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Ushering in a healthy New Year
1230 echoes
Above are a variety of cures for what ails you. - photo by Photo provided

As 2011 draws to a close, we reflect on all that has happened during the year. We have seen worldwide natural and weather related disasters. We have seen lots of economic instability and unemployment. And we have seen some good things, too, like people pulling together to help others in need.

Right now we are seeing lots of colds, bronchitis and pneumonia in our area. Old whooping cough is even making a rebound. There is vaccine available for adults and children against whooping cough at Effingham County Health Department.

Back in the day before modern medicine and many doctors, the Salzburgers who settled at Ebenezer had guidelines. The following came from Mrs. Eliza Exley Metzger and was first published in the Salzburger Cookbook in the 1960s:

Health Rules for the Winter

Never lean with the back upon anything that is cold.

Never begin a journey until the breakfast has been eaten.

Never take warm drinks and then go out in cold air.

Keep the back, especially between the shoulders well covered: also the chest well protected.

In sleeping in a cold room, establish the habit of breathing through the nose, and never with the mouth open.

Never go to bed with cold or damp feet.

Take an all over bath at least three times a week, to keep the skin in active condition.

After exercise of any kind, never ride in an open carriage or near the window of a car for a moment; it is dangerous to the health.

When hoarse, speak as little as possible until recovered or else the voice may be permanently lost or difficulties of the throat be produced.

Warm the back by a fire and never continue to keep the back exposed to heat after it has become comfortably warm; to do so is debilitating.

When going from a warm atmosphere to a colder one, keep the mouth closed so that the air may be warmed through the nose before it reaches the lungs.

Never stand still in cold weather, especially after having taken a slight degree of exercise; and always avoid standing on ice or snow where the person is exposed to cold wind; in short keep your feet warm; your head cool and your mouth closed and you will seldom catch cold.

There are many old remedies that can still be used to some degree today. A few are listed here:

Drink a hot toddy or lemonade before going to bed for a cold. A hot toddy is a mixture of whiskey, hot water and sugar.

Lemonade is sugar, hot water and fresh lemon juice. It is best to drink this mixture when under the covers in bed.

Whiskey with peppermint candy will soothe a cough. Stir equal parts until candy melts and store in a covered jar.

Honey and lemon juice is a good cough suppressant. Store this in a covered jar.  Some add whiskey and warm the mixture.

A drop of turpentine on a little sugar was another remedy that could be taken straight or in warm water.

For a sore throat gargle with warm salt water.

Vinegar and warm salt water soothes a sore throat. (1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.)

Oranges contain vitamin C and are good for cold symptoms when eaten.

A mustard plaster on the chest was used to cure congestion. This was an old time remedy with finely crushed mustard seed or dry mustard powder mixed with 7 or 8 teaspoons of flour and enough water to make a paste that could be spread.  Spread mixture evenly on an 8 by 10 inch piece of soft muslin and cover with another piece of cloth. Place on chest and cover person with warm bed covers. Check often and remove when skin is pink, before it blisters. If really ill, do the same on the back.

Mentholated salve products came to be available over the counter in drug stores.  It was common to use “Vick’s Salve” or “Mentholatum” to rub the chest and between the shoulder blades to relieve congestion.  You should not go outside or into a colder environment until the salve had been well washed off with soap and water as it opened the pores to the cold air. The vapors in the rub opened the nose as well as relieving the congestion in the chest.

Hot lemonade sipped slowly while soaking the feet in very warm water could stop early cold symptoms.

A dose of castor oil was thought to purge the system and improve the cold symptoms in many households.  Perhaps it only made one more ill.

Turpentine or kerosene was rubbed along the shoulder blades for cough and congestion but you had to stay away from the fireplace or heater.

Raw onions slices tied flat against the bottom of the feet will draw out fever from the body.

Hot tea soothes a cold. There are many old time natural substances used in the teas from roots like sassafras, to dried herbs like sage, mint, chamomile, and many more.

Honey and warm water are a natural sedative.

Soup made from boiled chicken with onions, celery and carrots (black pepper and herbs as desired) is very good for a cold. The fat in the broth soothes the throat and the warm soup and pepper induces a productive cough.

Whatever ails you, try some of the more reasonable home remedies and over the counter non prescription medications to cure the symptoms of a cold. In times gone by home remedies is all the doctoring they had available. We now have medical care available. If fever develops or your expelled mucus is anything other than clear, see a physician so that you will not develop complications like bronchitis and pneumonia.

Historic Effingham Society wishes you a safe, healthy, and Happy New Year filled with prosperity. Honor the old superstitions by eating your black eyed peas and hog jowl on Sunday for luck and your turnip, mustard or collard greens for money and you should be on the right path for 2012.

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: