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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Appalachian Folk Medicine

I got curious a few days ago and looked through the pages of my grandma's old Bible. It has no cover and some of the front pages are torn and missing. This is not how I remember it, but sadly this is the condition it is in now. It has been in many houses since my grandmother passed away. My uncle gave it to my aunt, my aunt gave it to my mom and I now have it. No matter the shape it is in, Grandma's Bible is priceless to me. It was printed in 1891, the year of Grandma's birth.

I turned to Ezekiel 16:6 and this is what I saw. I smiled when I noticed an X marked by the verse.

Blood stopping was an American folk practice common in Appalachia. My Grandpa McMillion was gifted with this ability. He recited this verse and stopped bleeding. Grandpa died before I was born, but my mom practiced something when we had a nosebleed that may have been a version of this blood stopping. She would get a dab of the blood from our nosebleed on the tip of her finger and mark a red cross on our forehead with her finger. This stopped the bleeding. I remember her doing this on many occasions. I also did it to my children when they were young and had nosebleeds. I do not remember her reciting the verse, though.

Another ability my grandpa had was the ability to 'take the fire out of a burn.'  I know of some occasions in which he did this on family members. He would blow on the burn. I am not sure if he said a verse or not.

Another old Appalachian folk medicine that was used on me when I was a baby was 'pulling through the collar of a horse.' I have found sites on the internet where it stated that a child with wind colic or gripes was put three times through a warm horse collar. My mother told me that something was wrong with my neck and that the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me and they couldn't cure me. She said I was passed through a horse's collar in the front yard down at my grandma's house and that I was cured. I always thought this was a very unusual thing to do, especially in the 1950s. And until recently, I could not find any mention of this type of folk medicine on the internet.

My mother passed down the information to me that catnip tea was good for colic. My middle son had very bad colic spells, I would be up into the wee hours of the night with him. We brewed catnip tea and put a little Karo syrup into it for a sweetener and he usually fell asleep before the small  bottle was emptied. It was a lifesaver!

Grandpa drank yellow root tea for stomach problems.

My Gr Grandma Emily (1849-1910)  (Grandpa McMillion's mother) was rumored to be a witch. Of course,  I do not believe this. I think she probably had special abilities like my Grandpa did and people just did not understand her or her abilities.

There are many other folk remedies and cures. But these are a few of the ones that were practiced in my family.

I bet you have some you could tell us about., too.

This is a picture of my Grandpa and Grandma McMillion, 
which was probably taken around 1908-09 by a traveling photographer.


  1. Hi Janet! Those are some great old family traditions of using folk medicine! My mom has always said that her grand pa would blow smoke from his pipe in their ears when they had earaches. I'm not sure if it worked or not. lol

    Stay warm and safe in this wild weather!

  2. Janet, that Bible is such a precious treasure to have. I love these stories and like to research them, too. I used to give my daughter an herb tea, called "Kinder tea" (smelled like licorice, and it calmed her right down.
    We never went to the doctor when I was a child. When we had a cold, my parents would give us a spoonful of sugar with some whiskey and it cleared up our cold.

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

  3. I really enjoyed your post Janet. It's always interesting to read about the old ways.

  4. Angela, I don't think I ever heard of that before. Anita, that was something I didn't mention in my post, but my aunt gave a spoonful what she called 'burnt whiskey' for coughs.

  5. Never heard of the blood thing that's super interesting! I took an appalachain studies class in college and LOVED it. Appalachia is a very interesting place.

  6. hi janet growing up in orlando which is in braxton county, my grandpa was known as the wart man, if anyone had a wart they would come to himand he would buy it for a penny and the wart would leave.
    but he always told them if they didn't pee in the road they wouldn't get warts pat

  7. I'm a city boy but married to a mountain girl and she's always telling me about remedies and folk lore passed down through her family. There has to be something to these things because more often that not they do work.

    While I was catching up on my blog reading today I somehow wandered off course and ended up finding several bloggers writing about my adopted home here in the Blue Ridge Mountains where my wife was born and raised, yours among them. You have a new fan and I will be back!

  8. Janet,
    I have heard of all of these things and in my family I have a great aunt who was said to have abilities. Also could cure warts.

  9. This is great stuff. Nice that you have documented folk cures. It is so much a part of who you are. One site that is worth checking out is UCLA FOLK MEDICINE:

    Good post -- barbara

  10. I love this post--how interesting. I just love appalachian life. My husband’s grandfather could take a Y shaped branch and find water--I’m not sure what that is called now but he could do it over and over.

  11. thanks everyone for your comments. Farm Chick and Patsy we got rid of warts by rubbing a bean leaf over them and hiding the leaf under a rock. When the leaf decayed, the wart would disappear. Verde Farm that was called divining or dowsing. When I was growing up people would use a dowsing rod to check for water before digging their wells.

  12. Love the picture-and the whole post! Fascinating stuff. No one in my family was gifted with healing-that I'm aware of-but I did know a local lady who could blow in babies mouths when they had the thrush and cure it.

  13. Hey Janet...Mama Cobb told me how to get rid of freckles with the morning dew. Papa taught me the verse in the Bible for bleeding.
    Also how to heal a cut with the milk from a would seal it and heal it. Everyone needs to learn to use the weed plantain....It healed me from a brown recluse spider rotting thumb grew back healthy tissue. I had almost lost half of my thumb! Check it out...the list is enless...even wrinkles!
    Cousin Carmen

  14. Janet that Bible is a treasure and my mom used it also for nosebleeds and the burns, I'm familiar with and Mom grew catnip for the babies. She made it all the time. She could cure the thrash of the mouth. The doctors call it the thrush. She used some type of leaf or something and she would blindfold the adults that came. They never knew what she done. Her own doctor started sending people to her because there was not much they could do that worked. She did it and walked away and I never knew a time that it didn't. I enjoy your blog so much. Love it

  15. Love this post!
    My Dad told me there was a verse in the bible to use to stop bleeding, but I never knew the verse. Now I do!! Thanks!!
    I used to know a preacher who would buy warts from you.

  16. Thank you for sharing. I enjoined your blog very much. Going to read more.


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