I truly appreciate modern science and medicine. I owe my life to it. But I still maintain a deep respect for health hacks from an earlier time.
After all, it was our mothers’, grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ ingenuity and thriftiness that kept their own families alive and well.
These health hacks are great for non-emergency situations. But I am not a doctor and this article is not intending to give medical advice. Use common sense and your mothering instinct when treating a loved one at home.
Health Hacks from the Great Depression Era
1. Baking Soda for Bites – For bug bites and bee stings, mix some baking soda with a little bit of water. Add just enough water to make a paste. Put the paste over the bite and let it sit. Once it dries, the baking soda will flake off so you can just put some more paste on.
2. Comfrey Tea for Upset Stomach – Comfrey can help ease lots of ailments but is most commonly known to help an upset stomach. Just steep some tea and sip away. You can buy the tea in stores or online. If you are fortunate to live where it grows wild you could take an adventure and go harvest your own!
3. Onions for Fever – This one sounds weird, I know, but just give it a try. Slice a fresh onion into thick rounds and place the whole slices against the bottom of your feet. Slip on some tight fitting socks and gently massage the onions to get the juices flowing a bit and help your body absorb them quicker. Go to bed. If the smell is too overpowering you can put your feet in grocery bags and tape the top around your ankle. If you can, replace the onions every 4 to 6 hours. Continue the onion regimen as long as the fever persists.
I also love onions for ear aches and colds. When you cut an onion, you know how you start bawling? Tears and snot everywhere? Yep, that will be great for your child with an earache or cold. The oils in the freshly cut onion will trigger mucous to flow to help ease pressure building from mucous.
Just slice the onion open, slip half of it into a sock and hold the sock against against your child’s ear or near their nose.
4. Egg Shell Membrane for a Splinter – Mildred Armstrong Kalish shares this thrifty and painless trick in her memoir, Little Heathens. Remove a piece of the thin, white membrane from the inside of a freshly cracked egg. Place this membrane over the splinter site like a band aid and let on overnight. By morning the splinter should be drawn to the surface.
5. Switchel for Dehydration – Switchel is a great electrolyte-boosting drink to recover a body after a day’s work in the hot sun. Keep this handy for after your athletes’ games, as well. Learn how to make switchel for your family here.
6. Beef Tallow for Lotion – Beef tallow is a great moisturizer. Of all the fats and lotions out there, this fat is the most easily and quickly absorbed by our skin. Try this recipe from Jess Pryles for a healthy, healing body butter. Get some tallow from your local butcher and render it down.
7. Honey for Complexion – Honey is the most versatile product I know of! Not only is it delicious to consume, it is also an effective skin treatment. Wash your face in honey several times a week for a clearer complexion. Before bed, rub some honey into your wrinkles to turn back the clock. For a daytime treatment, rub a honey mask over your face and let sit for 15 minutes before gently washing it off. Rub honey into your dry, chapped lips for healing.
8. B&W Ointment – Burn & Wound Ointment has not been around since the Great Depression but the concept has. B&W contains honey, lanolin, olive oil, marshmallow root, aloe vera, wormwood, comfrey root, white oak bark, lobelia inflata, vegetable glycerine, bees wax and myrrh. Honey is known for its medicinal qualities. Combine it with healing oils and herbs and you have a wonder salve!
I use this salve on everything. Sunburn, chapped lips, cuts, scrapes and minor burns (after I have drawn out the heat). I know of two people who had second degree burns treated with B&W and the recommended burdock leaf routine. [You can read about the burdock leaf wrap in the manual.] Their burns healed quickly and without scarring!
9. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar – What can’t you use raw apple cider vinegar for! Use this vinegar as a final rinse in your hair for soft, shiny hair. [Although I don’t do this because the smell is too much for me.] Put 1 to 2 cups in your hot bath water and soak for 30 minutes to detox your body and neutralize your skin’s pH. Add some vinegar to a luke-warm bath to ease sunburn. You can take a tablespoon of this (diluted in water if you want) to help digestion or ease an upset stomach.
Here I share more ideas for using vinegar around your home and in your beauty routine.
This list is nowhere near being all-inclusive. I just wanted to share some common, easy to execute household hacks from the Great Depression era. So next time something ails you try one of these century-old health hacks!
Do you have some health hacks of your own? Share them in the comments below!
I am not a doctor nor am I intending to diagnose or treat any malady.