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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Cure for What Ails You ~ Cornish Remedies via Katherine Bone!

Mortal are we and subject to diseases,
We must all die, even and when God pleases,
Into the world but one way do we come,
A thousand ways from thence we are sent home.

Modern medicine has played a significant part in the longevity of people living in the 21st Century. Given the resources at our disposal; family doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms, local pharmacies, and extended life expectancy, it’s difficult to understand how people dealt with common ailments like influenza, disease, and catastrophic injuries long ago. Especially when people died for reasons that were oftentimes classified as 'just rewards'.

In Cornish Sayings, Superstitions and Remedies, I’ve discovered how the Cornish people dealt with what ailed them. What I found is astounding! Given that Cornwall is a country unto itself, its people the descendants of Druids, Celts, Welsh, hearty fishermen and miners with ties to the earth, it makes perfect sense their way of life relied on legend, lore and superstition.

But before we look deeper into how Cornish people remedied maladies, let’s take a look at how long it took for penicillin to reach the general population.

Quick history of the discovery of Penicillin:

·         In Egypt, Greece and India, moulds were used to treat infections.
·         In Russia, warm soil healed infectious wounds.
·         In 150 BC Sri Lanka, soldiers prepared for war by cooking oil cakes for days and preparing poultices made from the cakes for battle injuries.
·         In 1600s Poland, wet bread mixed with cob webs was applied to wounds.
·         In 1640, the King’s Herbarian, John Parkinson, records the benefits of using mould in medicine.
·         In 1870 United Kingdom, the founder of St. Mary’s Hospital, Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson, discovers mould produces no bacteria.
·         In 1871, Joseph Lister, an English surgeon tests contaminated mould urine samples, describing the action on human tissue as Penicillium glaucum, for the first time.
·         In 1874, William Roberts studies moulds for bacterial contamination and notes bacteria is absent in Penicillium glaucum cultures.
·         In 1875, John Tyndall demonstrates Burdon-Sanderson’s Penicillium fungus’s antibacterial action to the Royal Society.
·         In 1923, Scottish biologist Sir Alexander Fleming cultivates mould and names the resulting culture, penicillin.

“Gurty milk an’ bearly-bread no lack,
Pudden-skins an’ a good shaip’s chack,
A bussa o’ salt pelchers, ’nother o’ pork,
A good strong stummick and a plenty of work.”
~ Old Cornish Rhyme

Cornish people are strong, stout-hearted survivors who believe in ghosts, ghouls and goblins. They’ve long believed giants will return to reclaim the moors, piskeys own the fields and mermaids rule the oceans. And they’ve used a mixture of herbs and lore to treat infections, disease, and maladies with superstition and remedies passed down through generations.

If penicillin isn’t handy, here are some Cornish remedies to soothe what ails you:

·         Snake bite? No problem. Adder bite is easily treated with plantain and salad oil. Or simply lay the bruised dead body of the adder on top of the bite as an infallible cure.
·         Catch a cold? Poor dearie. What you need is a drought of boiling water over a handful of herbs and swallowed while hot. If that doesn’t work, you could also bath your feet in mustard water and drink boiled cider or whisky with hot water and sugar. Elder tea made from dried elder flowers or leaves might do you good. Or drink juice from turnip slices with sugar in between.
·         Feverish? You need elderflower.
·         Got a cough? Find some Horehound.
·         Queasy, sick to your stomach? Chamomile and elder tea will purge what ails you.
·         Whooping Cough cramping your style? Slice an onion and layer it in a basin, alternately with brown sugar. Allow mixture to stand overnight. Just 2 tsps. of this syrup 3-4 times a day will chase your cough away. Children, sick with whooping cough, should run with sheep or tie a muslin bag full of spiders around their necks to ward off coughing spells.
·         Not getting enough Vitamin C? Treat your scurvy with extra burdock burs.
·         Aches and pains got you down? Use an ointment of mallow for your inflammations.
·         A south-westerly wind too breezy? Earaches are best remedied by applying a piece of cooked onion in a stocking to the affected ear.
·         Never underestimate the supernatural power of poultices.
·         Having trouble breathing? Treat your pneumonia with hot fomentations.
·         Don’t underestimate the power of a dead man’s tooth. Carry this infallible charm in your pocket.
·         Colic a problem? Stand on your head for fifteen minutes.
·         Can’t believe you ate the whole thing? If heartburn has gotten you down, use this cure of drying and powdering black spiders.
·         It ain’t over until the sick woman sings. Cut a live pigeon in half and lay the bleeding parts at her feet.
·         Bubble, bubble, boils are trouble. To cure a boil, creep on your hands and knees beneath a bramble grown into the ground at both ends. If that doesn’t work, you can always bore a hole in a nutmeg and tie it round your neck then nibble, nine mornings fasting.
·         Find an unusual lump? Place the hand of a man who committed suicide on your tumor and it will go away.
·         Bleeding much? Apply a church key to the wound to stop bleeding or use cobwebs.
·         Can’t breathe? Here’s a cure sure to ease your asthmatic symptoms. Roll spider webs into a ball and swallow them.
·         Got tuberculosis? This is very important. Take a spoonful of earth from the grave of a newly interred virgin, dissolve in water, and drink, fasting to cure decline.
·         Shingles a problem? Take blood drawn from a cat’s tail and smear it over the affected area.
·         Can’t stop bleeding? Draw a sign of the cross on wood, stone, or metal and bind over the wound, whether you be man or beast. And if your nose is bleeding, drop a key down your back.
·         Stye in the eye? Stroke the eye nine times with a wedding ring or a Tom cat’s tail.
·         Can’t get rid of your hiccups? Spit on the forefinger of your right hand and cross the front of the left shoe three times saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards. Scaring the affected person also helps.

When all else fails, visit a white witch, a peller, for traditional remedies that come in the shape of a wind charm. Though the Cornish language is nearly all but gone like wolves that used to cry and weep over the grassland, their love of life and the miracle of each sunrise and sunset lives on.


What are some of your family remedies?

1 comment:

Crystal Cox said...

I think the only " home cures" we use are Vicks and humidifier/cool mist. But my brother who hung out with all the junkyard/mechanic/odd job men picked up all kinds of crazy "cures" luckily he has given most of them up but he still swears that all the very start of any cold drink a bottle of the highest proof alcohol you can and tada no sickness :)