I drink more hot tea than I used to. As the evenings turn cooler, hot tea can be nice. And I like to try all different kinds too. The Ozarkers of the past did as well. Their tea sippin’ usually had a purpose, though.
Women used to drink a variety of tea concoctions once a month to help with cramps and whatnot associated with, well, their time of the month. These included teas made from blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) bark, black snakeroot (Actaea racemosa), pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) leaves and burnt tobacco, and Devil’s shoestring (Nolina lindheimeriana).
Sassafras tea, made from the bark of the roots, is one most folks have probably heard of. It was used as a blood thinner, among other purposes. Another blood thinning tea was Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), also made from the bark scraped off its fresh roots.
Another was Choctaw root or Dogbane (Apocynum). Yet another tea used as a blood thinner was Red Puccoon (Sanguinaria canadensis).
A tea made from red clover blossoms was used to treat whooping cough.
The roots of the Purple Coneflower (Brauneria purpurea) were brewed to treat a wide variety of ailments as a sort of cure-all.
Ozarks children drank a tea made from peach tree leaves as a preventative, or remedy, for worms. They also drank Horsemint (Monarda) tea for the same.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) tea was used to treat chills, fever, and ague, and so were teas made from elderberry (Sambucus) roots, and Seneca root (Polygala senega).
Jaundice was treated with a tea made of Saffron (Crocus sativus).
A no doubt very unpopular treatment for measles was a tea made from sheep manure and sugar. Yuck.
Rheumatism was treated with teas made from pokeroot (Phytolacca), and Wahoo (Euonymus) bark.
The hiccups were sometimes treated with a tea made from the inner lining of chicken gizzards. It was also used for stomach cramps.
Wild plum bark tea was used to treat asthma.
Some teas used to treat symptoms of the common cold or flu included onions and wild lobelia, horehound leaves, mullein flower, and sumac berries, to name a few.
There are more teas I could mention, but better stop for lack of space.
Someone once told me that these aren’t superstitions at all, but really work. That they’re simply forgotten remedies. Maybe that’s so. On the other hand, maybe that’s only party so. The federal government doesn’t like some of them and classify them as poisonous. As with everything, I would suggest doing your own research. In way of disclaimer, this article is for entertainment purposes, because I like learning and writing about the Ozarks that is mostly gone now. I hope you do too.
-Wes Franklin writes a weekly column, That History Guy, for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser.