SOMETIMES THE OLD MEDICINES ARE THE BEST –
BRYCE ON LIFE
~~By Tim Bryce~~
- Why won't they just go away?
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Now and then I am reminded of an old medicine I haven't heard about in a long time. I'm usually surprised they're still around as I thought they were made obsolete. Then again, such medicines still work and are used by loyal consumers with strong allegiances. For example, one of my neighbors confided in me she takes a tablespoon of Castor Oil on a daily basis. I was surprised by the admission as I hadn't heard of it since my youth, which I remember as some nasty tonic that doesn't go down too easily. My neighbor said the taste wasn't too bad after you get used to it. Actually, Castor Oil has several uses, one of which is medicinal in nature, primarily as a laxative "to keep you regular."
You can't mention Castor Oil without thinking of Cod Liver Oil at the same time, another ancient tonic. Cod Liver Oil though is an excellent source of Vitamin A and is actively used to relieve joint pain caused by arthritis. I understand it was also used as a base for a red paint used in the cod fishing towns of Newfoundland. I cannot vouch for its taste as I have never tried it, but I have heard mixed reactions. Nonetheless, it remains a viable product.
Another obscure laxative is Pluto Water which my father's side of the family used religiously for years as a means of "Spring cleaning." He always claimed it was quite strong and worked its magic effectively. Thankfully, he only had to "take the cure" once a year under the insistence of his mother. Pluto Water comes from French Lick, Indiana which I visited some time ago and smelled the springs where the water originates. It was a strong sulfur-like smell thereby causing me to well imagine the powerful effect of ingesting the water.
Tooth Powder is another item you don't see too much anymore. There was a time, years ago, when most Americans used tooth powder as opposed to paste. I grew up in such a household, and I remember all of my relatives using it as well. I'm told tooth powder is actually an ancient product that goes back to Roman times. I believe it is still sold in tins, but there are also some simple recipes for tooth powder you can make from home. I'm not too sure the people at Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive would be too happy for you to know this though.
I bring up the subject of Straight Razors, which isn't a medicine, yet something commonly found in medicine chests, or at least used to be. Most people today use some form of a safety or electric razor, but it doesn't seem that long ago the straight razor was the predominant means for a shave. In fact, they are still actively used in most barbershops. I can still remember my great-grandfather sharpening his straight razor on a long leather strap early in the morning, something he was also known to use to discipline children, but that's another story. Straight razors haven't disappeared completely. Certain shaving aficionados still prefer them, but they have certainly become a rarity. So much so, I do not believe most men today would know how to use one.
Finally, my favorite, Rawleigh's Man and Beast Salve. Way before there were antiseptic sprays, ointments and Band-Aids, there were simple antiseptic salves, a universally applicable product for both humans and animals. Farmers always kept a tin nearby, as did most families for that matter, including yours truly. A salve was useful for cuts, scrapes, burns, rashes, poison ivy or any other skin irritation. Just a dab of salve on your skin and you were on the road to recovery. Interestingly though, it is almost impossible to find such salves in the drug stores anymore. Fortunately, I found a source through the Internet. When I called the woman to place an order we struck up a conversation about salves. Actually, she was more than just a distributor, she was an outspoken proponent of the salve and couldn't imagine life without it. Neither can I. When I mention it to my friends, they think it is some barbaric poultice, which can also still be found around barnyards.
Most of the aforementioned products have been fading from public view for many years, made nearly extinct by changing medical technology. The fact they haven't disappeared completely means they are still regarded as viable medicinal products. They may have disappeared from drug stores, but they are still around, they've just gone underground thanks in large part to the Internet.
Keep the Faith!
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