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Scottish Grannies' Remedies

The Little Book of Scottish Grannies'... Remedies

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The Scots Herbal: Plant Lore of Scotland

Scottish Herbs

A Garden of Herbs: Traditional Uses of... Herbs in Scotland


Scottish Herbal Remedies and Superstitious Cures

Home cures and “old wife” remedies were used more in former times than they are now, and some of them seem rather strange.

When “wattery,” or chicken-pox broke out, a red flannel petticoat was hung across the window of the sick room. This was supposed to hasten a cure, and in the case of small-pox it was believed to prevent pitting.

For headache, a house-leek was pounded and made into a poultice. These plants were easily got as they grew on the roof of many a cottage, but seemed to favour the old grey slates rather than the new blue ones.

The juice of primroses was used as a lotion for spring rashes, and sage was used not only for flavouring but also for stomach trouble. Sage “tea” also did for a hair-wash!

Rosemary is usually “for remembrance,” but apparently (according to the herbi-wives or skilly buddies) it was also good for the liver. Violet leaves were used for swellings, and a brew of camomile flowers was useful in cases of sleeplessness-and gumboils!

The root of Solomon’s Seal, grated and sprinkled on a bread poultice, removed bruise discolorations. Stems of the fragrant myrrh, or sweet Cicely, made into a “tea,” gave relief in chest troubles or bronchial colds.

Lavender provided fragrant linen, and apple-ringey kept one awake in church, however dreich the sermon.
Dandelion-tea and nettle-beer were used as a blood-purifier and tonic. Linseed (from the flax plant) was useful for croup, throat or chest troubles. A tickly throat might be relieved by an infusion of chopped onion, sugar and vinegar.

Raspberry-vinegar, black currant and rowan wines were held in reserve for colds. A posset made by boiling together oatmeal, milk and treacle, was also said to be excellent for fighting a cold. But for the boy who had raided the apple orchard and over-eaten thereof, there was nothing better than a good dose of senna tea.

Black soap and sugar made a good poultice and cleanser for a festering finger. For a sty a poultice of cold tea-leaves (or rotten apples) was considered as good a cure as any.

Children recovering from whooping-cough were given asses milk. Children recovering from infectious troubles were taken to the river or a bridge so that the winds from the water might blow infection away. Strange to say, a similar “health trip” was sometimes made to the nearest gas-works!

Bites and stings called for starch, ammonia, washing soda or the “blue bag,” but if you tumbled into a bed of nettles then first-aid usually took the form of docken-leaves-and it still does!

Wonderful “Cures”

There were also superstitious “cures.” A girl with weak eyes was advised to wear a red coral necklace, or to have her ears pierced for ear-rings. Necklaces were also worn as an amulet against colds and bronchitis. For whooping-cough a mug of water from a running stream was beneficial, but it had to be lifted facing the current.

Other “cures” were even more fantastic, but if faith can work wonders, then we can at least say this, they probably did more good than harm.

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