Old Fashioned Remedies: Peppermint….More Than Just an After Dinner Treat.

Since the beginning of time, people have relied on herbs and plants to treat every day ailments.  Now, most people rely on pharmaceuticals to do the job, but there are some who stand firmly behind these naturally occurring plants and their healing properties. Today, we take a look at Peppermint.

Peppermint has been used in cooking and as a medicine since 1500 BC and is thought to have originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean.  Early Egyptian texts state that it was even used as currency!

Eventually, peppermint was brought to Europe around 1240 A.D.   It was listed in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeia (basically a cookbook containing directions for the identification and preparation of medicines) as an herbal remedy.


In 1721, peppermint showed up in the London Pharmacopoeia and by was being cultivated on a much larger scale by then. Farmers went from growing a couple acres of the plant, to several hundred acres.

When Europeans began settling in North America, they soon discovered that the Native American’s were already using the herb, although it was a slightly different variety.  Settlers brought their European variety with them and soon that began growing naturally as well.

Today, the United States produces over half of the world’s commercially grown Peppermint. Michigan is the top producer, although it is also found in the northeast from Indiana to New York and the very southernmost areas of Canada. Much of what is produced is made into Peppermint oil.  Although the United States may produce the largest quantity of oil, it is generally agreed upon that the best quality oil comes from England.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Oil

Throughout the years, Peppermint has been used for the following:

Relieving toothaches.  When peppermint oil is applied directly to the sore tooth, it soothes the inflammation.

Whitening teeth.  People during the Middle ages used to chew on Peppermint leaves to help keep their teeth white.

Killing bacteria. Mint has long been used as an antiseptic, particularly for the mouth.

Calming an upset stomach and relieving gas.  Peppermint is thought to have anti inflammatory properties.  It calms the muscles in the digestive tract, helping to relieve a stomach ache.  The Romans grew peppermint specifically for this reason.

Getting rid of the common cold. Inhaling peppermint oil will alleviate the symptoms of the cold.  When applied directly to the skin, it is also a painkiller.  The surface heat it produces relieves pain beneath the skin.

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

                                     Relieving itchy skin.  Peppermint has been used to heal rashes and bug bites.                                                                           When put in shampoo, it also relives a dry, itchy scalp.

Perfume.  Peppermint oil applied to the skin gives off a clean, sweet, and refreshing aroma.  For this same reason, it was a used as ground cover in Europe during the middle ages.

After looking at this list, you can see how things like after dinner mints, toothpaste and mouthwash have developed over time.  What is your favorite use for peppermint?  Let us know in the comments!

The Strangest Old-Fashioned Health Remedies

We’ve written about plenty of useful old-fashioned cures that have stood the test of time, but what about the cures that fizzled out of popularity? (Disclaimer: we do not suggest trying any of these.)

Here are some good examples of bad cures:

  • A cure for baldness meant putting fresh cow manure directly on your head.
  • Got anemia? Eat raw liver and drink blood. Sure, you’ll get your iron, but you’ll lose all of it if it comes back up.
  • Cure a head cold by catching leaves falling from trees! Of course, for this cure you will have to wait until autumn rolls around to cure your cold.
  • Get rid of diarrhea by eating coconut cookies. This is probably one of the most delicious cures you’ll find; if it doesn’t work, at least you get to eat cookies!
  • Cut away a headache by sleeping with scissors under your pillow. The headache will be gone just overnight (that’s the claim, anyway)!
  • Sear a rabies bite with a hot iron to stop yourself from going crazy.
  • For a stomach ache, cut off a little hair from behind your right ear while under the light of a full moon, then throw the hair over your right shoulder.

We do not recommend trying these at home. Or trying them anywhere, for that matter. These old wives’ tales will probably just make you sicker!

All listed “cures” courtesy of legendsofamerica.com.

The Awe of Old-Time Traveling Medicine Shows

Some old-fashioned remedies really work – but many old timey medicines are horrifying to modern sensibilities.

In particular, medicine shows rolling through town in the 18th and 19th centuries brought alleged miracle cures for all sorts of ailments. Without the modern access we have today to WebMD and other such medical sites, people relied on word of mouth to hear about cures for their boils or rashes or other fun issues.
Medicine shows didn’t hold back. They created extravagant shows that advertised their products, often with made-up stories about miracle cures that had people believing.Snake-oil

In fact, traveling salesmen often combined simple ingredients like alcohol and sugar into useless concoctions with no medicinal value. Gullible patrons bought the nostrums anyway, buying in to fanciful stories of their uses.

Old medicines were likely either useless or dangerous. Ingredients included things like arsenic, mercury, and heroin. Dentists suggested cocaine lozenges to patients with toothaches, and also used cocaine as an anesthetic.

More reliable medicine with wider availability entered the market in the 20th century, reducing faith in home remedies. Medicine shows still traveled, but relied more on entertainment than medicine. Soon, newer entertainment like movie theaters popped up everywhere, and people lost interest in these once-touted medicine shows.

Old Fashioned Remedies: Make Your Own Toothpaste

Modern medicine has come far – but in some cases when you look at the chemical list, it doesn’t sound so great.

For instance, look at the chemicals in toothpaste. Glycerin coats teeth but it also stops cavities from self-healing. Do you really want that?

Homemade toothpaste is worth a shot. It has a different taste that you have to get used to that’s a different sort of minty freshness, but you can also change around the flavors yourself.

A popular ingredient for homemade toothpaste is coconut oil. Coconut oil is all-around great for you; it’s heart-healthy and lowers risk of heart disease. Plus it gives that tropical flavor!

Another important ingredient in homemade toothpaste is baking soda, which helps effectively clean teeth.


Channel your inner historian with this vintage sterling silver toothbrush. We don’t recommend using it to brush your teeth — who knows whose mouth it’s been in?

Want to try some homemade toothpaste of your own like they used back in the day? Here’s a recipe (adapted from familysponge.com):

6 tablespoons coconut oil
6 tablespoons baking soda
25 drops peppermint essential oil
1 tsp stevia (or more based on taste)

Just mix together and store in a jar.

You can also replace the drops of peppermint oil with any other essential oil of your choice! That’s the fun part of making your own toothpaste. Enjoy!

Have you made your own toothpaste? How did it turn out?

Old Fashioned Remedies: The Magic of Honey & Cinnamon

For years, the combination of honey & cinnamon has been touted for its beneficial properties. Both cinnamon and honey individually have wonderful attributes, and putting them together doubles the benefits.

Some go so far as to claim that honey & cinnamon will cure any disease. While we wouldn’t dare to assert that claim, science does suggest that the combination is still a pretty powerful medicine.

DCF 1.0

What will honey & cinnamon do for you, you ask? Here are just a few things:

Antioxidants. Want to boost your immune system? Honey & cinnamon were born to do just that. These magical ingredients help the immune system fight off viruses and colds.

Fight off cancer. Some say that honey & cinnamon will help prevent cancer. Honey has chemicals said to prevent cancer and cinnamon prevents tumor growth.

Help arthritis. Got arthritis? Take this combination twice a day in a cup of hot water. The anti-inflammatory properties will reduce any arthritis pain.

Bug bites. As well as witch hazel, honey & cinnamon work wonderfully for treating bug bites. Just combine the two and put the solution onto the itchy bug bite or an itchy patch of skin and the itching should disappear!

Digestion. Honey & cinnamon in hot water are sure to ease any stomach upsets. This combination will help the digestive system work better and relieve indigestion.

Skin care. Both aging skin and skin that suffers from breakouts will benefit from a simple paste of honey & cinnamon. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help soften skin and get rid of spots.

These are just some honey & cinnamon remedies! There are plenty more out there — what would you use this miraculous pairing for?



Natural Cures

Surprising Benefits


Old Fashioned Remedies: Cure Your Cold with Ginger

Ginger root does a lot more than add a zesty flavor to Asian dishes. Ginger fights nausea, alleviates arthritis pain, and protects against cancer. But one of the simplest and most effective uses for ginger is its power over the common cold.

Ginger is a funky-looking root.

Ginger is a funky-looking root.

Ginger boosts the immune system. Taking ginger regularly, whether in meals or in tea, helps prevent colds or the flu with its antioxidant properties.

Ginger helps during a cold, too.

If you have a stuffy nose, a high concentration of ginger will clear it right up (if you’re brave enough)!


Photograph of tea by David J. Fred.

Photo by David J. Fred, CC 2.5

Here’s a simple tea that will help you say adios to your everyday cold symptoms.

The Recipe

You need three ingredients: ginger, lemon juice and honey.

Steep a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger and a splash of lemon in hot water, and add honey to taste.

Five to ten minutes steeping in the water will get you a delicious tea that will help clear the cold right up.

The ginger will clear your sinuses and soothe your throat. Lemon’s high concentration of vitamin C aids the immune system, and honey helps the throat and aids a cough if you have one.

What’s your go-to recipe for a quick cold fix?

Old Fashioned Remedies: The Cure for Insomnia


Do you suffer from insomnia? Numbers estimate that 60 million Americans are affected by insomnia every year.

There are a number of treatments for insomnia. One of the most natural involves soothing herbs. Chamomile is especially famous for its sleep-inducing properties.

In 1911, the cures for insomnia ranged from reasonable to downright ridiculous.

This is an excerpt from the 1911 handbook Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women by Anna M. Galbraith:

Treatment for Insomnia – The mechanical measures for the relief of insomnia have for their purpose the withdrawing of the blood from the brain to the surface of the skin: hot foot-baths, brisk exercise, light massage, and cold rooms. Mental work should be laid aside several hours before retiring; late suppers avoided; coffee, if taken at all, should only be taken for breakfast, and then only one cup. Reading or amusement should be selected that does not excite the nerves.

To woo sleep the woman should put herself in a position of rest, which of itself physiologically induces sleep. Avoid irritations, noises, bad air, cold feet, overloaded bowels, and of which tend to wakefulness to prevent the proper physical rest. Then sleep usually comes of itself.

Some of this advice is sound, but don’t go trusting every word, since modern science has definitely moved forward since then.

Looking for a simple, old-fashioned solution to insomnia? Try drinking tea.


Chamomile has oft-praised properties for curing lack of sleep. Steep a teaspoon of chamomile in hot water for a few minutes and drink up; you can also buy tea bags of chamomile at your local grocery store.

Another old-fashioned cure for sleep troubles is ginger tea. Ginger has soothing properties and is especially good for unsettled stomachs. It draws the blood from the head and toward the stomach.

Drink either of these and you should sleep like a baby. Of course, if your insomnia is especially bad, you should see a doctor, but for a night of restlessness, these should do the trick.


Old Fashioned Remedies: Do-It-Yourself Lavender Oil

Is there any herb more well-loved than lavender? Its healing and calming properties make lavender the perfect herb to keep in your cupboard.

For thousands of years, people have used lavender for its relaxing properties. Smelling lavender has a calming effect on the brain, and rubbing lavender oil on wrists and temples carries that calming scent with you for high-stress situations. It’s also said that smelling lavender lowers blood pressure.

A man named René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered further healing properties of lavender when he was the victim of an explosion at the laboratory in his workplace in the 19th century. He applied lavender oil to his infected wounds – and they were completely cured.

Other benefits of lavender include:

1. Insomnia. Smooth lavender oil on your pillow and inhale to help you fall asleep.
2. Bug bites. Put lavender oil on bug bites to reduce swelling and stop itching.
3. Cuts. Put lavender oil on a wound to stop bleeding and kill bacteria.
4. Dry skin. Rub lavender oil on dry skin to relieve it – the same also goes for chapped lips.


Lavender also adds great flavor to baked goods!

Lavender oil is not hard to find at your own local health store, but making your own oil at home ensures oil with quality ingredients.


Lavender Oil Recipe

If you’re in the right climate, look for fresh lavender bushes in your area (be sure to ask first before picking if the bush doesn’t belong to you!). Pick your own fresh lavender flowers.


  • large glass canning jar
  • a mild base oil, enough to fill the container ½ inch from the top over the plants (see here for a list of carrier oils)
  • a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
  • a dark glass bottle with a stopper
  1. Put your fresh lavender in your jar and fill with the base oil. Secure the lid and put the jar in a warm place, shaking occasionally. The lavender and oil will infuse together. Let sit overnight.
  2. Strain the oil through your strainer or cheesecloth to get rid of the plants. Add more lavender to the jar and repeat step one 2-3 more times until you’ve reached the desired infusion of lavender.
  3. Store the oil in a dark glass bottle in a cool dark place. Mark the bottle with the date and store the oil for up to a year.

There you have it: your very own homemade lavender oil like they would’ve made in the olden days. It’s a useful thing to have around; you never know when lavender oil will come in handy.

See here for a fascinating history of lavender!

What’s your favorite property of lavender? Let us know in the comments!

Old Fashioned Remedies: DIY Rose Water Lotion

Nothing says nice weather like a dab of homemade rose water in your very own homemade recipe. Its light, fresh scent will make you feel refreshed.

Roses have been used for medicinal and nutritional uses since ancient times.



The Rose Water

Making rose water is simple. All you need are fresh rose petals, preferably without pesticides, that have been rinsed off. It’s best to pluck your own, but make sure you aren’t doing anything that would anger your neighbors.

Also grab a pot, gauging the size by how much water you want.

Put the petals in the pot and fill with enough water to cover the petals (not too much!). Cover the pot and let it simmer until the petals lose their color. This is the simplest and most traditional method.

Drain the liquid into a container and you have your rose water!



The Lotion

Now your rose water is ready to mix in with the lotion.

It’s a simple recipe: mix half rose water and half vegetable glycerin together.

Put the mixture in a nice bottle and voila! You have your old fashioned rose water lotion.

You’ve bottled the smell of spring!


Old Fashioned Remedies: Witch Hazel & A Bonus Bug Spray DIY

Many seem to have forgotten the almost magical qualities of witch hazel, but it deserves so much more recognition. Victorians used to keep gallon jugs of witch hazel on their vanities for the extract’s multi-purpose use.

Wondering what witch hazel can do for you? To start with:

  • Witch hazel reduces inflammation, making it ideal for treating acne and under-eye bags
  • Use it on bruises to help them heal faster
  • Treat itching & swelling from poison ivy or poison oak
  • Soothe a sunburn with witch hazel to help it feel better & heal faster

…And more!

Summer’s coming up, and that means it’s almost mosquito season. For many of us, however, the chemical-laden bug sprays on the market are a little suspicious.

Witch hazel offers a solution that doesn’t leave your skin smelling like chemicals for hours. It’s a natural bug repellant (but if you’re caught out without bug spray, it makes for a soothing bug bite treatment, too). People in the olden days probably used witch hazel to keep away the bugs.

A mint plant with a flower.

A fresh mint plant.

DIY Witch Hazel Bug Spray (from this source):

1. Ingredients:  your choice of essential oil, witch hazel, and water.

2. The essential oil can be any combination of citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, catnip, lavender, or mint. Using at least one oil from the mint family is recommended.

3. Fill the spray bottle half full of boiled water, then fill almost the rest of the way with witch hazel. Add 30-50 drops of your oils of choice. The more drops of oil you add, the stronger the mixture will be.

That’s it! Now this old fashioned remedy will repel bugs and help you smell really good at the same time.

Do you have any natural home remedies you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!