Country Cures Not in a Medical Dictionary

Jacinta Owens finds traditional cures for what ails you

The following cures have been taken from the journal of John James Maguire (1896-1984), who was born in a townland on the border of Tyrone and Donegal where cures continue to be used and handed down to this day.

Cures for serious conditions and illnesses, such as those below, almost always require the powers of a curer.

Whooping Cough
Sufferer to be given a lock of hair from the head of someone whose father and mother shared the same surname before they were married.

Person who has the cure marks a ring around the affected area with writing ink and makes a cross in the centre of the ring.

Heart Failure
Place a piece of lint inside the jacket close to the heart. If the lint becomes tangled then the wearer has Heart Failure. In this case a piece of meat (beef) is made into three small packages which the sufferer must take into the country and find a ditch with running water in it that separates two townlands and dispose of the packages by standing with your back to the ditch and throwing the packages over their shoulder one at a time.
Sit the sufferer on a chair while the curer prepares a cup full of oatmeal and covers it with a cloth. The surer then walks around the sufferer three times. If the meal is disturbed in the cup the person has Heart Failure and must take the meal home, make it into porridge and eat it on three mornings in a row.

Curer leads the sufferer by a straw halter round their neck around a spring well three times taking a drink of the water each time.

Cures or charms for other relatively minor conditions would be handed down in the community.

To prevent cramp wear a ring made from a coffin nail on the third finger.

Hanging a large key at the head of the bed drives away the spirit of the night that brings bad dreams.

Crawl on your hands and knees under a briar that has grown into the ground to form an arch.

Rub the face with hare’s blood.

Carry on your person two jaw bones of a haddock.

Get your hair cut on Good Friday.

Some ‘cures’ involve herbs or vegetables and include practical advice but have no mystical legacy.

Inflamed eyes
Bathe in strained cold weak tea.

Common Cold
Eat a slice of raw onion at bedtime.

Take twenty-four sips of water without taking the glass from your lips.
Hold your head well back and look at ceiling for a brief time.

Apply very thick porridge with a good handful of salt to the sprain as hot as can be comfortable.

Sore Throat
Several small knobs of butter rolled in sugar to be taken as required.

Take three glasses of cold water every morning before breakfast.

Rub the scalp with juice from the crushed leaves of a watermelon.

Cleaning the blood
Bog bran can be gathered at a certain time of year. Boil and drink once daily until it runs out.
Boil the leaves of a nettle plant and drink until it is finished.

Black Eye
Apply fresh country butter to the eye.

Sprained wrist
Bind the second and third fingers together for three days.

Leg Cramp
Rub mint leaves into palms of hands.

Rub the leaves of Crow Foot between the hands and inhale.

Make a mixture of cayenne pepper and vinegar. Simmer for two or three hours and drink at bedtime.

Supported by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation