Old Time Cures & Remedies

Note: These are just for fun! While these were published in old books, we do not recommend that you try them! They could actually be dangerous!

I smile to think of what they used
To help us kids survive,
But I am “going on” 69
And very much alive.
My sorest throats were eased, and I
Still hold no bit of rancor
To think of sucking sugar lumps
With a drop or two of camphor.

And camphor mixed with goose grease for
A winter chest congestion;
Baking soda cleaned my teeth
And helped my indigestion.
Because of Mother’s tender heart
I hereby sing a Gloria!
She never gave me castor oil,
Just syrupy Castoria.

Salt for all mosquito bites,
Cobwebs on the scratches,

The sickroom fumigated with
Our sulfur kitchen matches.
Somehow there’s quite a bunch of us
That never had a shot,
But here we are still kicking
And enjoying it a lot.

– Author Unknown

These are just for fun!!! I think when you read them, you will see that.

These old-time remedies, collected from various sources, may have really been used by old-timers or may have just been myths and legends.

We do not recommend that you use these remedies. But, just in case you get a wild hair and decide to try one, be forewarned; some of these may very well be dangerous! If you try them, you do so at your own risk. Better yet, just DON’T try them!!


  • Wash your face with a wet diaper.
  • Mix 3 teaspoons of honey into 8 ounces of apple cider. Rub on face several times daily.


  • Eat raw liver and drink fresh blood.

Ant Bites

  • Take a dip of snuff and rub the fresh dipped snuff on the bite.


  • Tie a leather thong around your waist, and the appendicitis will enter the thong. Take the thong and tie it around a tree, and the sickness will enter the tree.


  • Dissolve 3/4 teaspoon powder pectin (or 1-tablespoon liquid pectin) in a glass of purple grape juice. Drink once a day. This is from an Amish doctor, and about 60% of the people who try it say it really works. The liquid dissolves better than the powder.
  • Take a dead cat into the woods to a hollow stump that has spunk in it. Twirl the cat overhead and then toss the cat to the south. Walk away north but do not look back.
  • Carry a potato in your pocket. It will not rot, but harden as it absorbs the arthritis.
  • Tie a strip of cloth soaked in turpentine around the limb.


  • If a child has asthma, stand him up against a tree and drive a nail into the tree an inch above his head. The asthma will disappear if the child grows an inch in the next year.
  • Eat lots of carrots.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of salt in 1/2 cup strong cider vinegar. Swallow one-half spoonful every ten seconds until gone.
  • Wear muskrat skin on the chest with the fur next to the chest.

Baldness/Thinning Hair

  • Smear your head with fresh cow manure.
  • For thinning hair, make a solution of salt and water and comb through hair every day until you see hair becoming thicker.
  • To prevent thinning and baldness, never cut the hair in the light of the moon.

Beard Growing

  • The Liquid obtained from boiling old boots was used to promote the growth of hair on the face of young men—an attempt to appear more masculine.

Bee Stings

  • Mix honey and dirt dauber’s nest and rub it on the sting.


  • Catch a chaparral bird (roadrunner) in the early morning. Kill and eat it, and the boil will go away.
  • Soak a small section of the heel of homemade white bread in boiling water. Squeeze with the back of the spoon. Lay on sterile gauze or boiled cloth. Add a pinch of baking soda (1/4 tsp). Mix with soaked bread, wrap in gauze and apply to the affected area.
  • Applying meat fat, raw potatoes, war sauerkraut, or yellow lye soap to a boil will bring it to a head.


  • Apply ice wrapped in a damp washcloth until the pain stops. No scaring will occur.
  • Go to the lot and make a calf get up and defecate. Put the feces in a flour sack and cover the burn with it. Leave it on until the next morning.
  • Apply strong tea to the burned area.

Cancer – Preventing

  • Eat three almonds a day, and you will not die from cancer.


  • Take a new broom and sweep across his/chills back in the sign of a cross.

Colds – Curing

  • Catching leaves in your hand, which fall from the trees in the fall, will cure a head cold.

Colds – Preventing

  • Eat an onion sandwich and wash your hair.


  • Close the windows and doors of the baby’s room and have the father keep smoking a pipe or cigar.


  • Put some cow dung in water and bring it to a boil. Gargle the water three times a day and your cough will be gone.
  • Bake onions and pour all the juice from the baked onions into a glass and drink.
Wolcott's Instant Pain Annihilator

Wolcott’s Instant Pain Annihilator, 1863 advertisement

Crick in the Neck

  • Go down to the hog pen and find where a hog has rubbed his neck against the fence, then rub your neck in the same spot.


  • Pack sheep droppings into a tobacco sack and soak them in warm water. Apply the sack to your neck and wear it until the choking spell is over.


  • Pack the cut in axle grease.
  • Take a large army ant and apply him to the cut so that he takes hold of each side of the wound with his pincers. Cut his head off his body, leaving his head to hold the cut together.
  • Apply spider’s web to a bleeding cut.

For “real” old-fashioned remedies, check out:

Native American and Other Ancient Remedies

Herbs & Healing Properties

Note: These are just for fun! While these were published in old books, we do not recommend trying them! They could actually be dangerous!

The Doctor, 1919

The Doctor, 1919. 


  • To one quart of water, add one ounce of sulfur. Shake very well very two hours and saturate the head every morning with the liquid. Dandruff will disappear, leaving hair bright and glossy.


  • Eat several coconut cookies (some say this works.)


  • Have someone blow tobacco smoke into the ear five times, saying, “Hurt, hurt, go away; go into a bale of hay.”


  • Gather a supply of rabbit dung and make a strong tea of the dung in hot water. Strain and drink the tea every half hour until the sweating stops.


  • To cure the flu, put sulfur in your shoes.

Foot Gone to Sleep

  • Wet your finger with spit and put the cross sign on your foot’s sole.


  • To get rid of freckles, get up at five-thirty on Sunday morning and go outside. If there is a lot of dew, get your hands really wet in the grass. Rub the dew on your face and turn around nine times, saying, “Dew, dew, do, do, take my freckles; wear ’em on you; dew, dew, thank you.” Say this nine times while turning around. Do not wash the dew off; do not wash your face until the next day.
  • To remove freckles or skin spots — take a small flatfish fresh from the sea and hold it firmly against the skin until the fish dies. This will also cure the whooping cough.


  • Sleep with a pair of scissors under your pillow. The next morning the headache will be gone.


  • Hold your arms above your head and pant like a dog.
  • Take a drink of water while standing on your head.
  • Stick your head underwater and count to twenty-five.
  • Put your head between your legs and look at the sun

Ingrown Toenail

  • Tie a lizard’s liver to a leather string. Take the leather string and tie it around your left ankle. The ingrown toenail will disappear in nine days.


  • First, put your clothes on an anthill. Then wash your head in kerosene. Spring your head with sea salt, and then, parting the hair, pour raw whiskey on your scalp. Let it stay for 48 hours. Do not smoke or go near the fire.
C.F. Simmons Medicine Co., 1886

C.F. Simmons Medicine Co., Liver Medicine, Female Remedy, cures indigestion, colic, and more, 1886 advertisement

Liver Trouble

  • Take one-half of a white turnip and one-half of a purple turnip and tie them together with a white string. Urinate on it. Hang this on the bedpost of the bed on the first night, then on the foot post the second night until you circle the bed.


  • Put burned cornmeal in a tobacco bag and hang it around the neck.


  • Tie a black sock around your neck. To keep mumps from going down on a boy, tie a red cloth around his waist.


  • Every night pour a bucket of cold water over your head. Keep this up for fourteen days, and you will be cured.
  • Take a piece of string and make nine knots in it


  • Find a rock that is partly covered with dirt. Remove the rock from its resting place and spit on the bottom or covered side. Replace the rock in the same hole exactly as you found it.


  • People who perspire a lot should use a teaspoonful of ammonia in bathwater. Alum, borax or ammonia added to bathwater is also effective.

Poison Ivy (oak, sumac, etc)

  • Make a paste from fels naptha soap and apply. Do not cover. Let it dry and flake off by itself. One application usually does the job. This is from the 1930s.

Poor Eyesight

  • Pierced ears help cure poor eyesight.
  • The first snow to fall in May is good for sore eyes


  • Tansey is a yellow flower that blooms on a leafy stem about two feet tall. It usually grew wild in the local gardens. The stem, flowers, and all were gathered, deposited in a bag, and hung up to dry. Then when needed, they were crushed and made into hop poultices for application to the chest and back of a person suffering from pneumonia


  • Sear the bite with a hot iron to keep from going crazy.


  • Apply the juice of the Aloe Vera leaf to the rash. If it is a bull nettle rash, all you have to do is urinate on it.


  • Find a black-headed girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen and have her remove her right shoe. Now rub her big toe well over the ringworm for about one minute. Within a week, the ringworm will have disappeared.
  • Take the best Cuba cigars; smoke one for a sufficient length of time to accumulate about an inch of ash upon the end of the cigar. Wet the whole surface of the ringworm with saliva, then rub the ashes from the cigar thoroughly into and over the sore.
  • Circling ringworm with one’s wedding ring and crossing it three times will surely cure it.
A Sick Chum, 1908

A Sick Chum, 1908

Sore Eyes

  • Catch some bedbugs and crush them. Mix with salt and human milk. Rub this mixture on the eyes at night and morning.

Sore Throat

  • Take a black thread, tie nine knots, and wear it around your neck for nine days.
  • Heat coarse salt in a cast iron frying pan; fill a hand-knit wool stocking with heated salt. Sew the top of the stocking together. Hold it around the neck with a large safety pin.
  • Tie a piece of fatback on a string and swallow the fatback, pulling it up again by the string. Repeat several times.
  • To prevent catching strep throat, burn orange peels on the damper and inhale while they are burning.
  • Mix turpentine from a fir tree with sugar and swallow it.
  • Eat molasses candy made with a small amount of kerosene oil. Some people just boiled molasses and kerosene oil (or Minard’s Liniment) and took a couple of spoonfuls every few hours.
  • Rub kerosene oil and butter on the throat and chest.


  • Take a dirt dauber’s nest and make a mud out of it with vinegar. Daub it on the sprain and wrap a stocking around it.

Stomach Ache/Cramps

  • Cut some hair off from behind the right ear in the light of the moon. Then throw it over your right shoulder
  • .Lie across a barrel and roll until your hands touch the ground on one side, then push with your hands and roll back until your feet touch the ground on the other side. Repeat several times.
  • A teaspoon of ground ginger in a glass of sweetened boiling water, sipped while very hot, is a cure for stomach pain.


  • Hit the person stuttering in the mouth with a chicken gizzard.

Warts (Warts were a problem, because there are lots of these.)

  • Make a paste of baking soda and spirits of camphor and apply it every night. Cover with a bandage. Remove in the morning. Removes all kinds of warts, even stubborn planter’s warts that resist every “medical” treatment. This is from another Edgar Cayce reading.
  • Rub the wart with a rock. Put the rock in a tobacco sack and throw it over your left shoulder.
  • Rub the wart with a piece of bacon stolen from a neighbor.
  • Catch a frog and rub him on the wart
  • Walk out into the road after dark when you can see the moon. Run around three times and spit over your right shoulder.
  • Take a tick from a dog and let the tick bit the wart. In two or three days, the wart should be gone. Then put the tick back on the dog.
  • Cut bark from a tree and rub it on warts. Then tape the bark back on the tree. By the time it grows on again, warts should have gone.
  • Rub fat back on your warts and give it to a dog. If he eats the fatback, the warts will go away.
  • Tie a horse hair around each wart, and within a week, all warts will fall off.
  • Rub fat back over warts and throw it over your left shoulder. Don’t look to see where it goes. If an animal eats the fatback, your warts will disappear.
  • Apply chalk to warts; with the same chalk, mark X over the oven door for each wart. As the chalk burns off, warts will disappear.
  • Bathe warts occasionally for a week or so in water in which potatoes have been boiled.
  • When you go to church, make the sign of the cross over your warts three times.
  • Light a match, let it burn a little, then blow it out, touch the burnt end to the wart and get someone to hide the match
  • Put butter on the wart and have a cat lick it.
  • Warts can be cured by touching each one with a string and then tying knots in the string — one knot for each wart. The string is buried in the ground, and when the string rots, the warts disappear.
  • Another cure for warts is the bathe them in water found in a depression in a rock, at the same time saying, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” This only works if you accidentally come across such a rock — it’s no good if you go out looking for it.
  • Apply snail to warts.
Frontier Slang, Lingo & Phrases Book by Kathy Alexander

More Terms, Expanded Definitions + Reverse Lookup + More Pictures

Whooping Cough

  • Put some hair from the person on a piece of bread outside the kitchen door where the moon can shine on it. If a dog comes along and eats it, the cough will be cured in five days.
  • Grab hold of a table leg when coughing.
  • Place a pan of fresh chicken droppings under the bed.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

Note: These are just for fun! While these were published in old books, we do not recommend that you try them! They could actually be dangerous!

For “real” old fashioned remedies, check out:

Native American and Other Ancient Remedies

Herbs & Healing Properties

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Frontier Recipes – The ‘Real’ Old Stuff from the Old West