Amish Home Remedies
By Kevin Williams
I'm a big believer in looking to nature for curing what ails us and that is a philosophy many Amish also share. I am not anti-medicine at all, most of medicine originates from nature. I'm just a believer that some cultures, especially the old-timers around before modern medicine really came into its own, might know something we don't. Perhaps its pure romanticism on my part to think that. But you'd have to think that Native Americans who cultivated centuries of knowledge in the American outdoors learned a thing or two about what plants and foods helped ease various maladies. The Amish, long an insular and isolated American subculture, also passed home remedies and medical knowledge down through the generations.
I've been intrigued by something Elizabeth Coblentz wrote in The Amish Co0k column years ago...and she was recounting something that happened in the 1950s (which, to me, makes it more credible):
A friend brought grandmother a salve she had made, which they called "tobacco salve" and it was to be rubbed on the chest only. After using the salve, grandmother got over the flu right away.
Was it just luck and timing that the flu happened to run its course at about the same time the salve was applied? Or did that old Amish healer know something the rest of us didn't? We'll probably never know.
I know of some Amish herbalists and healers who practice forms of medicine using the old ways and their appointment books are often more packed than a regular medical doctor's schedule, such is the public demand for more holistic treatment.
Many visitors to this site might be familiar with old Solomon Wickey, he was a controversial figure and passed away last summer. (in an effort to be balanced, I linked to a site that is very anti-holistic health).
I was intrigued when I stumbled upon this book at an Amish auction recently. It is entitled simply "Home Remedies" and was written by the "Wickey sisters". I don't know whether they are any relation to Solomon...Wickey can be a common last name in some Amish settlements. Anyway, I picked up a copy of this 96 page book packed with home remedies, household hints, and other tips. My view on things like this are "buyer beware." I'm very open-minded to the possibility that some of the remedies might work and might be grounded in experience and sound science. Others I think could be nonsense. I just think you have to read each remedy with an open mind. I will share a few of the remedies here, and you can be the judge:
PAINKILLER: Take powdered poke root and roast 1 /4 cup. Add enough water to make a poultice and apply on the bottom of the feet. It will draw out pain anywhere in the body.
Okay, this next one...I know this site's audience is largely female....I have no clue what this even means, but I'll share it....it simply says "Ovaries" (and, yes, I know what ovaries are...but does it mean "painful ovaries"..."malfunctioning ovaries"..? But instead it just says Ovaries)
OVARIES: Use Pleurisy root for inflammation. Pennyroyal, burdock, peach leaves can also be used with good results.
INSOMNIA: Mix 1 teaspoon gelatin in a cold cup of water for 5 minutes, then add 1 cup hot water. Stir until dissolved. Of this, put 2 teaspoons in a glass of water or milk. Drink after supper, this will help induce sleep.
So, there you go...The book is choc full of them here are some more:
REMEDIES FOR CLEAR-THINKING, FOOT CARE, TOOTHACHE AND MORE!
REMEDIES FOR FLU, FROSTBITE, AND FEVER
MORE REMEDIES AND HOUSEHOLD HINTS
What do you think? Is this a book of quackery or is there some good stuff in it?
IMPORTANT: Poke root, pennyroyal and peach leaves all have some toxic compounds. Do not take internally except under the advice of an experienced herbalist or naturopath. The recommendations here are for external applications. The gelatin recipe for sleep has no basis; I suspect the effect is from the suggestion it will make sleep easier. Pleurisy root is a diuretic as effective as prednisone; use with caution and certainly not if you are already taking a diuretic.
Good points Julie,thank you !
Kevin, My 85 year old mother says that Pennyroyal was used to induce abortions in the "olden days". Just thought you'd like to know.
Shirley...ugh..thanks for letting me know!
My guess based on what I know of herbs is that the remedy for ovaries has to do with inflammation causing pain and irregular periods or even problems with conceiving.This book seems to assume the reader has some basic knowledge of how to use these herbs and basic amounts to use. A lot of herbs and natural remedies can be harmful if misused, just like any other man made medicine. Herbs were put here by God for our use just like everything else He created and any of Creation can be used for good or misused. Here in TN tobacco used to be a cash crop grown by just about all small farmers. It can be used in a salve or applied directly to a bug bite or to draw out poisons, etc. My aunt used to tell me about all the remedies her mother (my grandmother) used. My aunt has personally used these many times. I have had tobacco used on a bee sting myself as a child ad used it on one of my own children also. Notice that the poke is not taken internally. My mother said her mother used poke on bruises. Pluerisy root (We always called it butterfly root.) is a very useful remedy. I have used it many times and when I was a child my mother used to make a tea with the roots from flowers of this from flowers planted years ago by my grandmother. Some of the remedies sound crazy but still work. Onion cough syrup sounds strange but I have a good friend who grew up using it. My grandmother made a salve she called (in southern speech) 'Bam Gilley' salve. I think based on a bit of research that it was Balm of Gilead salve. It is made with buds from a Tulip Poplar tree. I make salves and use a lot of herbs and natural remedies for myself and my family and know lots of other people who also use them. Here in the Smoky Mtn area there are home remedies everywhere. When we become too educated to listen to and learn from the wisdom of our ancestors and weed out the knowledge they had from the odd erroneous conclusions, then we are the ultimate losers. I have many books on my shelves similar to the one you have. A bit of common sense and research is all it takes to weed out the real from the quackery. I look forward to seeing what tidbits you'll share. Perhaps you might find some new remedy for me that I can use!!!
Carol, interesting post, thank you for sharing! I agree so much with what you said about ignoring the wisdom of our ancestors!
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