Rural Rendezvous

Medical treatments have certainly changed for the better over the years. Home medical books, such as the “People’s Home Medical Book”, included in the “People’s Home Library”, copyright 1911, list various treatments for numerous illnesses and diseases common in that era and makes one appreciate the first-aid measures and easy-to-take pills and potions we take for granted today.

Let’s take a look at a few medical conditions and treatments listed in the “People’s Home Medical Book”.

Blisters and Blood Blisters:

Drilling nail: “If the finger is bruised, causing a blood blister under the nail, it should at once be drilled with some sharp, pointed instrument so as to let the blood escape. This will give immediate relief while otherwise it might become quite painful.”

Bruises and Slight Cuts:

• Salt Pork: “If you have stepped on a nail, bind a piece of rind of salt pork on the part and keep quiet until it heals.” Physician’s Remark: “First put on a hot bread and milk poultice, change frequently and keep on until the wound bleeds well, then put on salt pork.”


• Blowing Into Ear: “An able surgeon writes that any foreign body which is lodged in the throat can be removed by blowing forcibly in the ear.”

Bites From Cats:

“For bites from cats, bathe the part bitten with extract of witch hazel, or if badly bitten, wet a cotton cloth in the same and bind on, keeping the parts wet. I have found witch hazel will kill all such poisons.” Physician’s remark: “Better kill the cat.”


• Salt Water: “To revive a person who seems stupid from a fall, give him salt water to drink. Use a teaspoon full of salt to a pint of water.”

Sprains or Strains, Strained Back, etc.:

• Hot water: “Pour hot water from a height of three feet upon the strained parts. A man writes that a strained ankle was cured by continuing the treatment for an hour.”

Cancer, tumors, and ulcers:

“Mix the white of an egg with wood soot to make a paste; add ten grains of arsenic, and of this, make a plaster and apply to the cancer. When it breaks or is killed, apply a slippery elm poultice and keep it on until all is removed and the sore is healed.”


• Bitter almonds and barley flour: In equal parts, applied as a paste, removes freckles.

• Borax, sugar, and lemon juice: A half dram of borax, one dram sugar, and two ounces of lemon juice mixed in a bottle and left for several days will remove freckles if rubbed on the face three times daily, or add “a little borax to some pure lemon juice” and bathe for a long while each day with the mixture.

• Glycerine and lemon juice: Glycerine and lemon juice, in equal parts, removes tan and freckles.

• Buttermilk: Buttermilk, applied to the face every morning, rinsed with warm water, and dried with a soft towel, is a remedy for removing freckles. Applying sour buttermilk and allowing it to dry on the face and washing it off in the morning helps to remove freckles as well.

• Saltpeter: Rub a wet piece of saltpeter on the face two or three times daily to remove freckles.

• Strawberries: To remove freckles, rub crushed strawberries on the face at night before going to bed.

• Horseradish: Add some grated horseradish to “very sour milk” for five hours, and use as a wash every night and morning to remove freckles.

Treatments for medical conditions or injuries in the early 1900s and beyond consisted of a variety of substances such as teas, liquor, fruits, salt, vinegar, herbs, milk, buttermilk, salted meats, camphor, creosote, arsenic and strychnine. The above listed remedies are intended for reader interest only. Please consult a qualified medical provider for all of your medical concerns.

(Note: This is the second of a three-part series of columns about home remedies from the “People’s Home Medical Book”.)

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