Remedies From Yesteryear

With the cold and flu season upon us. I thought it would be fun to find some amazing cold and flu remedies from yesteryear. So grab a pen and some paper (cause we are old school and proud of it!) and get ready to copy these dandies down.

I remember when my mom and dad both got very sick with a lung bug. My Grandma Grace Westra came over to care for us. Grandma Grace went to work and made a mustard plaster and both my parents got a good dose of remedies from yesteryear!

Eye of newt and three frogs toes

Image by Michael Treu from Pixabay

She cooked it up on the stove. Slathered it onto some flannel and laid it on their chest for a period of time and then had them flip over onto their stomach and put the plaster on their back. With twenty-four hours my mom was feeling much better and returned to the helm. Dad also made a nice recovery, his diabetes just slowed things down a bit.

Searching the web I found a recipe like the one Grandma Grace used. All credit goes to the Tipnut web site for posting this remedy Oldtimers Cure-All for Cough and Cold.

Mustard Plaster Remedy

4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons dry mustard
Water (lukewarm)


  • Mix the dry ingredients together then add the water to make a paste. The paste should be smooth and easily spreadable but not too thin so that it runs or is watery.
  • Take a clean flour sack towel and spread the paste evenly across the top half (one side only), fold up the bottom half of the towel and apply to the chest area. Do not apply the paste directly to the skin or it may cause blistering. Cover with a fresh towel then top with a heavy blanket to encourage sweating (the fresh towel protects the blanket from any staining). If needing a large size poultice, cover an entire flour sack towel with the paste, then top with another flour sack towel (or make two separate ones).
  • Leave plaster on for up to 20 minutes, remove if the skin turns deep red and is in danger of blistering. If using on children, watch tender skin carefully (not to be used on children under school age unless directed by a doctor). Some reddening is normal as heat & circulation is being drawn to the surface.
  • Remove poultice, wash skin with a warm cloth to remove any traces that may have seeped through, dry and apply a layer of lard or Vaseline over the skin.
  • Next, apply to back for the same amount of time or until the danger of blistering appears, again covering with a heavy blanket and the following the procedure above.
  • This can be reapplied every 4 to 6 hours as needed.
  • A warm bath or shower can bring some comfort to the patient after treatment, but they must be supervised at all times due to their weakened condition from the illness (not left alone for even a minute). This is standard care in all cases of illness.


  • I’ve seen some recipes that recommend applying a layer of Vaseline on the skin before applying poultice cloth, this apparently helps prevent any blistering…however, still “peek” at the skin every few minutes to watch. It is also thought that by using egg white instead of water to mix the paste, there’s some protection against blistering.
  • Flour sack towels are a cotton tea towel. If you don’t have any, you can apply this paste to an undershirt or some other thin fabric like flannelette. For children, a cotton terry towel can be used.
  • The ratio of ingredients can be adjusted if necessary to accommodate lower tolerance levels (it can get uncomfortable), but remember the purpose is to draw heat (and the illness) to the surface.
  • This stuff is no joke–you really do need to watch for blisters, especially on tender skin. Do not fall asleep with this onset the alarm clock if you’re treating yourself (for 5 minute intervals).
  • Along with colds & cases of flu, these were also commonly used for treating sore muscles, arthritis, treatment of back pain, poor circulation and gout (and many more things I’m sure). Simply apply to the area afflicted.

Next, we have cough syrup for whooping cough. This is from my fun book of Rare Recipies and Budget Savers from 1961. Another great recipe to add to your remedies from yesteryear.

For Whooping Cough

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Resourceful pioneers used this remedy, told to us by Georgia Nies, 747 S Water, Wichita-

  • Take equal parts of strained honey, olive oil, and whiskey and mix well together. Give a teaspoon three times a day.

Seeing that I had all three ingredients in the house, I thought I’d give this recipe a whirl. And what luck, or not so lucky… my husband was home sick with some nasty lung bug. So… I went to work mixing an ounce of each.

Double, double toil and trouble

I always love adventure, especially when someone else is the guinea pig. I was all ready for my husband to be my first taste tester and then guilt got the better of me. Alright, then. I will take the first taste.

Taking a deep breath I poured some into a teaspoon. It didn’t look revolting and had a pleasant smell… it looks like some cooking marinate. Well, down the hatch. GULP! Hmmm…. taste was okay, smooth going down… ah, there it is, a little heat from the whiskey. My throat and ears were starting to warm. Not bad!

I too had acquired the bug. As the day drew on it actually hurt to talk and I felt like I had a hickory nut stuck in my throat. Shortly after taking the first taste test, it felt remarkably better.

Now, to get my husband to take a sample. Carefully stirring the concoction as I walk toward him, I asked him to sit up. He complied and asked what was going on. I told him found this recipe for whooping cough and thought maybe he should give it a try. He took it down and thought it wasn’t bad at all.

It was fun to tinker with some remedies. I feel we are missing some helpful remedies from yesteryear by relying too much on physicians and pharmacists. Maybe we need to go back and implement some of them into our life as our health situation may need it?

About Michele Bruxvoort

Michele Bruxvoort is sure to draw you in with her delightful sense of humor and love for living life.   She enjoys reading, repurposing,  as well as remodeling the family home with her husband. Drawing from her life experience as wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, Michele brings you a very honest and real perspective on life.  When you don't find her writing, you can find her mowing lawns, stocking shelves, taking care of her grandbaby and tackling her latest life adventure. Wisconsin native and empty-nester, she now makes her home with her husband of 27 years in the South West Prairie plains of Minnesota.

View all posts by Michele Bruxvoort

3 Comments on “Remedies From Yesteryear”

  1. My husband’s Grandmother used to talk about the mustard poultice they would use too. She said they used a good amount of “Goose grease” on the skin, to help with the effects of the poultice. So fascinating!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.