Old-time Cough Remedies

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, March 9, 1912:  Ruthie’s friend, Miss Bryson, arrived here on the train. I had to do my sister’s milking. They went to a play in Watsontown this evening. I coughed so today that Ma said I might be getting the whooping cough. It did scare me some.

Recent photo of downtown Watsontown. Where were plays once held?

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma’s cough sounds bad. Hopefully she didn’t have whooping cough.

Maybe Grandma tried some home remedies. Here are some old-time cough remedies in the Compendium of Everyday Wants (1908):

COUGH – Below will be found a number of cough cures and syrups that are unfailing and will relieve the worst forms.

Treatment No. 1—One of the most simple remedies is flaxseed lemonade, made by adding two or three tablespoons of flax seed to a lemonade made of two lemons, two tablespoonful’s of sugar and about a quart of water; boil it.

Treatment No. 2—COUGH SYRUP—Mix together one-half pint of honey, 1/2 pint of gin, 1/2 oz. of oil of tar, 1/2 oz. of balsam fir. Take a teaspoonful three times a day. This is one of the most effective and valuable remedies known for coughs and will break up a cold where other remedies fail.

Treatment No. 3—An efficacious remedy for continued cough is found in chewing the bark gotten from the root of sumac. Chew the bark. Several kinds of sumac are poisonous, but use the common upland sumac, having cone-shaped bunches of berries and from which a milky fluid comes when leaves are broken.

I don’t know where to get all of the ingredients for any of these remedies. And, even if I could find Sumac bark—I won’t want to risk something that requires warnings about avoiding the poisonous types.

Miss Bryson refers to Blanche Bryson. She was mentioned several times in the dairy during during 1911. At that time it seemed like she lived in either in or near McEwensville. She apparently had moved somewhere more distant by 1912.


3 thoughts on “Old-time Cough Remedies

  1. Coughing is the body’s way of removing foreign material or mucus from the lungs and upper airway passages camera or of reacting to an irritated airway. Coughs have distinctive traits you can learn to recognize. A cough is only a symptom, not a disease, and often the importance of your cough can be determined only when other symptoms are evaluated..

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