Another Back-In-The-Day…When medicines were not advertised, just prescribed by doctors…When doctors could safely spend more time on house calls than in their offices…And people were more accustomed to home remedies than using OTC and proscribed medicines.

The Old Hand

Mom’s medicines were fairly normal for the times, Vicks, aspirin, iodine, and lots of TLC. She forced us to swallow a daily dose of cod liver oil as a preventive medicine. Dad, though, had two items that he believed were the most important first-aid items ever made, namely a tin of carbolic salve and a bottle of horse liniment. These products were delivered to the house by the Watkin’s Man, a contemporary of the Fuller Brush Man, and precursor of the Avon Lady. Dad made sure we always had a supply of both medicines in the house and in the barn.

The carbolic salve came in a tin that resembled an oversized hockey puck. It was hard to get the cover off the first time; but you just rubbed a little of the salve on the inside rim of the cover, and it came off like a breeze afterwards. It was a Swiss Army knife of medicines. A cut on a fetlock, a festering harness sore, just slather a glob of carbolic salve on. A skinned knee, a boil on the butt, slather a glob of carbolic salve on.

A family down the road used axle grease for the same purpose. Both products had the same origins, dinosaurs, dead for eons. But the carbolic salve had a strong medicinal odor that lent assurance that it was working.

But it’s odor didn’t compare with the pungent perfume of the horse liniment. That had the potency to mask even the everyday fragrances of the barn. Whew! If man or beast had aching muscles, just rub in the liniment. Not only did it ease the ache, it gave you plenty of elbow room at school. It also worked to cure a horse of a croupy cough, although getting it down it’s throat was a real chore.

And then there was the times that us kids had a croupy cough… Dad made a horse liniment toddy: hot water, a dose of liniment, and lots of spoonfuls of sugar. Mom always pointed out that the label said it was not for human consumption. Dad always countered with, it’ll cure what ails ’em, and put a little hair on their chests. My brothers and I always protested because it had a terrible taste. My sister always cried because she didn’t want hair on her chest. Now I don’t know if it was because of it’s medical value, or because of the threat of having to drink another toddy if the cough persisted; but it worked.

Pub 1/20/12, St.Paul Pioneer Press


Just checked the Watkins web site. Both products are there for the buying if interested.

The old timers around the village had other favorite remedies. The women favored reciting the rosary with the sick person…’Wake up, we only got two more decades to go’… The men favored a pint of blackberry brandy from Judge Shanno’s liquor store. ‘After chores you kill the jug, climb in bed under a couple quilts, and sweat it out overnight. Might not always cure you but you’ll have good dreams.’

WARNING: These friendly tips are for use only in those olde tyme illnesses and should not replace the words to live by today, hunker down, wash your hands, and keep a Social Distance from everyone.



30 thoughts on “OLDE TYME MEDICINE

  1. Remember CARTER’S LITTLE LIVER PILLS? I still have an old container with some of the tiny white pills left in it. I think my mother bought it (probably back in the 1940s). The funny thing is that it says on the label (in small print) NOT FOR DISEASES OF THE LIVER. It was supposed to be a laxative!

    • I remember they had an obnoxious jingle. Never knew what they were for. Aways thought they were for the liver. If I remember right they were advertisers on Amos and Andy. I also remember a lot of pills came in little tin boxes.

  2. I remember we had three things in the medicine cabinet. Vicks Vapo-Rub, Germolene, and sticking plaster. Everything that happened was dealt with by one or the other.
    And we are all still alive! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. We knew the Watkins man. Some of these old time sales folks were more like friends that somebody trying to work you over for a nickel. And their products were good too. I’m sure they still are, but I’ve lost contact with them over the years. Yep, Mom knew a lot of folk remedies to solve most any health issue and crisis. Six kids and in the country you need to know that stuff.

    Hope you and yours are doing OK Don.

    • Aw, the old raw egg cure. I remember the old timers putting raw eggs in their beer. They said it grew hair on your chest. I might have tried it if they said it would grow hair on my head.
      Thoughts and prayers, Gwen.

  4. Indians use Herbal medicine mostly. Ginger tea for cold, ginger-honey for cough, fenugeek for stomach upset, turmeric for cuts and burns, margosa for skin issues. The pretty much sums up the medical kit.

  5. What lovely memories of the simple and strange medicines from the past. I remember the Vicks with which my mother rubbed my chest, the poultices of flaxseed, the garlic necklaces to remove the worms (luckily I never needed them), but above all the saliva of the mother which was used to clean and disinfect when there was nothing else at hand

    • Mother’s saliva, oh yes, Louisa. I can still picture my mother doing a quick clean with her saliva. I didn’t know about the garlic necklace to kill worms. I thought it was only to keep vampires away.
      Thanks for your back reading and comment. Your comments are always good medicine for me.

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