Old-time home remedy may or may not work, but it’s fun to try


Compiled by Bill Derby

Since we are on the verge of everyone’s favorite allergy season I thought these ‘mother-knows-best’ suggestions might come in handy or not.

A medical alert was sent out a few years ago about Vick’s Vapor Rub that could cause breathing distress for young children and babies under two years of age. I was probably one of those babies way back when there was no television.  Now, the medical directions state to use only for children over two years of age along with other rules.

I grew up slathered in Vick’s salve, as it was known back in the dark ages. At the first sign of a stuffy nose or cough, mom would get out the Vick’s salve and plaster it all over my chest covering it with a wash cloth or old diaper. Yuk…..I hated it. The pungent odor filled my room smelling very medicinal.

If that didn’t work, she made me stand on a chair with a towel draped over my head over a pot of boiling water full of Vick’s trapping the healing vapors. It was somewhat of a torture test for a kid. But, it usually worked. Today’s Dr. Google research doesn’t prove that treatment works very well and could actually create more congestion.

If you have never stayed up all night with a coughing, hacking child, you haven’t experienced one of life’s challenges. You’ll do anything to help relieve your little baby’s cough.

Since my grandfather was a medical doctor his tried and true treatments were sure to work for a bad cough.  His home-spun remedy was to drink a hot toddy concoction of a little bourbon, honey and a drop of lemon. I was given that too at an early age. Made me throw up.

When my son was just a baby he ended up with a terrible cough and cold in the middle of the night. He was coughing every breath and as new concerned parents, we called our pediatrician in the middle of the night, which, I’m sure he appreciated. Dr. Boyce Berry, now retired, is a great guy, a kind, tall southern type.

I told him we had tried everything to get Jeff’s cough under control, but we didn’t have any Vick’s salve.

He asked me, “Do you have any bourbon in the house?”

I replied, “No, but I have some old peach brandy Tommy Thomas gave me when we went duck hunting once.”

Dr. Berry who may have even gone to the same medical school as my grandfather suggested, “Why don’t you give him a little of that brandy with honey and lemon and see if that helps.”

I couldn’t get a drop of the mixture down Jeff’s throat. He hated the taste. Frazzled, I drank it all. Jeff ended up that night sleeping on my chest on the sofa. We had both fallen asleep in the early morning hours.

People my age grew up with Vick’s salve and passed the remedy down to their children. We still use it and I bet many households have ancient bottles of the stuff sitting around. It never seems to go away.

Judy came down with a cold and cough last weekend.

“You need the Vick’s treatment to stop coughing,” I suggested.

I suppose Vick’s has been used for just about every type of home remedy. I read where if there is a ‘Fungus Amungus’ creeping under your toenail, Vick’s has been rumored to help eliminate that dreaded fungi which turns your toenails yeller. Dr. Google even has information that it is not a miracle cure but could aid to stimulate fat burning on the legs and abdomen. Before you try these remedies I suggest taking three or four doses of the bourbon, honey and lemon treatment first, then decide.

Vick’s was first produced in Greensboro, North Carolina by a doctor and pharmacist, Dr. Joshua Vick. He let his brother-in-law, H.S. Richardson, take over the menthol salve. Later the brother-in-law’s son went on to market the ointment called “Richardson’s Croup and Pneumonia Cure Salve.”

In 1907 the son changed the name of his father’s formula and called the product, Vick’s Salve which later turned into Vick’s Vapor Rub.

A product that’s been on the market for over 112 years does have healing properties. Just don’t treat kids under two with the salve and certainly not the honey, lemon mixture.


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