We’ve all heard the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," or "It’s a bitter pill." But is there any truth in these old sayings, or had grandma just been sipping too much elderberry wine when she made certain claims for her cures? Well, as with so many things, there were good folk remedies passed from generation to generation antidotal stories attached- and there were the ones that if had not succumbed from the cure they wished they had.

As it turns out grandma wasn’t the only one using folk remedies, physicians did it too. It’s possible that grandma’s remedies were less deadly than some, as many of her remedies were made with natural things from her kitchen and spice rack.

When our founding father, George Washington fell ill with a severe sore throat and called for a physician, the physician administered a petroleum based substance which further burned his throat. Leeches were applied, and he was given a combination of lead and mercury as a healing tonic. When that didn’t work, they pulled a few teeth. Mr. Washington then begged the physician leave him if he had nothing better to offer so he might just die in peace. Which is exactly what he did.

Medicine and remedies were applied in somewhat hap hazardly ways, but for the most part simple folk remedies made from simple ingredients may not have saved everyone’s life, but they didn’t kill anyone either. Today’s science can take apart the simple cures of yesteryear and determine if there is some medical basis for their claims.

Let’s take a look. Will an apple a day keep the doctor away? Apples are high in vitamins A & C, potassium, magnesium and two other healing substances, pectin and malic acid. We know that vitamins A & C are vital for wound healing and fighting infection. Potassium is important for a healthy nervous system and a regular heart rhythm. It helps prevent stroke, aids in proper muscle contraction, and works with sodium to control the body’s water balance. Magnesium is vital for proper digestive enzyme function and more importantly calcium uptake. A lot of healing in just one food.

Physicians familiar with the joint and muscle aches associated with fibromyalgia, now suggest malic acid & magnesium in supplement form with seemingly good results. Pectin slows the absorption of food which helps diabetics maintain a stable blood sugar. It also helps remove unwanted metals and other toxins. When raw apple cider vinegar is combined with a tablespoon of honey in water taken before meals it gears up the digestive juices and helps us get the most from our foods.

The old saying about a bitter pill holds some truth as well. Some of natures most healing plant herbs are bitter. They help alkalize an overly acidic body and detoxify the liver as well.

Cayenne is well known for its ability to stop bleeding. (Always seek medical help for serious injury.) Apply it directly to the wound. Try it in your socks in the winter, it will help keep your feet warm.

Garden sage has been used effectively for hundreds of years to treat several common ailments. Its botanical name, Salvia officinalis is derived from the Latin term Latin Salvere, which means to save. It has wonderful antifungal properties when used externally on the skin as well as a quick remedy for the relief of itching and swelling that accompanies an insect bite. As a tea with honey it is good for sore throats.

Most folk remedies are simple and inexpensive and, the ingredients are easy to find and use. Many times one has to look no further than the spice rack or the local farmer market. My favorite book on folk remedies is Till next time, Rebecca.