CASTOR OIL FOR OLD TIMER!

 By Norris Chambers

             The average farm family had a small, well-stocked kitchen pharmacy for the treatment of just about anything that happened to farm folks. If the injury or sickness was too severe for the home doctor the town physician would come out and take care of the situation for a fee, ranging from $1.00 to $3.00. If the situation was serious enough he might recommend a hospital. Hospitals, however, were a last resort and sometimes impossible because of cost. Many farm folks thought of a hospital as a place to die. Most minor traumas were handled from the kitchen drug supply.

            The two treatments that were probably used most were monkey blood and iodine. Monkey blood was a red liquid that acted as an antiseptic and was commonly used for cuts, scrapes and other abrasions. It left a bright red spot when applied and indicated a recent injury to the casual observer. Kids liked monkey blood because it didnít burn when applied.  Iodine was a different story. When iodine touched a fresh wound it was almost like swabbing it with boiling water! When iodine was applied the attendant often told the patient, ďGet ready to run!Ē It was assumed that running lessened the pain.

            Turpentine was a valuable asset to the medicine cabinet. If the patient had tonsillitis or a sore throat a wool cloth moistened with turpentine was applied to the outside and heat was developed. If the cloth was there too long it could cause a painful blister. For open cuts turpentine was mixed with sugar, placed in a clean bandage and wrapped around the injury. This was supposed to prevent infection and contribute to quick healing.

            If the wound was a thorn or a nail in the foot the treatment called for a long soak of the injured member in a solution called permanganate of potash. This medication was a collection of tiny grains in a bottle. When mixed with water the mixture was a beautiful red color. After soaking the afflicted area in the mixture for what seemed like an eternity the skin was colored dark brown. It must have worked since I never got an infection after using it. This medicine was also added to the drinking water of baby chicks being raised without a mother. It was said to keep them healthy and make them grow!

            A glass of water with a heaping teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda was the treatment for an upset stomach. As I recall, the taste was rather obnoxious.

            Little tablets called calomel were widely used for just about any ailment. This medicine was often taken in a series of doses to really clean you out. Everyone hated to take calomel. It sometimes made you sicker than you were before taking it. If the patient took too much he sometimes became salivated and the mouth became sore and the teeth became loose. Calomel is composed of a large percent of mercury which has been shown to be poisonous and harmful.

            Monkey blood, or mercurochrome, is also closely related to mercury and is no longer used as an antiseptic. Iodine is seldom used now except by a few old timers who remember another use for it. When working on an old plow or implement with rusted bolts and nuts a few drops of iodine loosens the nut and makes it possible to remove it without breaking the bolt.

            There isnít much use for permanganate of potash now because kids donít go out and step on nails and thorns like we country tykes did.

            We must not forget sulfur and lard for the treatment of the seven year itch or sulfur and molasses for a spring tonic to drive out the evil accumulations of the winter months.

            I told about my battle with feather tea for the common cold in another tale. Donít forget to put it on your list.

            If a patient happened to be unlucky enough to become infected with stomach worms the standard treatment was a little common gunpowder for a few days. I was never that unfortunate but I am told that it worked well.

            After trying all these remedies, if the condition still lingered, there was but one thing to do; resort to the last ditch, never-fail, dyed-in-the-wool old standby Ė CASTOR OIL!

            The old timers might have stayed healthy just to keep from enduring the treatment!

            Was there any fun in having to take this medicine? If the patient accidently bit the finger of the hand that was forcing one of these doses into the mouth that might be classified as a low grade of fun!  

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