Sunday, January 20, 2013

Folk Remedies of the German-Russian Peasant

Sharon White gave an interesting and informative presentation on folk remedies at our January chapter meeting.  Following are a few hi-lights from her presentation.

RHEUMATISM:  When taken from the oven, six to eight loaves of bread were immediately placed on the bed sheet, half of the sheet folded over the bread.  The other bedding piled on top to hold in the heat.  After the bed was thoroughly warm, the loaves were removed and the patient placed in bed.

Among poorer families where enough bread was hard to come by, sand was heated in cauldrons, poured onto the bed sheet which was folded over, and the person laid on top. The patient was then covered with all available garments.  The poor did not commonly use bedding.

STOMACH DISORDER:  Make a low, flat loaf of unleavened bread out of white flour (a rare commodity) and the broth, plus crumbled leaf of wormwood.  Bake, and while pleasantly warm, place on the patient's stomach, wrapping snugly with several woolen garments.  Additionally, they could be given wormwood tea.

Wormwood was also used to make brooms to rid the house of fleas.  To insure a good night's sleep, free from bothersome pests, place several bundles of wormwood under the bed.

NAVEL PAIN:  To expel navel pain and deep nausea caused by strain or heavy lifting, hollow out the center of a small crust of bread.  Place a slip of rag or string in the depression as a wick and put a half spoon of kitchen lard around the string in the depression as a wick.  Set the small crust right side up on navel while the patient is reclining, and light the wick.  When the wick holds a steady flame, slowly invert a narrow rim cup or glass tumbler over the entire crust.  The vacuum created will put out the light and draw the navel and surrounding small area slightly into the glass.  Let tightly anchored glass set in this position about five minutes, or until it releases of its own accord.

POULTICES:  The ideal year round poultice is bread and hot milk.  Some villagers reasoned that moldy bread was the best.  (Modern day medicine has proved this true in the growing of penicillin as an antibiotic.)

Others might use finely cut onion and village soap in equal parts, mixed together and  placed on a cloth, then tied to the sore.  This was especially beneficial for sore breasts.  Additional relief  may be had by filling the wooden butter churn almost to the top with warm water; stir in one pound of flour, make patient lean forward and submerge breasts.

Cabbage leaves and beet tops were tied over festering wounds.  Cabbage leaves were also used to set loaves of bread on while baking.

Chewed tobacco can take the fire out of a bee sting.

Other quick poultices can be had by using the warm entrails of a chicken, or fresh warm cow manure.

AILING BABIES:  Give weak, undernourished babies a pacifier and feeding at the same time with bread soaked in sweetened hot milk.  Dip a spoonful in center of soft rag, fold all four corners together and tie a knot above the warm bulk and give it as you would a nipple.  Refill as often as needed.  Make the cloth large enough that the child cannot draw more than the nipple part into the mouth and choke.  This method is ideal if the mother dies and there is no wet nurse.

If sickness goes beyond hunger, gather the white part of sparrow droppings, mix with warm breast milk and feed to baby.  The white part of sparrow dirt is also used for babies with constipation.  (I did a little research of my own on this because it sounded so awful.  The white part of the sparrow droppings is composed of uric acid.  Maybe someone who knows about such things could comment on exactly what eating uric acid would do to the body.  All I know is that it is related to gout in humans.  Hmm...can anyone tell us more?)

A very premature baby must be wrapped in dry bran mash the minute it is born and kept warm.

SORE EYES:  With this remedy, the patient will experience excruciating pain, so have two strong members of the family hold the person.  Lay the eyelid back and wipe blue stone across the infected part.  (This was probably blue and/or white vitriol.)

Blue stone is good to wash mouth sores.  Often it is enough to touch a dampened finger to the stone and apply to the tongue.

A more gentle treatment for mattered shut eyes is to dip two freshly baked buns in warm tea, steppe or wild licorice root tea, and let tea seep under lid.  Leave on until all warmth is gone from bun.  Repeat often.  You may also use two freshly laid eggs and hold to eye lid.

Wandering Gypsies have another cure.  Lick the eye lid thoroughly three or four times each day, until the eyes are healed.  Quick results were almost guaranteed.

RID BEG BUGS:  Take three bed bugs, one copper kopeck, and a small measure of flour.  Tie all in a rag and give to the first beggar who comes to the door.

Mela Meisner Lindsay;  1975 AHSGR Workpaper #19

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