Mamie Had Homemade Remedies for All Ailments

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

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.

My hat’s off to you, Mamie!

Colorado Springs,

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