Grandma’s Medical Treatment Consisted of Natural Remedies

Grandchildren were grateful for most of grandma’s natural remedies.

Home Remedies Stove

Grandmother treating grandchild's cold with a kettle filled with boiling water and Vicks, and a towel draped over child's head to breathe in the steam.

Illustration By Brian Orr

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When my father was called to fight in World War II, he left my sister and me in the tender, loving and capable hands of our grandparents, who lived in Woodward, Oklahoma. Grandma had a natural remedy for all of life’s uncertainties.

For a chest congestion, she treated us with a warm mustard pack. To knock out a cold, she filled an old kettle with boiling water and Vicks, and then draped a towel over our heads. She then had us lean over the kettle to breathe in the steam. I must say, it sure didn’t take long after a breathing treatment before we were able to breathe through our noses again.

During the summer months, my sister and I always played outside, and the yard was covered with anthills. Fire ants are aggressive when guarding their territory, and since they blended into the red sandy soil, they were difficult to see. However, we knew they were there when we got bit or stung, which happened frequently. Lucky for us, Grandma had a remedy for fire ant bites, too. She rubbed hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, which she had mixed into a paste, gently over the welts that appeared on our tender young skin. What a remedy! I still use it for all kinds of bites and stings because it really does work.

Every year come spring and fall, Grandma pulled out the cod liver oil, which was her remedy for good health. The smell and taste was worse than horrible – in fact, it’s indescribable. When I was younger and saw Grandma get out the dreaded bottle of cod liver oil, I would take off and hide, leaving my sister to fend for herself. It only prolonged the inevitable, though. It didn’t matter how long I stayed hidden, Grandma was waiting for me. Our reward for being brave and taking our good-health medicine was Grandma’s famous butter and sugar sandwiches. What made the sandwiches special was that she cut them diagonal; a sandwich cut diagonally always tastes better than one cut straight across.

I suppose in the 1940s, cod liver oil may have been beneficial for overall good health; Grandma sure thought it was, anyway. I raised three children, and I never once gave them cod liver oil, but I did cut their sandwiches diagonally. 

Cherryvale, Kansas

Read about more interesting homemade remedies in Stories of Natural Cures for Common Ailments.