Old cures, otherwise known as folk medicine,have been used for centuries to aid the sick. Though many advancements have been made in the medical world, folk medicines have survived time and are still being used around the world.
While something as simple as chicken soup drew controversy among many medical professionals, some have finally come to agree that it has medicinal benefits; but they're not sure why. Like most old cures that were used during the early years, "The Old Folk,” as they were sometimes called, didn't know why or how their cures worked, but only that they did. Some even thought a shot of whiskey would help. In fact, before pain pills came along, whiskey was used as a pain killer before an amputation was performed or to numb the gum before a tooth was pulled. In most cases, all they had was a "Shot and a Prayer.
Many cultures were deeply rooted in folk medicine, folklore, voodoo, and old folktales. Some even turned to black magic. They didn't know anything about test tubes or pain pills but there was the boiling of the roots and leaves. Some were even smoked. Did you know that store bought cloves can ease the pain of a tooth ache? My study of old medical documents has shown a close relationship between traditional healing and folk healing and covers a wide range of actions taken between doctor and client. They talk about home cure for ringworm, pink eye, sore throat, tooth ache, pimples, hives, smallpox, scarlet fever, scurvy, malaria, rickets, eczema and many other interesting topics. Many ingredients that were contained in old home remedies are still being used in todays prescription drugs. Though the ingredients may be listed under some fancy scientific name,the end results are close to being the same. The “Old Folk,” would probably change some of these names to something more simple like: vinegar, corn meal, pine tar, onions, baking soda, salt, peppers, tree bark, ginseng, corn silk, sassafras, honey, dew berry root or aspirin. Why aspirin? Because aspirin has been long used as a pain killer and mostly synthetically made today, it was originally made from salicin, the active ingredient in willow tree bark, ( acetylsalicylic acid,) and is a primary ingredient in other folk medicines as well. The same can be found in strawberries, almonds and tomatoes. Nearly all medical benefits and cures have come from simple nature. Even one of the most deadliest diseases, malaria, was first treated with the bark of a South American willow tree.
The “old folk” knew a great deal about healing herbs but seldom spoke of what they knew. For this reason, unfortunately, most old remedies have been lost forever and the rest remains a secret. My ancestors were a great example of this. They could be called “The keepers of old cures.” However, before my mother's death, Martha Marr, Fitzgerald, revealed some of what she knew about folk healing to a local newspaper located in Danville, Va. I would like to give thanks to Frances Halam Hurt for her research and contribution to the publishing of this article.
Though most old cures have been covered in mounds of dirt along with the people that used them, it gives me great pleasure to dedicate this page to early pioneers of all cultures for their contribution to the healing of the sick. For they were true pioneers, that paved a path through history, that lead us to what we call the present.
Author: A.M. Fitzgerald