My recent battle with some kind of nasty upper respiratory crud had me receiving all kinds of advice from some of the folks I work with, which reminded me of all the different home remedies I've learned of since moving here. Before I tell you about them, please note, I'm in NO way condoning trying any of this stuff, but people here in the North Carolina mountains swear by these remedies.
Take just a little bit of Vick's Salve (don't dare call it "vapor rub", they'll laugh you out of the county) and put it on the back of your tongue. Just let it melt real slow and run down your throat, it'll cure ya.
If you feel a cold coming on:
Rub some Vick's on your feet and put socks on over it before you go to bed. In the morning, you'll feel like a new person.
For that nagging cough that just won't go away, there's a recipe for some special homemade cough syrup that's real popular around here. There's this plant that grows on hill sides and sometimes pops up as a weed in people's gardens, I don't recall the name. Seems like it's called wild tobacco or something. Anyway, you cut some leaves off and put them in the bottom of a jar. To this you add a couple cups of good Kentucky bourbon, a peppermint stick, and a couple tablespoons of honey. Not the store bought kind, it has to be "home grown" honey. Put the lid on the jar real tight and let it sit overnight. They say that if you sip on that, it'll cure your cough. At the very least, by the time you get to the bottom of the jar, you won't care if you're coughing or not. Sometimes you see old folks on the hillsides digging that wild weed up so they can take it home and plant it in their gardens so that they'll be sure to have it on hand.
Putting a few drops of "sweet oil" in your ear will supposedly clear up just about anything that's going on in there. Everyone suggests I use it, but no one can tell me where to find it. It must be one of those hillbilly secrets. To remove fluid which has become trapped behind your eardrum, I've been told to roll up a piece of newspaper really tight, making a funnel. Stick the small end in your ear then light the other end on fire. They say this will draw the fluid out, in the same way that a chimney causes suction to pull the smoke out of the fireplace. Sometimes I think they just tell me this stuff to see if I'll do it. I can visualize me at the emergency room, all the hair burned off one side of my head, my face covered with ashes. The most common earache cure I've heard is the most disgusting. Apparently pouring urine in your ear will get rid of an earache. I guess, unless you happen to be a contortionist, you use a disposable cup. I'm not trying it. I don't care how bad it hurts.
Poison Ivy or Poison Oak:
One local newscaster swore by eating a leaf of either of these plants to build up a resistance to it. Sorry, not trying that either. Most folks around here keep lye soap on hand for those nasty rashes, the local stores can't keep it on the shelves in the spring. I've heard of other people pouring bleach on the outbreak, but that doesn't seem like a good idea. My advice, just don't go near the stuff.
A nifty product called "Soltice" is real popular around here. I'd never heard of it before, but it's good for just about anything that's wrong with you. People use it for headaches, muscle and joint pain, feeling lethargic, everything. It comes in either liquid or cream form, it's handy stuff. I'll admit I even broke down and bought some myself. I haven't tried it on the earache yet, there's a much better chance of that happening than the urine thing. Gross.