Mamie Had Homemade Remedies for All Ailments

Granddaughter reflects on grandmother’s old-fashioned homemade remedies.

| Appeared in March/April 2013 Issue of GRIT Magazine

Home Remedies

Grandmother putting scraped raw potatoes in cloth rag or diaper and placing it over the eyes to treat pinkeye.

Illustration By Brian Orr

My Grandmother Crabtree, or Mamie as we called her, made Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies look tame. Mamie had homemade remedies for just about any ailment we grandchildren came up with. Growing up in the 1930s, I didn’t know anyone who actually went to a doctor — except my oldest sister when she had to have her appendix removed.

If we stepped barefoot on a piece of glass, Mamie would wash the foot clean, pour turpentine and sugar on the wound, and then bandage it. After a few days of repeating this process and keeping the foot elevated, we were eager to be up and running again. She usually let us, but she made us wear shoes for a few days.

If we had the croup, Mamie instructed our mother to rub our chest with goose grease, if it was available, or Vick’s salve if it wasn’t, and lay a hot flannel cloth over it.

Once, all of us children came down with pinkeye. Mamie came each evening to doctor us before bedtime. She scraped raw potatoes and put the mixture in a clean soft rag, probably an old diaper, and bound it around our heads, covering our eyes, just before we were sent to bed. We had to sleep carefully so as not to loosen or pull the cloth off our eyes. The next morning, Mama would remove the cloth and wash our eyes with warm water. The potatoes drew out the inflammation in our eyes.

For stomach cramps of any kind, Mamie brewed a batch of onion tea, sassafras tea, boneset tea, or tea using whatever dried herbs she had strung in her upstairs loft.

Mamie was a strong pioneer woman. She kept us safe and healthy, and as she doctored us, she passed along her old-fashioned remedies to our mother and aunts.

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