We’re all too painfully aware these days of disease and sickness, so I thought I’d throw out a few more old Ozark folk remedies, some of which I don’t think I’ve shared before. They are part of our Ozarks history and culture. 

A few may actually work. Others are probably not to be taken seriously. I’ll leave those decisions to the reader’s discretion. I might add that before trying any of the teas listed below, research them a little. You’ll find the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn’t a fan of some of the herbs, though legal they may be. 

These were compiled by the late great Ozark folklorist Vance Randolph. Incidentally, in the closing line of his Ozark Magic and Folklore book, published in 1947, Randolph said “I am not sure about anything, nowadays.” 

Amen, brother. 


Wear dirty socks under your collar to ward off colds and flu. You can also wear a red woolen string around your neck. 

A string of wooden beads made from the “bodark” (Osage Orange) tree, will help keep a high fever in check. 

Place a wire necklace on a child to prevent whooping cough. A black silk necklace will help prevent croup. 

Mullein flower tea will help fight a cold, flu, and pneumonia, as well as relieve a sore throat. 

A hot poultice of chicken manure and lard, applied on the chest, is a good treatment for pneumonia. Manure from black chickens is best. An alternative poultice can made from hopvine cones and leaves (and maybe that’s the one I would try first). If those don’t work, try a poultice made from fried onions, lard, turpentine, and camphor. 

Speaking of onions, a tea of onions and wild lobelia is another remedy to treat pneumonia. 

A tea of elderberry flowers, dried berries, and even roots is a good remedy for fever and chills. Boneset tea is also good for the same.

For coughs and sore throats try sumac berry tea, wild geranium tea, horehound tea, or pine needles soaked overnight and boiled down with sorghum.

The bark of the spicebush can be brewed into a tea and used as a general health tonic. It used to be quite popular in the Ozarks, according to Randolph. 

Stick the dried skin of a mole to your chest with honey to prevent or treat asthma. 

Finally - and one you are probably familiar with - tie a red onion around your bedpost to ward off sickness. 

After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

-Wes Franklin writes a weekly column, That History Guy, for The Neosho Daily News.