The Way We Were by Colin Ella

Colin Ella Part 30: Cures from the Back Garden.
Colin Ella Part 30: Cures from the Back Garden.

Of course, years ago, medical help was often hard to come by and folk learnt about the healing properties of various plants and herbs with which to treat themselves. Hundreds of plants today still provide the ingredients of lots of modern medicines and no doubt long ago, it must have given a very satisfying feeling when your own little plot acted as your doctor.

Some time back I wrote about the many uses of onions, (a precious vegetable if ever there was one), but here’s a few more uses of that wonderful culinary delight. Onions were used to cure piles, both internal and external: quinzy, bladder stone, deafness and baldness. The last two named complaints needed the application of the juice of onions put inside of the ear and vigorously rubbed on the scalp respectively.

Carrots were believed to be very good for the eyesight, a popular sentiment today, but that able exponent of primitive physic, our own John Wesley, recommended living on boiled carrots for a fortnight as a cure for asthma. Vegetables were widely used for poultices: carrot ones on open wounds, potato ones on burns and scalds, and parsnip poultices for ulcers. A mixture of turnip juice and sugar eased a dry cough but the treatment of laying hot, roasted turnip peelings behind the ear as a cure for toothache is a bit of a mystery.

Chilblains were bathed with water in which potatoes had been boiled. We all smile at the expression, ‘eat your greens’ but we were certainly told they were good for us. Cabbage water was said to be good for the complexion.

A pain in the side used to be treated by warming up a cabbage leaf near the fire and then strapping it over the affected area, and leaving it there for at least twelve hours.

Leeks came into their own as a cure for dropsy - the dose being three tablespoonful of leek juice every morning.

I suppose as near as I ever got to all this business was to enjoy a bowlful of delicious onion porridge on a cold winter’s night and I really did think at that time that there was nothing better for treating a cold.

I just wonder if pondering on these weird and wonderful old country cures might perhaps make us appreciate our local GPs just a little more!

Next week in Part 31 - A Mouth Watering Delight.