Seven weird ways to deal with a cough

  • Even cavemen used their grannies remedies
  • The magnificent seven…or not!
  • Can you do better?

There seems to be a few people suffering from old fashioned coughs around at the moment.

It’s not an outbreak of a new variant of COVID or anything nasty…. it just seems to be the return of a normal winter cough.

Whoever thought we might welcome something so familiar back!

This outbreak had me searching in my resource centre (OK, the pile of yellowing newspaper clippings and notes that less charitable members of the family call my midden!)

Flicking back over my files I found a few obscure remedies that I thought you might enjoy.

In some cases there is an element of science in the remedies, and you may well use some of them yourselves, but there are some absolute corkers out there.

It’s worth remembering that cough and cold cures have been around since the dawn of time, in fact some of the cave paintings are thought to show ancient remedies.

Every granny has a favourite which she inflicts on her charges, and here are just a few of the ones I have collated;

  • Mustard Poultice Wrap. Children were smeared over their chests with goose fat (or in more modern times petroleum jelly) and then a mixture of mustard powder and flour was made into a paste with water and spread over the fat. A bandage of clean muslin was wrapped around the child, followed by a tight covering of an old sheet or towel. A tent like structure was rigged over the bed to keep in the mustard fumes which was thought to help clear the sinuses. I wonder whether any of the poor mites had burnt skin from the mustard mix? In principle this method uses the power of the mustard powder to create local heating, and increase in blood flow and a loosening of phlegm.
  • Cinder Cough Water. Back in the days when every home had an open fire cinders were easy to come by, a hot one was dropped into a cup of water and stirred around. A spoonful of cooled water was then taken as a medicine, which provided the recipient with sulphur which acts to control bacteria and viruses – the down side is that if you take too much sulphur it is a poison which may cure your cough…permanently!
  • Treat your feet. There are various versions of this one but the more common ones were to rub your feet over withy Vicks Vapo-rub, put a pair of socks on and go to bed. Alternatively, put on a pair of wet, cold, thin socks (straight from the fridge) then a pair of thick woollen socks over the top and turn in for the night. The concept here is that by stimulating an increase in blood flow to the feet you will get an improvement in circulation which will help mobilise anti bodies and allow you to fight the virus quicker.
  • Heroin. Yep seriously! The now global pharmaceutical giant Bayer actually sold heroin in the 19th century as a cold cure…not sure whether it was injected or sniffed but can’t help thinking the patients became regular users…
  • Ground mummified human remains. Maybe not the granny cure you were looking for, but it was a fairly common practice in Europe in the last century to use powdered mummified flesh to cure things as diverse as common coughs & colds, baldness and wounds.
  • Bacon or liver bandage. The meat was placed inside a muslin bag and laid over the throat to cure soreness and coughs. I would prefer to fry it up and eat it to cure rumbling tummies!
  • Hot suet milk. Into a hot cup of milk a teaspoon of suet is added and drunk straight down, very popular in the North-East of England where it proved popular with seafarers.

I’m really not endorsing any of the above, but I think it is really interesting that few other conditions attract such a diverse range of home cures.

The fact that all of them have persisted to the modern day, at least in folklore, must mean that they have some validity – at least once.

If nothing else it goes to prove how diverse the causes of coughs and colds are, and therefore the need for any remedy to cover as many bases as possible.

A challenge to Good Life Readers

Can you do better than the weird selection of remedies I have covered above? Did your Nan hold a secret remedy above all others, maybe involving earthworms or strained beetroot juice…or maybe something even more unbelievable?

Mail me and let me know, if there are any better ones out there I’ll include them in a later letter so that we can all enjoy them.

I hope you are all enjoying good health even in the colder months, keep active, stay happy and eat healthily to make it harder for the nasties to take hold.