Neighbours, Herbal Lore and Wisdom…on country lanes.

In Folklore, herbal remedies on February 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Walking each day on the lane is great. It exercises myself and the dogs, it gives me a chance to observe the hedgerows and sometimes take pics for the blog, but best of all one has chance encounters with the neighbours. This I really enjoy as you never know where the conversation will lead. Yesterday , Joe, who farms sheep further up the lane was in a great mood for chatting. After the usual pleasantries about the weather and such Joe’s topic of the day was health, so many people taking tablets now and still in ill health. Joe is quiet elderly, one would’nt dare ask his age, but other neighbours say he is near 80. Anyway he is old enough to remember when folk did’nt take so many tablets and relied on herbal cures.

Joe has a great memory and he was happy to tell me of a few cures he remembers. One was for gout: in the Spring when nettles have some nice new growth, take a handful, boil with a couple of cabbage leaves. Strain and retain the juice. Keep the juice in a cool place and drink half a small glass  first thing each morning on an empty stomach. This has to be done for 9 days. The nettle and cabbage can be eaten as a vegetable.

The next cure was for an infected foot resulting from a thorn or walking on a rusty nail. Cut an onion in half and apply the cut side to the affected area. Bandage to keep in place overnight. Next morning the onion will have drawn the poison from the infected foot.

All this talk on herbal lore reminded me of a book given to me by years ago by an old lady when I lived in Tipperary. It is called Mrs Lavenders Herbal Book and as you can see isn’t in great shape. It does have all it’s pages and is an interesting read. Published in 1930 and sold at a cost of 6 old pence it talks of garden and wild plants as cures for all ailments.

On Beetroot Mrs Lavender says: “All who suffer from jaundice or similar liver troubles should eat the ordinary red beetroot freely. Also it is excellent for growing girls and women of all ages, doing much to strenghten them and to cure weakening diseases to which they are liable.”

St. John’s Wort is mentioned as “useful in all lung troubles, particularly if there is any tendency to phythisis. If the flower and leaves are chopped fine and added to melted clarified lard they form an ointment that will heal almost any wound.”

Burdock is recommended for kidney troubles. “Two ounces of burdock root boiled in half a gallon of water till the latter is reduced to a quart makes an excellent medicine for many kidney troubles such as gravel or stone, and also for those who are suffering from dropsy.”

So between Joe and Mrs. lavender’s guidance we should be able to cope with all eventualities in the health department!!

In future chats with Joe I hope to draw more of this wisdom from him. I have started writing it down as this is part of our folklore which needs to be held on to. As with Mrs. Lavender the turns of phrase are different to those used nowadays. I would however be a bit suspicious of some of her cures…especially the use of snails as a cure for consumption!!!!


  1. Much of modern medicine is based on old wives tales! There was usually method in their madness… they simply didn’t have the science to prove these things work. It’s interesting that beetroot was mentioned all those years ago as it’s being hailed as the “new super food” now 🙂 They’ve even brought back leeches with good results!

  2. I don’t believe in half the modern rubbish that “health food stores” claim about this or that herb or vegetable, but…

    I grew up knowing that the camomile along my grandfather’s fields could be used as a relaxing tea and that a nettle sting can be soothed by tying a split dandelion stem around the affected extremity. These things work, and people have been doing them for the past thousand years. So there must be something in these old wives’ tales; after all, in medieval times a village wise woman seemed more able to cure ailments than a qualified doctor.

    (And loads of herbal remedies can be tasty enough to take for the flavour itself! Marigold petal tea, for instance, is delicious and there’s something so very beautiful about the petals floating in a glass of steaming hot water that it’s almost decadent!)

  3. What an enjoyable piece on tried and tested remedies. I had first-hand experience of the old ways when my very 21st century dentist resorted to oil of cloves after I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. Why he didn’t propose oil of cloves in the first place…?

  4. “snails as a cure for consumption”

    Well I think snails are a cure for the consumption of snails! 🙂


  5. I agree. Food and herbs can heal us. It’s as if we’ve forgetton that, or we’re beyond that. Nonsense!

  6. My husband was just sharing with me that research has shown that onions are quite absorbant and its believed that they are sometimes responsible for spreading disease. The researchers suggest to never leave your peeled onion lying around absorbing germs floating through thru the air. So I believe Joe is correct in suggesting that an onion can draw the poison or infection out of your foot.

  7. Joe sounds as if he has some real treasures. I prefer treating something with a natural cure vs. a pill, if at all possible. Nettles are high in iron and helpful for women’s ailments. I have many books on herbal cures, but I still wish I had a ‘Joe’ down the street to get some useful tidbits.

  8. I have always been interested in herbal remedies and have tried a few – but not sure they really work though

  9. Thank you for sharing this wonderful legacy of healthful info. I’ve tried the onion compress before and amazingly it worked,ditto with garlic juice for insect bites.

  10. This is great. Too bad that this knowledge is being lost in our modern world. Maybe it will be a good idea if you help Joe make an Ebook so his legacy continues.

  11. Wonderful reading; I am glad you are writing all those down. I think we are losing all these ancient knowledge and folklore. I come from India and many of these are still strongly held and followed; we have a whole medicine body – ayurvedic – based on plants and food we eat. But, still we are losing all these good traditions to modern society. Joe is very correct – we take too much medicines and nothing happens, no recovery happens. I can see that in my parents. Whatever you learn, please post on blogs. Yesterday I bought some St. John’s Wort and today you wrote about it :-).

  12. Great post, I also love to read all the old cures. Believe it or not snails were indeed a popular cure for lung problems as the slime was thought to sooth dry coughs. I’ll take the mullein and coltsfoot myself I think!

  13. This is a great post – not just the story of chatting with neighbors (which almost always yields something wonderful, if not useful), but the very interesting remedies handed down through the generations. Beats taking pills (except for the snails…) any day!

  14. Great post. I do love hearing about herbal remedies. I think there is a lot in it but some of them I’m not so sure about. I’ve used herbs from qualified herbalists and found them to work and I’ve heard rubbing garlic on your feet can ward off colds.

  15. Thoroughly enjoyed the read and could picture Joe quite clearly. How wonderful that you’re writing the ‘lore’ down as it truly will be lost forever.

  16. Fascinating information! We use St John’s Wort to lift the mood along with a bit of modern technology – the light lamp. Look forward to more pearls of wisdom.

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