To keep with the theme of “there’s a chill in the air,” we turn to the MHS Press book by Kathleen Stokker, Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land, which is filled with fascinating folk-healing rituals and natural home remedies remembered fondly by midwestern Norwegian Americans. Which cure for winter’s common cold and sore throat would you choose?
“For a chest cold Mom rubbed my chest with goose grease and would place wool or flannel over it.” (Ester Hegg, born 1913)
“A home remedy for a cough or sore throat was to rub your neck with camphor oil and fasten a man’s woolen sock around your neck.” (Ella Grunewald, born 1916)
“I remember the standard remedy for a serious chest cold or chills and fever. Two extra quilts were added to your bed. Then the potion was mixed: the juice of a half lemon, a generous amount of brandy; then the mug was filled with boiling water. A little sugar and a sprinkling of nutmeg smoothed out the flavor. It was best drunk when already dressed in flannel pajamas. The warm coziness set in almost immediately, and the sweat began to ooze out of your pores. Invariably you felt much better in the morning.” (Judeen Johnson, born 1925)
Beret Hagebak outside her sod house in western Minnesota. MHS Collections, photo by Hugh J. Chalmers, from Remedies and Rituals by Kathleen Stokker.