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Medicines We Hated When we Were Youngsters

Updated on January 25, 2016
Fiddleman profile image

I am Robert Elias Ballard, married to Pearlie Jane (PJ) for 45 years on November 24, 2017. We live in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Cod Liver Oil, Castor oil, and Asphidity Bags

The movie Mary Poppins produced by Walt Disney in 1964 brought to us one weird word that really had no meaning but was fun to say. The word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidious" a mouthful was more fun saying than having it appear on an oral spelling quiz for those in our junior high English spelling class. Julie Andrews in her leading role for which she won Best Actress Oscar award also sang A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine go Down and as I was thinking about writing this article the song with its melody and words came rushing back into my memory. I thought of the times my parents gave us a worm treatment made with turpentine and the drops of turpentine were put onto a spoon containing sugar.

If we ever had worms that warranted this treatment with this home remedy, I cannot verify but we never questioned the judgement of our parents and we got the treatment regardless. However, I do know one of our neighborhood boys who did have tape worms when he took a dump in the woods (sounds crazy don't it, but he had eat a lot of green apples.) It wriggled out with his stool. His sister just happened to come along and saw it and told him, "I'm gonna tell mama!" I'm pretty sure he later got the "treatment."

My parents also gave us Castor Oil on occasion. Now that is some nasty stuff and I'm not sure what medical condition we may have had that required a dose of that mean tasting stuff, possibly constipation. Mama would give us a little bit of Karo syrup or orange juice after swallowing the Castor oil. As all of you well know, mama's can make even Castor oil taste good. Apparently the home medications worked well and we were rarely ever sick or had to go to the doctor.

When I began elementary school in the mid 1950s, we were required to take cod liver oil pills. I can't remember if we were given them first thing in the morning or just prior to our lunch period. Our teacher had them in a small yellow envelope and gave one to each of us. The county school nurse, Mrs Mary Rowe, left them at our school and during those years all students in our county had to take them. I always wondered how such a small pill could create such a foul tasting burp hours after swallowing. I'm sure the cod liver oil pills were given to prevent some communicable disease and insure we got enough vitamins to ward off such. One of my high school classmates told me recently that her mommy was very upset with her when she discovered the cod liver oil pills had not been swallowed but mysteriously found their way to her sweater pocket.

Cod liver oil is a supplement many folks take today. The health benefits are purportedly huge because of the Omega 3 fatty oils and other healthy substances contained in the oil derived from the liver of the cod fish. The main benefits are to those who suffer from arthritis and heart ailments but is also has the added benefits of helping our bodies repair wounds to our skin, nails, and hair.Cod liver oil also has high levels of Vitamin A and can lead to toxicity if taken on a daily basis. Today the foul taste and digestive issues have been resolved and cod liver oil pill can be purchase that have no taste.

Another home remedy often used when I was a youngster for colds and influenza were those smelly old acifidity bags worn around the neck to ward off the evil spirits thought to cause the infections. I'm not sure what herbs or yarbs were placed inside the bags, some say ginseng and Golden seal among others but I like the analysis of my old friend,Leon, when he commented,"The acifidity bags didn't help the one who had the cold or flu but since both are communicable diseases, the wearer stunk so bad, no one would get close to them and the infectious germs did not spread any further."

Medicines have evolved very much today from when we were treated by our parents in the same way using the same home remedies handed down through generations During those early school years for us "baby boomers" as we are often referred today, we saw the eradication of Polio. We all took the vaccine at school and our county paid the costs for vaccines and the administering of them. We were also tested for diabetes, had our hearing and vision tested.

We also have vaccinations for chicken pox, measles and mumps. It was my misfortune to have all of these which spread like wildfire through our school. Thanks to modern medicine the old Hoosier cabinet where my mama kept those amber colored bottles of Castor oil and cod liver oil are only a memory but will never be forgotten.


Yellow Root

A plant that grows alongside creek banks here in Western North Carolina has long been held in high regard when a tea is made from the roots. A deacon in my church swears by the benefits for stomach troubles when drinking a small amount each day and keeps a jug in his refrigerator. He laughed one day when a neighborhood boy who was friends with his son had been outside playing ball one hot summer day and came in and opened his refrigerator and saw his yellow root tea in a Gatorade jug and quickly took a big sip. It didn't take but a second for him to realize what he had just gulped was not Gatorade.

Yellow root like many herbs has some medicinal value and the old timers used the tea for a variety of ailments including sinus infections, colds,laryngitis, mouth sores, colitis, gastritis, chest congestion, and earache. Yellowroot is a uterine tonic and a digestive aid. It is an excellent liver stimulant and is useful in soothing mucus membranes.

Ginger Tea

Birch tooth brush

Tooth Brushes

Nothing hurts more than a toothache but the old timers had their own tooth brushes. My mom is 88 years old and still has all her teeth except for her wisdom teeth. She told me they used black gum twigs which they chewed to make a fine bristle. Apparently they used some baking soda also as a brushing agent. Today there are some tooth pastes that still use baking soda.

My wife's grandmother used black gum twigs and birch sometimes with her snuff. The birch has a sweet taste.


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    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 2 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Carl and Debbie, I don't recall this home remedy being in the liquid form but it could have been. The fact that it smelled horrible only helped prevent close contact with others.

    • profile image

      debbie 2 years ago

      Add Your we took asphity from a small brown bottle in tiny box. A teaspoon once in a while made us clear headed and as kids we had even more energy. Does anyone remember the liquid?Comment...

    • profile image

      Catrl Taylor 3 years ago

      My mom might not have ever cured us with her medical treatments ,but she prevented anyone from catching what we had by making us stink so bad until no one would get close enough to catch what we had.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      We survived in spite of it all and wouldn't have traded for any other. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Oh now the memories are coming back. Cod liver oil, SSS tonic, onion poultice for colds and fevers and so many more remedies. I remember being orange all summer from the Mercurochrome. You are so cool Fiddleman and must have been raised much like my brothers and I were.

    • Cousin Fudd profile image

      RobertElias Ballard 5 years ago from From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina

      LOL Jamie, a cough medicine used here in the Blue Ridge and it does work. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

      I wasn't given cod liver oil or anything like that but I do remember as a child when I would be staying overnight at my grandmothers and coughing all night she would come in and give me a big spoonful of honey with whiskey in it. It always did the trick :0)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Oh Fiddeleman this one certainly brought back some memories.

      I think that the two worst were Cod Liver Oil on a spoon and Senn Pods to keep me 'regular', which were dried leaves seeped in hot water for a while then I had to drink the liquid. This was yuch ! Vile and all else!! Mind you I have never had a problem with being regular so it may be psychological in case those dreaded Senna Pods came back.

      Thank you so much for this one which has left me chuckling away to myself!!

      Take care and ahve a wonderful day.


    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi I came from a doctor's family and few medicines were prescribed as the 'Doctor" didn't believe in many. However, I can remember a few of them, all mentioned by you, and all nasty. Also, we used to put iodine on cuts and scrapes back then...Ouch! Bob

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      What a trip down memory lane! Like Susan who commented earlier, my grandmother also would give me a spoon full of cod liver oil - nasty tasting stuff - and then chase it with a teaspoon of honey!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      What a trip down memory lane! Like Susan who commented earlier, my grandmother also would give me a spoon full of cod liver oil - nasty tasting stuff - and then chase it with a teaspoon of honey!

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Ewwwwww.....cod liver oil. I remember going to a friend's house. My friend's mother was dishing out cod liver oil pills and since I was there decided I needed one too. I guess I was supposed to swallow it but I was curious and it popped in my mouth. Talk about horrid! That was the worst tasting medicine ever.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Thank you Susan for being the first to comment. Thankfully we can get the cod liver oil in tasteless pill form today. Have a great weekend.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I remember my grandmother giving me cod liver oil as a child and it tasted absolutely awful! It was in liquid form.

      Mary Poppins was a fantastic movie and one I'll never forget.