“There’s one sure way for a doctor to make a patient worry. Tell him he has absolutely nothing to worry about.” Amish proverb
Recently, I was speaking to a book club and was asked if the Amish use modern medicine. “Of course they do,” I said, trying not to roll my eyes.
Many people mistakenly believe that the Amish live an eighteenth century life because they dress old fashioned and use a horse and buggy. (I wish this book club could see the solar panels on Amish farmhouse roof tops. Or the propane tanks that feed their kitchen appliances.)
But I did admit the Amish are open-minded to alternative medicines—chiropractors and reflexology, natural and home remedies—and often use traditional medicine as a last resort. In most Amish homes I’ve been in, I’ve noticed a well-loved, dog-eared book about home remedies tucked nearby in the kitchen.
Home remedies have a fascinating history. Don’t you wonder who came up with the combinations? An ancient granny, a mid-wife, a medieval physician? Some remedies are disgusting (raven dung on a sore tooth), some dangerous (pour kerosene on the head to get rid of lice), some nonsensical (yarrow and spit up a nose to break up a love affair).
Yet remedies made from poppies, foxglove and bread mold most likely were effective; they are the precursors of morphine, digitalis, and penicillin. Useful practices, such as using cobwebs to stanch blood flow, probably grew from trial and error. The use of cider vinegar as a cleanser has been proven. Raw garlic lowers cholesterol. Many remedies have been tried and proven, but always use common sense when considering any medicine—traditional or alternative.
Although hundreds of years from now physicians might find today’s medicine primitive, inefficient, or disgusting, we’re fortunate to have come far enough not to be encouraged to “ear candle” (a dangerous practice of holding a lighted candle by the ear to melt ear wax) or putting butter on a burn (which can cause infection).
An Amish friend sent me this remedy and I’ve used it frequently. It helps to knock out a lingering cold and sore throat:
Mix ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup water, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 tablespoons honey.
Take as needed. The honey soothes the throat, the vinegar cuts phlegm, red pepper heals irritated membranes.
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Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction, and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. The Search won a 2012 Carol Award. The Waiting was a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. The Choice was a finalist for a 2011 Carol Award. The Letters is a finalist for a Christian Retailing 2014 Best Award. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011). Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research.
Suzanne’s latest release, The Imposter, is now available!