Let's Reminisce: Home remedies
By Jerry Lincecum
Feb 13, 2018
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Since I grew up on a farm in a rural area during the 40s and 50s, I am familiar with a good many home remedies.  That is why a small book entitled Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems, published by Reader’s Digest, caught my eye.  I thought it would be interesting to see a broad-based compilation of remedies and compare them with the ones I remembered from my childhood.

The popularity of home remedies among people who grew up poor in rural areas is not hard to understand.  We could not afford expensive medicines, and doctor visits were difficult as well as costly.  Colds and flu, for example, were perennial occurrences, and my mother had an arsenal of remedies.  When I had a sore throat, she’d fill an 8-ounce glass with tapwater and stir in a teaspoon of salt to make a gargle solution.  I made use of this remedy just a few days ago.


As I examined the book of home remedies, the first thing I noticed was the fact that the table of contents showed more than 70 “everyday ailments” that were addressed, ranging from acne and angina to toothache and warts.  My immediate thought was that my mother would have loved to have this book to consult, because it covered many common ills that she didn’t have remedies for.


Another advantage of this book is that it provides up-to-date scientific backing for many old-fashioned remedies.  For example, Mother believed in feeding us chicken soup to fight colds, even if it meant sacrificing one of her laying hens.  This book states that scientists have done studies and found that chicken soup stops certain white blood cells from causing inflammation.  It also thins mucus, and they confirmed that homemade soup is better than the canned variety.  Mother would be pleased to know that a remedy she prescribed based on hearsay now has the support of scientific studies.


On the other hand, Mom did not include garlic in her soup recipe, and the book says that recent research has demonstrated that adding fresh chopped garlic to chicken soup will stimulate the release of germ-fighting cells by our immune systems and hasten recovery.  In fact, a dose of garlic by itself will kill some cold viruses.  The best way to dose yourself is to hold a clove of garlic in your mouth and breathe in the fumes.  The book says if it gets too strong, chew up the clove and swallow with a drink of water.  I’m not sure I want to try that one.


High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two ailments I take prescription medicine for, so I was curious to see what home remedies the book offered.  An approach called DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) was consistent with my doctor’s recommendations (which I try to follow), but there was an interesting addition.  A study carried out in Germany suggests that the mere sound of traffic can send blood pressure soaring.  Since I live on a very quiet street and don’t spend much time driving in traffic, I’m already benefitting from that remedy.


Mother believed we should take advantage of all inoculations against disease offered at school, including the annual flu shot, and the book strongly supports that principle.  I can remember dreading the days when we were to be given shots by the visiting school nurse, who wasn’t known for gently applying the syringe to our arms.  However, believing that I was spared some sickness as a child because of the inoculations, I have continued to get the annual flu shots as an adult.  Now that I’m a senior citizen, I consider it especially important, and I appreciate the fact that a stronger dose of the anti-flu vaccine is offered to seniors.


Home Remedies, as a compilation of more than a thousand “trustworthy treatments,” is a good stimulus to reminiscence and perhaps also a source of fresh approaches to your quest for good health.


Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches older adults to write their autobiographies and family histories.  Email him at