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The common cold season is upon us. It may seem like no matter what you do, that cold just won’t stay away, and it takes a while to get better. Perhaps this is because you need to try some old-fashioned cures. Here are some ideas from our Almanac readers, culled from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Book of Everyday Advice!
Father and Brother ran trap lines during the winter months. Being a thrifty man by nature, Father used as much of anything that came to hand as he could.
Skunks were quite prevalent in those days, so naturally we had a good supply of skunk furs stretched on boards in the basement. Father boiled the carcasses to feed the chickens and, after scraping the pelts, rendered the fat.
This grease had several uses around the farm. It could be used to oil harnesses, boots, or a squeaking axle in a pinch. Another use I remember quite well. Whenever one of us caught a cold, Mother’s remedy was to sprinkle sugar on onion pieces and feed us a spoonful at bedtime. Father’s remedy was to slather skunk grease on our chests. All the time I was in grade school, I seldom had a cold. I might catch one—but after that, nobody came close enough the rest of the winter to give me another.
From A. M., Ohio
At age 14, I came home from school with a nasty cold. Later that evening, while I sat with fever, watery eyes, and runny -nose, huddled in a blanket doing my homework, my elderly great-aunt Mary said that she had an old remedy for my cold. I groaned at the thought of an “old remedy,” perhaps in the form of cooked tree bark or worse.
Finally, with homework done, I headed for bed. Aunt Mary stopped me with steaming cup in hand. “Drink this, and you will feel much better.” Marveling at the excellent health of my tall, slender, 75-year-old aunt, I emptied the cup, asking, “What did I drink?” With a warm smile and never-you-mind look, she tucked me into bed.
Waking after a night’s peaceful sleep, I asked her for the recipe. She said, “I cooked a chopped onion in water, discarded the onion, and added milk and a pinch of black pepper.”
This became my favorite cure for the common cold. To this day, some 40 years later, I think of Great-Aunt Mary when the sniffles and chills begin—and start chopping the onion.
From K. F., Montana
The only way to cure a cold is to catch it before it gets you down. At the first hint of a cold or the flu, sip the following tea. (Mix a batch ahead, using 2 handfuls of mint and 1 handful of each of the other ingredients.)
Mix the leaves of spearmint, red raspberry, catnip, mullein, and comfrey with red clover flowers and rose hips. Steep about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in hot water with a sprig of white pine bark (don’t omit this key ingredient—the white inner bark is best) for about 10 minutes. Put the white pine bark sprig in your cup and pour in the tea. Sweeten with honey if desired. Drink about 3 cups a day, adding another sprig of bark for each cup.