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: Apple Cider Vinegar

The best thing about old-fashioned, natural cures is that one product can solve – or at least soothe – multiple problems. You can keep them around the house in case of any issue.

Apple cider vinegar is one such solution. This all-purpose vinegar is different from regular vinegar because it’s made from the juice of apples and fermented into vinegar.

It’s important to use unpasteurized ACV to get the full benefits.


So what can apple cider vinegar do for you? Let’s start with the basics:

  1. Apple cider vinegar improves digestion. Dissolve a tablespoon into a large glass of water and drink it 15 minutes before a meal. This will help break down the food in your stomach for easier digestion.
  2. Drink ACV to improve your immune system. Doing so helps the growth of good bacteria in your body and helps prevent illness.
  3. Got heartburn? ACV helps. As usual, don’t drink it straight, but if you’re suffering from heartburn, dilute it in water and drink up to stop the burn. ACV helps balance stomach acid and in doing so calms down heartburn.
  4. ACV reduces bacteria that cause bad breath. Just gargle some diluted ACV to kill the bad germs and the bad breath will go away.
  5. Drink ACV for energy. It’s considered very healthy with lots of nutrients that will give you energy throughout the day.

These are just the start of the solutions that apple cider vinegar can give you. You can go here for more information.

Do you take apple cider vinegar, or use it externally? Let us know in the comments what apple cider vinegar does for you.

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


Between a Rock and a Hard Place

They say you’re “between a rock and a hard place”. The meaning is clear: none of your choices are good ones. 

But where did this phrase originate? Like many American phrases we use today, it comes from the early 20th century. (Other cultures have similar sayings in different forms that had their own separate evolutions.)

It’s likely the rock and the hard place came from the U.S. Bankers’ Panic of 1907. The first in-print reference of the phrase comes from 1921 by the American Dialect Society: “To be between a rock and a hard place, …to be bankrupt. Common in Arizona in recent panics; sporadic in California.”

Graffart_tiesse_houyeuIt was indeed a panicked time in America, especially for the mining and railroad industries. Programs and organizations lost much of their funding.


In 1917, Arizona copper mining companies and miners had a feud. The miners made demands that the companies did not match, and some miners were shipped out as a result. The situation these miners faced was indeed a rock and a hard place, popularizing the phrase and putting it into popular use. The late 1930’s saw the phrase being printed more and more into newspapers.


Playing with Marbles

The kids of yesteryear loved their sidewalk games, and the game of marbles was a favorite.

Unlike today’s machine-made glass marbles, antique marbles were not a uniform roundness. Instead, they were handmade, picked out from clay and rolled into shapes as close to perfect spheres as possible.

Sometimes, factory workers made marbles for their children with supplies available at work.

This allowed for each and every marble to be unique.

Most antique marbles were made in the late 19th and early 20th century. The first factory to make marbles was owned by C. Dyke in South Akron, Ohio in 1884. Unfortunately, the plant was built right next to the railroad, and passing trains caused large fires in the factory, destroying everything except for the kilns, putting the factory in an idle state until it was bought by new owners.

The new owners refined the process for making marbles. They used one machine to grind clay, one to cut it, then another to roll the clay into balls. Kilns fired the tiny balls and then they were dyed. The marbles became popular, but prone as the factory was to fires, it burned down again between 1906 and 1910.

Of course, this was just the start of manufactured marbles.

Antique and vintage clay marbles never fail to have character. Some have solid color, some have mixed; some are smooth, some have bumps and ridges either from their manufacture or from play.

Glazed clay marbles are often called Bennington: even though they actually have no relation to the Bennington company, they have a similar appearance to the blue and brown Bennington pottery.

Do you remember playing with marbles as a kid? There are tons of fun games and activities to do with marbles that keep kids occupied for hours. These games were especially popular in the early 20th century.


This is a fun and popular marble game:

Draw a circle on the ground, with about a two foot circumference.

Put a marble in the center.

The first player rolls or shoots another marble to hit the marble in the middle. If he misses, his turn is over.

The next player aims for the middle marble.

If either shooter hits the middle marble, he wins and keeps all the marbles in the ring.

The winner puts a new marble in the middle and the game starts again from the first step.

Did you play with marbles as a kid? What was your favorite game?

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!