Thursday, December 2, 2010
As for the cold, this is not fun. I've had lots of good advice on Facebook--everything from chicken noodle soup to possum grease and hot-and-sour soup. My neighbor Belva once told me that skunk grease mixed with turpentine and smeared on your chest was a great cure for congestion. I just took her word for it. I have found, however, that this is actually a well-known remedy. An article in the Fredericksbug, Virginia newspaper in 2001 gave instructions for making your own (roadkill, they advise, is fine for this purpose). In his book Signs, Cures and Witchery, author Gerald Milnes notes that the use of skunk grease was a remedy common among the German settlers of the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia. (By the way, the DVD companion to this book is well worth watching. It's a fascinating look into old-world superstitions and culture of this region.)
The remedy also seems to have found its way west. An article on the Wisconsin Historical Society's website shows a picture of a bottle of skunk grease found in the museum and provides more instructions and even the historical background of that particular bottle. And would you believe, the article even says that people drank skunk oil as a remedy? One side benefit of this remedy that might have been lost on the early settlers: it certainly would have prevented the spread of a cold or other ailments because no one would want to be near the sufferer!
My mother's standard cold remedies included hot tea with sugar but no cream for children and for adults hot tea with lemon and brandy added, or lemon juice, hot water, honey and brandy, depending on what she had on hand. The brandy added heat that went right down inside and spread a comforting warmth slowly out to your very fingertips. She was a believer in Vick's VapoRub and a vaporizer too, and I can still remember the smell of the vaporizer as it steamed and hissed beside our bed when we were children. Toast, scrambled eggs, tomato soup and chicken noodle soup were also on her list of remedies for sick children. I still want those same things today when I have a cold, and I've added orange juice as a must-have as well.
You can read my article about this lamp on the Two-Lane Livin' website.
Sally Squires wrote an interesting article about her quest for a cold remedy for the Washington Post. Mustard plasters, skunk oil, pear congee, raw honey, cherry bark extract, elderberries and more were recommended to her as possible "cures." Her final bit of advice is what we all know, however: "Treat a cold and it will last for seven days; don't treat it and it will be gone in a week."
I wish I had this book in hand right now. Surely with a title like that there has to be some fascinating reading inside: Country Folk Medicine: Tales of Skunk Oil, Sassafras Tea and Other Old-Time Remedies.
Back to the tissues, and a cup of hot tea on this cold snowy day. Maybe I will get that pile of receipts sorted--if I can do it on the couch.