herb home remedy: Herbal Remedies: Natural Cures

North Carolina Mountains NC Mountain Superstitions Legends Old Wives Tales Herbal Medicine

Herbal Home Remedies

Western North Carolina is home to many known herbs. Mountain folk had their home remedies called tonics for most everything. Here are some of the herbal home remedies I have heard in the Asheville area for a long time.

Please Note: This is for entertainment purposes only, these methods are not recommended or endorsed by the Ashevillelist.

Western North Carolina was referred to as the "Back-country" because the mountains and the rugged terrain made it hard for supplies and people to get through. People were more or less isolated. Doctors were rare. Mountainfolk relied on Nature to provide what was needed for survival. Here is a sampling of Home remedies used for medicine by "old timers" living in the Mountains of North Carolina.

Herbal Home Remedies used in the early 1900s

  1. Cockleburs were boiled to make cough syrup for colds.

  2. Crushed ragweed was used on skin for poison ivy or oak

  3. Molasses and Sulfur was used to "cleanse" the blood after the long winter spent indoors
  4. Tansy was used for upset stomachs

  5. Boneset and Catnip brewed into a tea was used to quiet a fussy baby
  6. Cod-Liver Oil and/or Castor Oil was given to children for a tonic daily for health
  7. Sassafras was a blood builder.

  8. Sassafras tea was used for colds

  9. Asafetida was put into a small bag and hung around the neck to prevent colds. It has a strong odor.

  10. Plateful of fried onions ward off the flu
  11. Onions fried in grease was spread on the chest of a sick person, and then the sick person was wrapped up in quilts. This was supposed to break the fever.
  12. Onions fried in grease and put in cheesecloth is what Mountain people called a poultice. This was used to draw the poison out of an infected sore. Some used this on their dogs when the dogs were snake bit. I've heard that the cheesecloth will turn green after it was used for this purpose.
  13. tobacco juice stops the pain and itch from insects and bee stings. (I tried this out of desperation after getting stung by several yellow jackets one time, it didn't work)
  14. Cornmeal or oatmeal treated boils
  15. Kerosene treated cuts and bruises


One herb that grows wild in the mountains of western North Carolina is ginseng. Ginseng has been used for energy and increased stamina. Due to the high demand and price for ginseng, mountain folk hunted this herb in the woods to supplement their income and for private use. The reason the herb is so popular is that it is believed to have aphrodisiac powers. Ginseng (root) is shaped like a human. Also known as the elixir of life.


Catnip used to be used to put babies to sleep. This was part of Mountain folk lure and is not proven so don't try it.

The information below was sent to me from a reader who wished to only be identified by Brenda

I was born in Virginia, but moved to Indiana when I was 6. My dad was from Va. and his family lived there. I was taught, as I was growing up, that catnip tea was good for a stomach ache. I use to boil it and give it to my kids when they were young and have drank it myself, just because I like it. As a matter of fact, I made some about two weeks for my niece's kids. I had told them about it, while walking in my yard. It grows around my flower garden, and I was telling them what it was. I just pick the leaves and boil them till the water turns green, then add about a teaspoon per cup and drink it warm or hot. It's ok cold, too.

Horehound Candy

Horehound was and still is used in making cough drops for sore throats and coughs. It is made into a candy then the candy is soaked in whiskey, honey, and lemon. In the old days horehound candy was most likely soaked in moonshine. Its hard to say whether the horehound herb really helped or whether the alcohol caused the user to think he felt better. Rock candy was often used for a replacement for horehound.

Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy was boiled into a tea and used to bring a rash out on a baby. The Old Wives Tale tells that if a rash is brought out on the skin then it will not go internal, thus prevents SIDS. This is another folk tale but it is still practiced in some of the rustic areas of the Asheville area.

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