“Mommy, why does the medicine that makes my throat feel better taste so yucky?”
This from the kid whose vitamins are glorified gummy bears. His idea of ‘tastes bad’ is when the cough syrup is grape-flavored instead of bubble gum. He should’ve been around back in the old days, when we were forced to choke down cod liver oil for everything from sniffles to sprained ankles.
Okay, I confess, I’m not quite old enough for the cod liver oil, though I do remember a bottle in my grandmother’s cupboard. The same bottle. For all of the years in my memory. Shoved clear into the back corner where the younger members of the household hoped its existence would be forgotten. Come to think of it, since my mother now lives in my grandmother’s house, it might still be there.
When you live an hour’s drive from the nearest medical facility, home remedies become a necessity. If we were true pioneers, this is where I’d tell you a harrowing story about the time my mother removed my brother’s appendix with a pocket knife by candlelight in the middle of a blizzard, then patched him up with a sewing needle and baling twine.
Sadly, nothing that exciting ever happened. I would have been glad to hold the candle for a chance to see a real live appendix, especially in the middle of blizzard, which were downright boring, being stuck in the house and all. Except that year we were snowed in at Christmas and the blister on my hand got infected. There’s a surprising amount of entertainment value in watching a red line creep up the inside of your arm when you know you can’t get to the hospital.
Thank goodness for the Epsom salt. It was our cod liver oil. Upset stomach? Mix it with water and drink it. Infection? Warm water and Epsom salt soak. Hemorrhoids? Um, well, you get the picture.
Close behind the Epsom salts came Mentholatum. The miracle in the little green jar, a mixture of petroleum jelly and enough menthol to melt the paint from the walls, let alone the congestion from your sinuses. I’ve been told to rub it on everything from the bottoms of my feet to underneath my nose. For sore throats, our family tradition is to massage a healthy dose on your chest and throat, then warm a tube sock in the oven and pin it around your neck. Can’t guarantee it’ll cure what ails you, but it sure feels good. I highly recommend, however, that you remember to take it off before you get to work the next morning.
My dad preferred to treat us with hot whiskey and honey. I’m not sure it had any medicinal value, but it did shut us up.
Then there was that time a couple years ago when I had a persistent sinus infection. My older sister sent me a recipe for a warm water and salt solution which, once mixed, I was supposed to shoot up my nose with a syringe. Flush the infection right out of there, she said.
Or I could just go jump in a swimming pool feet first without plugging my nose. Same general effect.
I’ve tried a lot of home remedies, and I will admit, some work really well. Ginger ale for nausea is a proven winner. The chunks whacked off my Mom’s aloe vera plant soothed burns and scrapes and stinging nettle rashes. The jury is still out on whether it was the WD-40 or the Celebrex that healed up my uncle’s sore knee. But there is one remedy I can swear by.
Start with one frazzled mother. Fill a bathtub with nice steamy water. Bubble bath is optional, but never hurts. It also helps if she pours a glass of her favorite wine. Submerge the mother in the hot bath. Recline. Close eyes.
Guaranteed to instantly cure constipation in six year old boys.