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Make Your Own, Old-Time Herbal Remedies And Household Cleaners

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Unread 02.23.13, 05:34 AM
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Make Your Own, Old-Time Herbal Remedies And Household Cleaners

02.22.13 10:01 PM

Many of my ancestors came from England where they were converted to the Christianity. They came to America in ships looking for a better life. They were promised freedom of religion and their own piece of ground in the wide-open spaces of Utah, and they were given a new hope and vision for their future.

My ancestors were willing to live in extreme poverty and to walk thousands of miles to reach their new home. They traveled in covered wagons filled with food supplies and minimal household necessities. Many of them pulled handcarts with small children in them. They encountered harsh winters, lack of shelter, illnesses, lack of food and water, and problems with snakes and wild animals. Many of the people moving west died along the way and were buried in shallow graves.

The pioneers used the food items they brought with them and what they could scavenge from the land for food and for making medicines. Foods such as berries, mushrooms, flowers, weeds, dandelion root and herbs were gathered and dried. The pioneers knew which plants were edible and which plants were not, and they knew which ones were medicinal. They were fishermen, hunters and trappers. They would kill deer or other wild animals and dry the meat to preserve it for future use.

The settlers moved in groups that functioned as one big family. They had many things in common and made sure the entire group was fed and taken care of. They walked together, ate together, sang together and prayed together. They relied upon the Lord for their very existence.

Wild Herb And Berry Tea

In pioneer times, people had to rely on the herbs and berries they found growing wild in the mountains or along riverbanks and streams. Simple herbal tea was a staple for any illness. They made soothing herbal teas by adding boiling water to five or six berries along with a spoonful of honey or molasses. This was their medicine when a doctor was not available.


My pioneer ancestors found many medicinal herbs growing wild along the trail to Utah. Spearmint or peppermint was a real find. They would dry these herbs and take the leaves to make tea to soothe an upset stomach.

I harvest peppermint leaves in the summer from my peppermint plants. I dry them and save them for my own peppermint tea.

To make peppermint tea, place five fresh or dried leaves in a cup. Add hot water and let it set for a few minutes. Add sweetener such as ½ teaspoon of honey, molasses or stevia to taste. Drink it to settle an upset stomach. It works great.

Sore Throat

To sooth a sore throat, pioneers gargled with a mixture of salt and water. It seemed to work quite well. Even my grandmother used this as a remedy for sore throats when I was a child.

Make a salt-water gargle by mixing ½ teaspoon salt and ½ cup of warm water. Gargle with it and spit it out after 30 seconds. This will help a sore throat.

Soothe A Cough

As my ancestors settled into their homesteads and the Wild West was tamed, they were able to get items like lemon juice and glycerin brought in from California on wagons or by train. They would make their own cough syrup using everyday simple ingredients that they had on hand. These recipes were handed down from generation to generation until over-the-counter cough syrups were available.

Cough Syrup

1 cup honey
Juice from two lemons (about ½ cup)
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon glycerin

Mix together all ingredients and take 1 tablespoon at a time to soothe a cough. Glycerin can be purchased in a drug store or pharmacy.

Relieve A Fever

Rubbing alcohol was a staple in my grandmother’s medicine cabinet. When we had high fevers, she would soak a cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub us with it. Every few hours, we took a cool bath and had another rubdown with rubbing alcohol. She made sure we had plenty of water, chicken soup and lots of bed rest. That would break a fever instantly. If we were coughing, then we also got our chests rubbed with Vicks VapoRub.

Emergency Toothpaste And Mouthwash

Baking soda mixed with salt in equal parts works well for cleaning teeth. Swish mouth with warm water to remove all the paste. If you have any gum problems, you can rinse your mouth with hydrogen peroxide. After 30 seconds of swishing it around in the mouth, spit it out.

Cleaning Products

Cleaning products were made from scratch using items that every household had on hand: alcohol, dish soap, vinegar, cream of tartar, soda, salt, ammonia and even wood ashes from the fireplace. The pioneers were so innovative. Our generation has become dependent on the grocery store for every type of cleaning product. We have dish soap, hand soap, laundry detergent, oven cleaner, stovetop cleaner, floor cleaner, glass cleaner, degreaser, car wash, shampoo, body wash, face wash, baby wash and dog wash. My grandmother just made an all-purpose household cleaner and used it for everything.

Window Cleaner

1 pint rubbing alcohol
1 tablespoon liquid dish detergent
4 tablespoons ammonia

Mix together all the ingredients and add enough water to make 1 gallon of cleaner. Shake the mixture well and transfer part of the cleaner into a spray bottle. Use it to clean and polish windows.

Household All-Purpose Cleaner

½ gallon water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup of ammonia
¼ cup soda

Mix all ingredients together and add enough water to make a gallon. Shake it well and transfer some of the cleaner to a spray bottle. Use on all surfaces as an all-purpose cleaner.

Drain Cleaner

1 cup baking soda
¼ cup cream of tartar
1 cup table salt

Put ¼ cup of this mixture in a clogged drain. Add 1 cup of boiling water and let it stand in the drain for a while until it loosens up the clog.

Jewelry Cleaner

¼ cup concentrated lemon juice

Soak tarnished jewelry in concentrated lemon juice. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the jewelry. Be careful not to get the lemon juice splash on your clothing, because it causes bleached-out spots.

Silver Polish

Take the ashes from a fireplace where you have burned wood. Mix the ashes with a little water to form a paste. It is the best silver and copper polish; it will really shine them. Wood ashes and water form lye, which is one of the ingredients in homemade hand soap.

Furniture Polish

1 quart hot water
1 tablespoon of turpentine
3 tablespoons boiled linseed oil

Stir all ingredients together and keep in a glass jar with a lid. Heat a small amount in a metal can on low heat just until it softens to warm it up before using. Rub it on, wipe it off and polish with a soft cloth.

Turpentine and linseed oil can be purchased at any hardware store. This polish is better than any commercial furniture polish available today.

ION (Stabilized Oxygen)

I keep ION on hand for medicinal purposes. Just like my ancestors could not live without their household staples, I feel the same way about ION for modern times. I keep it in my purse, medical kit, vehicle and grab-and-go bag.
  • Ion will kill bacteria on contact, so I use it as a mouthwash. Mix 20 drops of ION into about half a cup of water. Use as a gargle or to swish around in the mouth to kill bacteria that might be causing gum disease, tooth decay, etc.
  • I also put 3 drops of ION on my toothpaste and brush my teeth with it.
  • Ion can be used to disinfect countertops, floors, toilets, sinks, etc. Mix 20 drops in ½ gallon of warm water. Use a clean cloth and wipe down countertops, sinks, etc. This will kill bacteria on contact.
  • I drink 20 drops per day in a smoothie, glass of water or juice. This oxygenates the blood and boosts the immune system by killing off any harmful bacteria in the body. To learn about the many uses of ION (stabilized oxygen), click here.

These recipes came from my book Cookin’ With Home Storage, a fascinating cookbook with more than 500 old-time recipes, remedies and household cleaners as well as recipes using dehydrated food and shelf-stable pantry food.

–Peggy Layton

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