This time of the year folks are worrying about bug bites and the dreaded case of poison oak or poison ivy. I know they're different plants, but we always called the itchy stuff poison oak no matter which plant it came from. I was a lucky kid, I never had poison oak, but that wasn't the case for others in my family.
Granny is highly allergic to the stuff. Honest to goodness certain times of the year she can walk through the yard and catch it from the wind blowing. When she was pregnant with me she had a horrible case of poison oak. Pap always said that's why I didn't seem to be effected by the plant. He thought I built up an immunity to it when Granny was carrying me. Paul and Steve didn't get that same immunity.
One of the worst cases Paul ever had was during the middle of the winter. It was in the late 70's during one of the coldest winters on record for our area. We still had gravity water and it stayed frozen more than thawed during that bitter cold spell. Pap built fires along the length of black pipe that wasn't buried to thaw it. Paul and I loved for the water to freeze because we played in the fires and explored the woods.
While playing in the fire we inadvertently burned poison oak and in just a day or so Paul was eat up with the raised itchy patches. Paul's case was severe. Pap took him to a local pediatrician who proceeded to explain to Pap that the boy could not have poison oak as it was the dead of winter. After the doc left the room her nurse told Pap "She's crazy as a loon that's poison oak if I've ever seen it!" A trip to a different doctor got Paul a much needed shot and medication for his aliment.
Steve's job requires him to be in weedy brushy areas and he has become an expert at heading off his outbreaks of poison oak as soon as he notices one, but he's had to have shots on more than one occasion.
A few summers ago my streak of never having poison oak came to a screeching halt. I was helping a lady friend work in her flowers and apparently in the process of pulling armfuls of weeds I pulled up poison oak. At first I didn't really know what I had. I showed my arms to Pap and he said it sure looked like poison oak, but since I'd never had it he wasn't sure.
To say I was in misery is an understatement. After a few days of the mess Steve came to check on me. He took one look and said "Yep that's poison oak." For over a week I tried every home remedy you've ever heard of-from oatmeal to peroxide-nothing helped. Finally on a Saturday afternoon I gave up the fight and paid a visit to a local urgent care center. The doctor who saw me said "You waited about a week too long to come." He gave me 2 shots and sent me back by the hospital emergency room for a couple of pain killers. I have faint scars on the insides of each arm to remind me I don't ever want to have that vile affliction again.
A few home remedies I've heard about:
- Fingernail polish-Granny swears by this one. At the first sign of a bump or patch cover it with fingernail polish-supposedly the polish seals the place off from air and helps it dry up.
- Clorox to kill the poison.
- Spread cooked oatmeal on the patches to relieve the pain/itching and to dry the areas up.
- Mix baking soda with water and put on patches.
- Use vinegar to stop the itching.
- Use buttermilk to relieve the itch.
- Rub patches with peroxide or alcohol to kill the poison and dry up the areas-this remedy hurts so bad but feels so good at the same time!
- Several remedies suggest taking a bath in salt, soda, or oatmeal water-while others warn of never taking a bath.
Jewelweed growing in a ditch at the bottom of my driveway
One of my favorite books on folk medicine-Folk Medicine In Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender has this to say about remedies for poison oak/ivy:
"...poultices of cooked or crushed leaves of peach tree, jewelweed, ragweed, red oak, willow, or nightshade; juice of a green tomato or milkweed; and topical solutions of red oak or willow bark. Frequently reported non-botanical remedies include buttermilk, soda paste, Epsom salt solution, cow's cream (sometimes mixed with gunpowder), a biscuit soaked in sweet milk, calamine lotion, salt water solution, and bleach. According to some reports it was believed that one could develop an immunity to poison ivy by eating some of it's leaves. This dangerous and potentially fatal folk belief still circulates today."
I've read several positive accounts about jewelweed's use as a poison oak remedy. Generally the plants grow in shady damps places and can reach two to three feet tall. The juice of the plant is a natural cortisone and is also supposed to be an excellent remedy for bee stings and bug bites.
Granny said the first time she ever remembered having poison oak she had it on her face. Her mother, Gazzie, took her to town to see the pharmacist. He sold Gazzie some calamine lotion for Granny's face. She said she'd never forget they smeared it all over her till she looked like a ghost. While they were in town Gazzie took Granny over to see her aunt. Granny said the elderly lady was scared by the child with the ghostly skin.
This summer Granny has had another bout of poison oak. She polished it up and then taped it up...only when she took off the tape she took part of her hide too. A shot from the doctor and some topical cream finally cleared up her poison oak and I'm keeping my fingers crossed no one else gets it this summer or ever for that matter!
p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TODAY Friday July 7 @ 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Art Walk in Murphy NC and on Sunday July 9 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville NC.
I discovered a wildflower I've never seen, or at least never noticed, in my backyard last week. At first glance I thought it was Fleabane, but a closer inspection showed the petals were a lovely lavender color instead of white.
I grabbed my Wildflowers & Plant Communities book and discovered I was right in the first place, the plant is a member of the fleabane family. I didn't realize fleabane can range from white to the pale lavender of the plant I found.
Robin's Plantain is one of the common names that belongs to the plant. All fleabane is said to ward off fleas but I've never tried using the plant for anything.
The lovely grouping of wildflowers sprung up at the edge of the backyard near Wilma, our beloved beagle's grave.
Wilma was the dog we had before Ruby Sue. She's been gone nearly 15 years now. She was a true beagle and lived to chase rabbits. One evening when no one was at home the coyotes waited on her while she ran her favorite rabbit trail out the ridge from the house. I took her to the vet but there was nothing he could do, she died before morning.
Wilma would never eat if someone was watching her. You could lay a steak beside her and she'd just sit patiently until you left before she picked it up. After the coyotes got her we were all so upset and even Pap said he ought to lay in wait till they came back down that trail.
Funny how a group of wildflowers can take you down a road of remembering.
p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sunday April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC
I have several stories about wart removal for you today. If you missed the first post What to do for Warts go here.
The ability to remove warts was on both sides of my family. My people were mostly from the foot hills of Appalachia in North Georgia. My dad's grandmother removed over a hundred warts from my uncle one day. She made him go collect as many smooth stones as he could find and bring them to her. She was waiting with a paper bag. She took the stones and took turns rubbing the stones over the warts until a stone had been rubbed on every wart. As she did it, she whispered something inaudible under her breath. After she rubbed a wart, she dropped it in a paper sack. When all warts had been rubbed, she told my uncle to close the bag and place it on the side of the street. When someone came by, the warts would jump on them and my uncle wouldn't have them anymore. About three days later, all of my uncle's warts were gone. My mom's grandfather could just rub a wart and whisper something under his breath and it would go away soon. People always argue the placebo effect but he even made seed warts on live stock in the town go away.
Austin ~ October 2016
Just came up on this site. My Papa buys warts as well, even to date, and has as long as I can remember, (early 60's). He requests the patient give him a dime for each wart to be removed. He has never told me exactly how it works, but I have witnessed numerous people who have visited for this reason, and later witnessed that they no longer had warts. He rolls the dime around the wart two or more times, hard to say, then lays it flat on the wart and removes it quickly, gives it back to the patient, and tells them to spend it, and forget where it was spent. One in particular I remember well, was one of my first cousins from Augusta, GA. He had terrible warts on both hands, and I didn't count them, nor hear the number, but it had to be upwards of 60, because he brought a brown paper bag in which he claimed to have $6.50 worth of dimes, and he wanted to sell all of them to Papa. Next time he visited, he was ranting on and on at how my Papa had made all his warts disappear, (and they were all gone). Papa told me that his grandmother, who passed in '59, also did this, and had taught him. He also learned to "talk fire out" from this same grandmother. This I did learn to do, by virtue of him teaching my mother, who in turn taught me. His grandmother told him when she taught him, that it had to pass from male to female, female to male, etc. My GGrandmother, who was a typical Matriarch of the family, and all our family since have lived in NE Alabama, foothills of the Appalachians, and mostly migrated from N. and S. Carolina before settling here.
J. Steele - August 2016
My dad is 80 years old now, so I don't know if he still claims to be able to do this. However I know firsthand that he has this ability and we've never been able to explain it. He said that he got it from his grandmother who told simply told him "you will have the gift too". When I was a kid, I had a wart on the back of my right hand. A cat scratched me through it and left a trail, and the length of the scratch turned into a puffed up wart-like scar.My mom told me to go to my dad with it and he gently rubbed it without any medicine, home remedy, or other "witch doctor" action. About a week or two weeks later, I noticed that the wart and cat scratch scar were gone. Would love to know if there is any scientific reasoning in his body chemistry for this.
Jason Fuller - July 2016
My wife Trish grew up in NE Arkansas in a family with old Irish roots. Kitchen Witchery was just part of the heritage. She told me a story of her having multiple warts on her hand that wouldn't go away. Her uncle took a string, tied the same number of knots as warts. He spit on each knot rubbed a knot on each wart then threw the string into a fire. The warts were gone in a few days.
John Olex - May 2016
I know this is an old post, but I wanted to share my experience with warts. When I was little I had warts all over the back of both hands. I lived in a small farming community in SE Arkansas. My great aunt gave me some kernels of corn and told me to touch every wart with the corn, say a phrase (no idea what it was anymore), and throw the corn to the chickens. I did what I was told and within a couple of weeks all but one of them were gone. My mother told me later that she had wanted to tell me that it was just superstition, but after my warts disappeared she knew I wouldn't believe her. I just wish I knew what it was Aunt Jean told me to say!
Avilldr - January 2016
As a youth my fingers were covered with warts around each nail. An old German neighbor lady had me take my mothers dish rag, wash my hands and then hide the rag where it would not be found. Some time later the warts all disappeared. I also seem to have been blessed with this power. I rub a copper penny over the wart, then use the same penny to buy the wart from the person who had it. So far it has worked on several occasions. The usual routine is that the person usually forgets all about the wart an one day they look and it is gone. Don't ask me why ... Perhaps faith .. God gives us each different gifts!
Glenn Anderson - September 2014
I realize this thread is a bit old but I had to post my experience. I am from Missouri and I'm not sure of any of my ancestors living in the Appalachians but I do know that we have Blackfoot blood in our family. I had a wart on my wrist that popped up out of nowhere. I went to the dermatologist, had it burned off, and it came back. I was at my Uncle's house and he saw it. He grabbed my hand rubbed my wart with his thumb and asked me why I wanted that thing on my arm. I went into this rant about how it was burned off and came back. He told me not to worry that it would fall off soon and never come back. Sure enough, a few days later it was gone. That was 15 years ago and it has not come back. Many other family members have similar stories. We've always joked about the possibility that he takes the wart from us and his rear end is covered in them. Joking aside, I'm amazed that there is an entire thread on this phenomenon. I've got some crazy looks from people in the past 15 years when I tell them my story.
Bonnie Colson - June 2013
My wife tells of the cure that they used. They would prick the wart to make it bleed, then rub grains of corn in the blood. The corn was wrapped in a rag then buried at a fork in a path. The next person to pass would get the warts.
Gary Powell - October 2011
A few of my past posts continue to be quite popular. Even though it may have been years since I shared the posts here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn, internet search engines bring people to visit them on a regular basis.
One of the old posts that is still garnering attention, as well as comments, is one I wrote back in 2011 about the mystery of folks who are able to remove warts by seemingly magical ways.
I've never had a wart before, but I did have some hideous growth on the inside of my thumb when I was pregnant with the girls.
My pregnancy was filled with one complication after the other. The weird growth was the most annoying and embarrassing. The condition has some long hard to say name, but I can't remember what it was. The doc who removed it explained it like this: I had injured my thumb in some small minor way-maybe I got a splinter or pricked it on a straight pen. My pregnant body went into over drive sending way too many resources to fix my thumb which resulted in a growth full of blood that bled all over the place at the slightest touch. A plastic surgeon removed the disgusting mass. He said it might come back, but thank goodness it didn't although I do still have a scar.
I've heard about folks who could remove warts all my life. I thought about going to see such a person for my weird growth but since it wasn't really a wart and I was at the doctors office practically every single week I let them take care of it.
The most common methods of magically removing warts are related to rubbing, buying, and counting. Here are two examples straight from the mouths of two long time Blind Pig readers.
I had numerous warts on my hands. Everyone told me that they were caused by playing with toads and letting them piss on your hands. I remember thinking that wasn't right. I knew that I hadn't touched any toads. I remember trying to keep my hands in my pockets so that people wouldn't see my warts. My parents tried any number of homemade potions to no avail. Some things from the drugstore were tried, but again no remedy for my warts. I remember going to the doctor and him telling them that I was too young to have them "burned" off.
We carried my 'Granny' Salmons to Yadkin County one Sunday afternoon to visit some friends. I remember that it was late in the day and Daddy was ready to leave. She told them to wait that she was going to take me to get my warts "witched". She led me for a long distance (probably not that far, but to a little boy, quite a distance) down a path through the woods. We eventually came to a log house. An old (again, old is relative to my age) woman came out and talked with my grandmother.
Granny gave her a sack that she had brought. The old lady sat me down on the stoop to the cabin door and started touching the warts on my hands. She then took a piece of cord and tied a number of knots in it (I later realized that she was counting the warts and tied a knot for each one.) She then hung the cord around my neck and led me by the hand around the yard. She then took the cord and went into the woods. She returned and told me that my warts would leave me to look for the cord. She said if I ever tried to find the cord all my warts would return. We left and went back home. Within a few days, all my warts, except one, disappeared. I still have that one wart on the knuckle of my ring finger and have had it my whole life. I always figured that she missed counting it.
When I was around 10 years old I had a wart on my left thumb. It was on the side of my thumb at the knuckle. The wart measured about 3/8 inch across. That's fairly large on a 10 year old hand. My folks took me to the doctor for removal. The doctor burned it off. It wasn't long till it came back, so it was back to the doctor. This time he cut it off but again, it came back.
My cousin, Zoolie also had a wart. Hers was on the thumb also but it was on the side growing partially into the nail. It was about the same size wart as mine. Her folks took her to a dermatologist. They were really concerned because of the way it grew into the fingernail. The dermatologist removed it several times, several different ways. Each time it grew back.
My dad finally said "enough, get in the car, both of you". He took us to an old man in Henson Cove above Canton, not too far from my grandmothers house. I think the man's name was Mr. Hall. He looked at both warts, rubbed them and sent us on our way.
I looked down a couple of weeks later and it was gone, I called Zoolie and her wart was gone as well.
I don't know what to tell you happened.....the warts were gone and never returned.
When The Deer Hunter and I first met, he had two or three warts on his hand. After dating him for a few months I was so head over heels in love that I paid the warts no attention and didn't even notice they were gone until he pointed it out. He said he'd grown up hearing about folks getting their warts rubbed by someone with special powers-so every time he thought about it he rubbed his. In a few weeks they were gone. I still tease him about having magical wart removing powers.
Drop back by in a few days to read comments left on the original wart removal post I published in 2011.
Martins Creek Elementary 1945 - Pap is the first boy in the second row on the left
This school year has been especially hard on students in our area, there has been much sickness. It started back before Christmas and seems to still be making its way back and forth across the county. There was confirmed cases of flu, pink-eye, strep-throat, and a mean strain of stomach virus going on so fast and thick that three local schools shut down for a few days to let the germs settle and the students and staff get better.
There's almost always an outbreak or two of lice in schools each year. I remember being in the 6th grade when the health department came around to check. I always wore my hair in a pony-tail, but hadn't quite mastered the technique of putting it up myself. The lady took my hair down to look at my head. She never offered to help me put it back and of course Granny wasn't there to do it for me-I was mortified.
Another illness or condition that was often talked about back in those days was the itch. I never knew anyone that had the itch, but every year it seemed there was a rumor about some poor kid having it.
The only scratching I ever seen was done by folks who had been eat up by chiggers or caught poison oak from playing outside in the brushy areas.
I suppose folks who truly had the itch actually suffered from scabies-which is an aggravating skin aliment caused by mites.
The cures for the itch back in the days before modern medicine took over included:
- boiling poke roots-and adding the brewed tea to your bathwater
- slathering the body with lard-and in some cases sulfur was added to the lard
- rubbing the body with kerosene
I've read accounts from folks who took the poke bath remedy, they said it felt like they'd been set on fire. I'm sure the kerosene method would feel the same. After submitting to any of the remedies mentioned it was customary to wear long handles afterwards to hold the medicine close to the skin.
I started writing this post about about the illnesses our local schools have endured this year and somehow went down the road of lice, scabies, and my own elementary days of going to school in the same big brick building Pap did.
The old building isn't there anymore, it burned to the ground a good 20 years ago, but the children who walked the creaky hallways and went outside to use the restrooms that were always cold still live in my mind.
I can never hear about lice or the itch that I don't think of a girl from those days.
The girl was from a poor family-a family of kids who were often accused of having some contagious aliment. She was a good 4 years older than me if not more. One evening as we stood in the bus line she looked down at me and said "I know you're a witch cause your eyebrows are growed together." I didn't take offense to what she said, even then I knew well and good I had been blessed with Pap's thick eyebrows and I knew he certainly wasn't a witch. I think she regretted telling me about my eyebrows because she quickly added "Don't worry mine are growed together too."
If I could go back to that day I'd ask her who told her about eyebrows and witches and I ask her if they told her any other old sayings? And if I could go back, I hope I'd have the gumption to go out of my way to be nice to her and her siblings, because from this vantage point I can clearly see they lived in a drought when it came to showers of kindness.
tooth jumper, tooth puller noun An untrained dentist who uses a hammer and a nail to extract or cause a tooth to jump out. Cf tooth dentist.
1961 Seeman Arms of Mt 35 Imagine going to a mountain "tooth-jumper," who armed with hammer and nail and kept a pair of home-forged pliers handy! 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 15 The tooth-puller and the tooth-jumper were known as Tooth Doctors.
Jumping the tooth involved placing a chisel or other metal object at the base of the hurting tooth, just under the gum line. While holding the chisel in place the tooth jumper took a hammer and gave it a good hard tap. If it was a successful tap, the tooth jumped out of it's hole.
The process of jumping the tooth sounds so horrible it makes you wonder why anyone would even attempt the method. Here's an excerpt on tooth jumping from John Parris in These Storied Mountains:
But them that really knowed how to tooth-jump could pop a tooth out of a feller's head before you could wink an eye. It was just that quick. It had to be. If one lick didn't jump the tooth out it was all-night-ice-'em. For if the tooth didn't come out with that first lick a feller just went plumb crazy and had to be hog tied till the job was finished.
While thinking of pulling or jumping teeth without numbing is hard to fathom-I do know if you had a severe toothache eventually you'd be willing for someone to help you know matter how bad it hurt...at least I would.
Today I'm sharing an interview with another fascinating person I met at the Wilderness Wildlife Week back in May.
Pigeon Forge has hosted Wilderness Wildlife Week for the last 25 years as a tribute to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its heritage. There are tons of presentations and workshops offered during the week-all FREE to the public.
It's a great event for people who are interested in anything related to the Smoky Mountain National Park as well as the general area of East TN and Western NC. The Deer Hunter and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to attend the event again. If you want to plan ahead-next year Wilderness Wildlife Week will be held May 9 - 13.
Crystal and Tipper May 2016
If you've been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a while you'll remember Chatter has become very interested in herbal medicine and natural beauty products over the last year.
As I flipped through the brochure for the week and read the description for Crystal Wilson's presentation I told The Deer Hunter "We have to go to that one, Chatter would be mad if we didn't check it out for her. And the lady's a Wilson so hey I know she'll be good."
From the moment Crystal started talking I knew we'd picked the right session to attend. The Deer Hunter and I both immediately felt a connection to her. It was just like listening to someone sit on our front porch and talk to us about every day things.
I was so impressed and pleased that Crystal didn't try to hide her use of our colorful Appalachian language. If someone didn't understand what she meant, she explained it in a patient kind manner and then continued on with her teaching.
Check out the interview I did with Crystal.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Southwest Virginia. For the last 21 years, we have lived on our mountain homestead in the foothills of the Smokies.
Does your family have a long history in Appalachia?
I am a seventh generation Appalachian. Both my Mommy's people and my Daddy's came from the old country and pretty much stayed here.
How did you start using herbs to treat your family and others?
I have pretty much always used herbs. It is just what I do. Daddy taught me plants. We decided when we bought this place to grow mountain medicine and that is what we did.
I liked the explanation you gave about certain plants being white men's footprints because they were brought from over the ocean by settlers who knew about their uses and wanted to make sure they had them here. Can you explain it to my readers like you did at the event and maybe mention an example or two?
We know women brought plants with them on the ships from England and Scotland. One example of that is Plantain. That's that broad leaf "weed" in your yard. It can soothe about anything from bee stings to upset stomachs. The Cherokee called it "White Men's Foot Prints." Another plant they brought was good ole Catnip. I believe every mountain Granny has given Catnip to a colicky baby!
What other role does your farm play in your life?
I know you sell herbs do you also sell produce or is that primarily for your family’s consumption?
No we do not sell produce. We try to grow and put by as much as we can for our family.
Since you’ve been growing herbs for medicinal purposes have you noticed an increase in awareness or desire for a natural way to heal or aid in curing sickness?
When we started 20 years ago, there wasn't a whole lot of interest in going back to the old ways of using herbs. The last little bit, folks have been more interested. You know everything old is new again? LOL!
Do you teach often?
How can folks find out about your classes?
How can folks find out more about your remedies that are available?
Most our remedies are listed on our website. My favorite thing to do is to make custom things for folks to make medicine just for them.
Can you name 5 things that come to mind when you think about the word Appalachia?
I hope you enjoyed meeting Crystal, her love for Appalachia shines through her lovely voice and her smiling face as she teaches others about medicinal plants. If you live close enough to attend one of her classes I highly encourage you to do so. And if you'd like to hear her lovely voice go listen to this.
"Ringworm is caused by various species of fungi. The most frequently reported remedy for ringworm in Southern Appalachia was a topical application of juice from green walnut hulls. A magical twist to this remedy involved applying the juice and then using a thimble to press several rings , probably three or nine, around the infected area. Some ringworm suffers recited the following charm while rubbing the bottom of an iron pot in a circle with and index finger moistened with their own saliva: "Ringworm round, ringworm red, ringworm die, to make (name of sufferer) glad."
Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender pg 101.
"Long, long ago in a place far away we used crushed walnut shells to clean jet engine turbine blades. It was easy. Very carefully toss handfuls of the granular shells into the air intake of the running engine. The shells were just coarse and hard enough to scour the (extremely expensive) fast spinning blades without damaging them. Of course, the shell residue went out with the exhaust."
George Pettie - November 2015
"My ancestors, the Cherokee Indians used the walnut bark to dye their basket splints, carvings and used the nut meat to cook with in some dishes. My Mom told me that when she was a young girl living on Blue Wing (Soco) section of the Reservation that the women would beat up walnut hulls to make a pulp and would dam up the creek and put this in the creek water to make the fish come to the top of the water for air, then they would pick up the fish and put them in their baskets to take home to cook and eat. The squirrels bury them in my flower beds for the winter and the ones that come up in the spring and have leaves on them I break them off. I love the smell of the walnut."
Peggy Lambert - November 2015
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in 2012.
Jewelweed grows in a ditch at the bottom of my driveway. Generally the plants grow in shady damp places and can reach 2-3 feet tall. The juice of the plant is said to be a natural cortisone and is an old time remedy for poison oak, poison ivy, bee stings, and bug bites.
Jewelweed is sometimes called Wild Touch Me Not-because once the plant begins to produce seed pods the slightest touch will send seeds flying in all directions.
According to my favorite old book about wildflowers, Wildflowers Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan, Jewelweed is also called Spotted Touch Me Not, Silver Cap, Wild Balsam, Lady's Eardrops, Snap Weed and Wild Lady's Slipper.
Blanchan also has this to say about the plants:
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Oregon, south to Missouri and Florida.
These exquisite, bright flowers, hanging at a horizontal, like jewels from a lady's ear, may be responsible for the plant's folk-name; but whoever is abroad early on a dewy morning, or after a shower, and finds notched edges of the drooping leaves hung with scintillating gems, dancing, sparkling in the sunshine, sees still another reason for naming this the Jewel-weed. In a brook, pond, spring, or wayside trough, which can never be far from its haunts, dip a spray of the plant to transform the leaves into glistening silver. They shed water much as the nasturtiums do.
Jewelweed is a plant I've been familiar with my whole life. When I see the striking orange blooms I'm reminded of small children placing their hands in mine to go for a walk.
I was one of those little girls who was born wishing she was a Mother. I loved my baby dolls more than some folks love their children-sad but true. I was no more than 12 when I started babysitting. I had a natural instinct when it came to entertaining kids-one of my never fail secret weapons was to take them on a walk. If Jewelweed and its rocketing seed pods were in season-it made the walk all the better.
I wish I could see far back enough in time to know who taught me about Jewelweed and its entertaining seeds pods but I can't. I'd like to think it was Pap's Mother since I stayed with her when I was small but I can't say for sure.
I can say for sure, she walked the same paths I do.
A few weeks ago Blind Pig reader Bobby Dale, sent me the following question:
Just wondering if you have heard in your mountain venue the medical treatment of blowing smoke in one's ear to cure an earache? I've practiced medicine for 40 years in MS and OH. I had an elderly patient tell me this morning that her father used to doctor her earache by blowing smoke in her ear. I've never heard that one before.
I wrote Bobby Dale back and said YES I have heard of blowing smoke in someone's ear to relieve or cure an earache.
I've only had 2 earaches in my lifetime. The first was when I was between 5 and 8 years old. Pap smoked Prince Albert cigarettes in those days, but I don't remember if he blew smoke in my ear or not. What I do remember was the pain that made me roll around on Granny's couch and bawl.
The next earache came when I was 18 years old. Pap and I had been sick on and off all winter long. I was out running around with friends one Saturday night when my ear started hurting. By morning, I was pacing the hall holding my ear. After Pap got home from church him and Granny took me to the ER where I bawled like a baby, paced some more, and waited for someone to see me. When the doc said the infection was so bad my eardrum would likely burst I started a new round of crying. He quickly explained it would heal itself and I would still be able to hear. He also said my pain would stop immediately. My eardrum burst on the way to the drug store and the doc was right I had instant relief from my pain.
Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender has an entire entry about earaches and the remedies people used to cure them.
According to Cavender, most folks thought cold air going into the ear is what caused the ache. Makes sense since cold air does make your ear hurt for a little while if you're out in it for any length of time without a toboggan or earmuffs.
Cavender said since folks believed cold, was the culprit, they tried to warm the ear up by blowing smoke in it or pouring warmed liquid in the ear. The following cures were listed in the earache entry of Cavender's book:
- pouring warm urine into the ear
- dripping sap from a warmed sapling into the ear
- dripping warm sweet oil in the ear (I've actually seen this one used and it did seem to help the pain. I believe it is still a fairly common remedy in my part of Appalachia.)
- blowing smoke into the ear
- placing a warm compress on the ear area (this one is common here and beyond I'm sure)
I shared Bobby Dale's question with Pap and asked him what remedies he remembered from childhood.
Pap said, "They told me I liked to have died from an earache when I was about 3 years old. I don't remember it. But they said they got a little bundle of sourwood limbs and set them in the fireplace. Not where they'd burn up, just where they'd get good and hot. Then they caught the sap that came out of the wood and poured it in my ear." I remember people blowing smoke in ears too and even cupping the ear with a glass to try and keep the smoke inside. Some people swore by putting warm buttermilk mixed with sodie in their ear when they had an earache. And of course I've used plain old peroxide to clean mine out good."
Home remedies seem to be making a comeback. Not the urine in the ear type of remedies-but natural herbal remedies are on the rise in my neck of the woods.