1000 years old.
One lady recounted her son, severely burned on a stove. The local fire-talker spoke the special prayer, and the pain was gone, the wound healed with no blister. Another woman had a son burned by a go-kart muffler. “He was screaming real bad,” she explained. “A woman talked the fire out, and the boy stopped crying!”
The process doesn’t work on severe burns, though, most fire-talkers say.
2. Praying The Warts Away
One interviewee recalled that her daughter had a wart on her foot that regrew even after the wart had been cut off. Desperate, they tried freezing the wart, but it came back again. A local healer uttered a prayer over the wart, and it disappeared soon after and never returned.
An even more unusual remedy for warts was to “rub the wart with a penny. Put the penny in a cloth in a box and throw it over your shoulder. Forget about your wart. When you think about it again the wart will be gone!” One woman, named Wanda Powell, described a great uncle who cured a wart by rubbing it with a rag and then burying it.
3. Spitting Tobacco On Bee Stings
Charles Wade Britt shared a common cure for bee stings, explaining, “Snuff or chewing tobacco juice takes the pain out of a bee or wasp sting. Chewed tobacco juice or snuff, applied to the affected area, relieved pain by drawing out the poison.
My mother actually used moistened tobacco from her cigarette on a yellow jacket sting on my leg. It worked as best as I can remember.”
“Crack open an egg, peel off the membrane inside the shell and place over the bee or wasp sting site. Swelling and redness will disappear. It may take two applications but it will work,” offered another interviewee.
4. Reading Bible Verses To Bleeding Wounds
Donna Dent, another North Carolinian, recalled her Grandmother’s method to stop profuse bleeding. When Donna was a child, she fell and cut the back of her head on a sharp point of her swing. Her grandmother took “cobwebs from the corners of the shed” and covered the cut. It stopped the bleeding while she waited for her father to get home to take her to the hospital.
One woman recalled another odd cure, saying, “When I had a nose bleed, Granny put a drop of the blood from the cut on a knife and buried the knife behind the steps.”
The Bible verse Ezekial 16:5 has also been used as a clotting mechanism: And when I passed you by and saw you weltering in your own blood, I said, ‘Live and grow up.’ Said three times with a firm faith stops the bleeding. “I know that the Bible verse works,” Carrie Walton testifies, ” I have used it for my son many times, he was a free bleeder.”
My personal cure, however, was to make a small roll of brown paper, notebook paper, or a towel. I would place the roll inside the mouth between the gum and the upper lip under the nose. Applying pressure to the upper lip supposedly blocks a vein to the nose.
5. Dropping Urine In Infected Ears
Several people swore that one country cure-all for an ear ache was a few fresh drops of warm urine in the ear canal. At this point, I think I would prefer to just see a doctor.
However, olive oil or tea tree oil are said to be effective as well.
6. Chewing Poison Ivy
“In early spring chewing early pink/purple poison ivy leaves before they change color prevents reactions to the mature plants later,” Kelley Harrell shared from her knowledge of plants.
Warning: If mature poison ivy is eaten, the digestive tract and airways will be affected, in some cases causing death. Urushiol oil can remain viable on dead poison ivy plants and other surfaces for up to 5 years and will cause the same effect.
7. Eating Gin-Soaked Raisins For Arthritis
Eating nine white raisins, soaked in gin, helps rheumatoid arthritis, especially when followed by eating 10 raisins a day. Some swear by it. But there has never been a double blind study with placebos to prove or disprove it.
“Cherries are good for gout,” declares Marie Dickey.
Plump, seeded bing cherries have been studied on healthy people and showed they could reduce gout markers in the blood. They also have some anti-inflammatory benefits.
8. Drinking Whiskey For Coughs And Colds
Elixirs of anything from whiskey to kerosene, with sugar or honey added, allegedly helps a cough or a cold.
“A teaspoon of whiskey mixed with tea, lemon, and honey works like a charm. Works for us Baptists too,” declared Melissa W. Parker.
The whiskey numbs the throat, while the tea and lemon cut the mucus, followed by the gentle coating of honey to ease the cough. Plus the whiskey makes it easier to sleep through the worst parts of the sickness.
9. Dabbing Tick Bites With Turpentine
“Turpentine for tick bites that itch,” Sam Highland said, adding,
“Dad used turpentine, kerosene and piney oil on everything on the farm–including us young’uns!”
10. Hanging A Chicken Leg Over Your Door
The best cure for a bad fever is hanging the whole, feathered leg of a rooster over your door. If that’s a bit too morbid or unseemly, you can try putting an onion slice against your foot and covering it with a sock.
Mountain history is steeped in traditions from several cultures, passed down through generations of hard-working families in rural areas, without access to modern health care. Some families still swear by these natural remedies.