With all the snow we’re having day after day, I am unable to concentrate on very much and really want only to read. A friend brought over two of the old Foxfire books, collections that celebrated the home life and creative history of Appalachia, featuring sections on hog dressing, log cabin building, soap making, basket weaving, planting by the signs, preserving foods, making butter, snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing, moonshining and more. I could not resist typing a selection from the chapter titled, “Home Remedies.” They testify to the ingenuity of an isolated people for whom doctors and clinics are still rare to non-existent. (The spellings are as I found them.)
Drink a mixture of honey, vinegar, and moonshine.
A magnet draws it out of the body.
In one pint of gin, place several pieces o the heartwood of a pine tree. Leave them in the gin until they turn brown. Then take one teaspoonful of the mixture twice a day.
Suck salty water up your nose.
Swallow a handful of spider webs rolled into a ball.
Keep a Chihuahua dog around the house.
Smoke strong tobacco until you choke.
Place a spider web across the wound.
Apply a poultice of spirit turpentine and brown sugar to the wound.
Use pine resin.
Apply lamp black directly to the wound.
Use a mixture of soot from the chimney and lard.
If the cut is small, wet a cigarette paper and place this over it.
When the sap is up, take the green bark of the wild cherry and boil it to make tea.
Take the young leaves of the poke plant, parboil them, season, fry and then eat several “messes.”
Make sassafras tea, using the roots of the plant.
Put some yellowroot in a quart can of whiskey, and let the root soak it up. Add some cherry bark for flavor.
Make a mixture of red clay and water. Put splints on each side of the arm and plaster it up with the clay. When the clay dries, put the arm in a sling.
Put hot coals on the burned place and pour water over them. The steam will draw the fire out.
Powder hot coals and put this warm powder on the burn.
Boil chestnut leaves and place the resulting ooze on the burn.
Take table salt and dissolve it in warm water. Wrap the burn in gauze and keep it constantly warm and moist with applications of the salt water.
Bind castor oil and egg whites around the wound with a clean cloth.
The scrapings of a raw white potato will draw the fire. Then add a salve of talcum powder and Vaseline.
Linseed oil with draw the fire out.
If the person has never seen his father, he can draw the fire by blowing on the burn.
Put axle grease on the burned area.
Heat mutton tallow and apply it directly to chest.
Eat raw honey.
Place a large quantity of rock candy in a little white whiskey to make a thick syrup. Take a few spoonfuls of this several times a day.
Mix up hog lard, turpentine, and kerosene. Rub it on the chest.
Rub groundhog oil and goose oil on chest. Then cover with a hot flannel cloth.
Wear a flannel shirt with turpentine and large on it all winter.
Boil pine needles to make a strong tea.
Take as much powdered quinine as will stay on the blade of a knife, add to water, and drink.
Put goose-grease salve on chest.
Drink lamb’s tongue and whiskey tea
Drink red pepper tea.
Each onions roasted in ashes (good for children)
Drink some of the brine from kraut put up in churn jars. It makes you thirsty, and you drink lots of water.
Tie an asafetida bag around a baby’s neck for six months to keep away six months’ colic.
Feed the baby breast milk with one drop of kerosene or one drop of asafetida in it.
Drink some asafetida and whiskey mixed in milk or water.
Gather the roots of may-apple, cut out the joints, and dry the middle of the root. Place in a cloth and beat to a powder. Add a few drops of castor oil and roll into pills. They keep very well. You can also put a pinch of powder in food, or put in some syrup.
Mix one teaspoon of white whiskey with a pinch of sugar, heat over a fire, and drink.
Take a teacup of roots and stems of red horsemint, boil in a pint of water for two or three minutes, strain, and drink.
Make a cough syrup using the roots of about six lion’s-tongue plants. Boil them in about a teacup or water, sweeten with syrup, then simmer until thick. Take a spoonful a few times a day until your cough is gone.
Parch leaves of rat’s vein and grind them to a powder. Put a pinch on your hand and snort it.
To cure cramps in the feet, turn your shoes upside down before going to bed.
Take high-proof liquor, put it in a cup and set it afire, and after it burns and goes out, drink what’s left.
From The Foxfire Book, edited with an introduction by Eliot Wigginton, 1972