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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Home Remedies

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 4, 2011

Whenever you cough, or show any signs of illness, there is always someone around to offer suggestions as to what might cure your ailment.


Some suggestions might fit the category of “medical advice,” while others fit the category of “remedies.”


Over my years of watching book publishing trends, I have noted the section of published works relating to “remedies,” which often drift into the category of healthy living and how we should be eating properly.


Some books seem to concentrate on “old remedies” that have been passed along through the generations, and now documented in various books.


One book on the topic describes it as “good sense combined with good medicine.”


My source of old remedies was my paternal grandmother, who lived with my family as I was growing up.


We would try to stifle a sneeze, or actually run out-the-door to avoid grandma hearing the potential of ill health, knowing that such would trigger a long string of potential remedies offered up as suggestions for curing whatever ailed you.


It was likely that some solutions to ill-health dated back to her family’s arrival in the U.S. after the Potato Famine in Ireland in 1847.  Others probably had been acquired from grandpa’s arrival of the Hall Family in the Port of Baltimore.


Despite the list of remedies, it always seemed to come back to a dose of Castor Oil, the mere mention of which caused a universal groan.


I never remember Castor Oil being served up, only discussed as a product often used in the past.


Browsing through some of the books in the library collection, all seem to be full of advice for good living:


“The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Mr. Merryman.”


“To have a clear head, you must have a clean stomach.”


“You should not touch your eye but with your elbow.”


“Eat at pleasure, drink by measure.”


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man health, wealthy, and wise.”


Aside from these phrases of an earlier generation, the books are full of suggestions for remedies of all sorts, but I don’t want to share those ideas without you reading the supplemental materials that accompany the suggestions.


Four years ago, I was a hospital patient being prepared for colon cancer surgery when nurse handed me a glass and said, “You need to drink this.”


The glass contained a syrupy, fairly clear liquid that felt heavy, with a strong vegetable smell.


As I pondering what this substance could be, she said, “It’s Castor Oil.”


Grandma had finally gotten her way.  I slowly drank it, and it turned out to be okay, rather soothing actually, and the taste was not as bad as I had expected.


Later research showed that Castor Oil comes from the “castor seed” of the castor plant, and is considered a laxative.  I chuckled as I read further, where it said that castor oil can be manufactured to be an “industrial grade” and makes great biodiesel fuel.


Today’s article shows why I find librarianship to be so much fun.  Information, and the search for such information feeds our brain cells, which is probably also an old remedy.