The Hebridean Scots of the Province of Quebec
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Home Remedies

The following essay is taken from pages 138-140 of "Memoirs of Dell" by John Austin MacLeod, unpublished 1972 typescript, 264 p.


The home remedies that were practised by the hardy natives were many and varied, living under conditions such as existed in those days, staying healthy was an absolute necessity. On that basis many quaint, queer and superstitious home remedies were applied in this endeavour. However, it is amazing how well many of them did work. Among some of which are the following:


Plantain (the lowly toad leaf) was a persistent, unimportant pest of a weed, yet, extraordinary insofar as its healing qualities are concerned. It is used immediately being plucked from the ground. Its ribs are then severed by the thumb nail at intervals of about one quarter of an inch apart, applied to the wound and bandaged. If the wound was fresh the smooth side of the leaf would be applied, for healing, but, if festered, the rib side of the leaf was applied to draw out the poison. It really was amazing how well it worked.


This was another cure used for festering sores to draw out the poison. Only the absolute fat part of the pork was used, the part ordinarily used for baked beans. Many a barefooted boy went around with a huge bandage on his big toe which contained a poultice of a piece of fat raw salt pork.


This was highly recommended as a positive cure for the elimination of stomach worms. This was a fairly common ailment among kids in those days. A few drops of turpentine with a teaspoonful of sugar taken internally always did the trick.

- end of p. 138 - (Memoirs of Dell)


Any boy who came into possession of a crop of head-lice was the victim of the coal-oil treatment. A few drops well rubbed into the scalp was sufficient, followed by another dose a few days later to get the newly hatched eggs. (During this time it was not deemed advisable to play with matches!)


As spring would be well on the way each parent recognized that it was that time of the year when the kids were in need of a spring tonic. This medicinal concoction was supposed to replenish whatever strength or vim that the ravages of winter had taken. These ingredients were mixed together and a teaspoonful taken each morning for three days, miss three, then repeat thrice.


A disease that only young cattle and young farm boys got was called "ring-worm." This was a rash around the eyes and the above mixture would be applied like salve on the affected parts of both kinds of animals, boy and calf alike.


This was an important ingredient found in almost every home in the community. Goodness only knows where this vile smelling substance came from or when. However, it was used for a good many ailments, for instance, rubbed on the chest to loosen a cold, etc. Though not recommended for stomach flu, for one could hardly stomach the smell anyway.


If a kid suffered from earache his mother would ask a pipe-smoker to blow smoke into the child's ear. This was done by putting the bowl of the pipe to the mouth and its stem into the ear. This was supposed to bring relief.

- end of p. 139 - (Memoirs of Dell)


For the relief of a cold one got a pail half full of hot water, added a teaspoonful of Keen's mustard and soaked the feet in it until the water got cold. (By this time the toes were about crippled from having been curled up for so long in the pail, one almost forgot about his distress that he set out to cure in the first place.) At the same time a rare drink would be consumed which consisted of very hot water, sweetened and a teaspoonful of Rawleigh's red liniment added.


After we kids would have a shampoo in wintertime Mamma was always afraid that we would catch cold. She had a precaution all her own following a shampoo, which was to pour a dipperful of ice-cold water over the head. This left one with the feeling that he had just been scalped by an Iroquois with a hatchet.


During the epidemic of the flu which had proved fatal to many thousands the world over, following the first world war, everyone wore a small bag fastened with a string around his neck. This bag contained a piece of paraffin wax impregnated with spirits of camphor. This was supposedly to ward off the bug. (Since that time each time that I smell camphor my mind goes back to over fifty years ago to those neck-charms of long ago.)

- p. 140 - (Memoirs of Dell)

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Last Updated: May 25, 1998