Updated: Jun 23, 2021
I originally created this article for my Aromatherapy class from Heart of Herbs school.
Using herbs and aromatherapy was something that I was aware of from a young age. My mother had used it occasionally from when I was small, and she also used herbs and teas from medicinal plants. We would make sassafras root tea at the end of winter and have greens from violets and dandelions as well as other woodland plants in early spring. As it turns out, my grandmother also used herbal remedies in her life. There is a long history of Ozark herbal remedies used throughout the region. Today I’m going to discuss those folk remedies, and the modern-day ways that we can still use them as herbs, tinctures, and aromatherapy in our day to day lives.
Women around the turn of the century often cared for their families by passing down traditions using herbs. (Allured) These folk remedies read like recipes and were simple enough to make at home, because often the nearest doctor was a twenty mile or more distance from the homestead. Domestic medicine was an almost exclusively feminine art, passed down from mother to daughter. Most items used were botanical pharmaceuticals, harvested at certain times of the year in many cases, before the sap rose and caused the plant to become poisonous, and the use of these plants was an art in itself. There are several Ozark folk remedies still being used today. One well-known Ozark folk remedy was using horehound for colds. (Randolph, 1964, p. 93) Back in the day, you would simply take several horehound leaves, add water, and keep it warm on the back of the stove for several days. You can pore off the liquid and keep it as a cough syrup. You can also steep the leaves and make a tea along with some honey to sweeten it. Today, we can still use the tea or simply get horehound extra to use as a natural cough suppressant and expectorant. Another common herb, parsley, was used as a tea and helped with kidney infections – which we now know, is scientifically proven to help. (Randolph, 1964, p. 102) Sassafras tea is harvest from the roots of the tree in the spring (we always harvested it in late February from the trees on our property) and is supposed to purify the blood and help in general health and with colds. The purple cone flower is used to brew a tea to help with colds. This health tonic is also proven, as we see echinacea commonly sold as pills and tea to help with the common cold and boost the immune system and white blood cells. Today, folk healers in the Ozarks still rely on herbs for natural medicine, and crystal therapy has also been gaining popularity in recent years. (Strock, 2015.)
Catnip, elderberry, ginseng, goldenrod, and blackberry are all common plants with a history of being used as folk medicine in the Ozarks. We still use these in modern applications, from tea to aromatherapy, and now that we have done more research on these helpful herbs, we know that they truly work. As healthcare becomes more holistic and people start to turn back to the old ways, our Ozark healers will still be there for us to reference in our modern-day way of life.
I was born in the northern Ozarks to a family of plant lovers who knew much about using herbs as medicine. I followed in the footsteps of my family and have begun learning more and more about herbs and aromatherapy as I go. I currently work at a bank as a Process Analyst, documenting the information we need for our jobs on a daily basis, but my passions in life are pottery, jewelry design, painting, and plants. I live outside Kansas City with my husband and feline friend, Daisy. My website is at http://www.ivoryisis.com where I often post informative articles on aromatherapy and herbs, as well as sell my jewelry made out of older jewelry pieces and recycled materials.
Allured, J. (n. d.) Women’s Healing Art: Domestic Medicine in the Turn-of-the-Century Ozarks. Retrieved April 14, 2019 from http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/mowihsp/articles/Ozarks.htm
Randolph, V. (1964). Ozark Magic and Folklore. New York: Dover Publications
Strock, C. (2015). Folk Medicine in Arkansas. Retrieved May 27, 2019 from https://prezi.com/gqbaqrnj08yn/folk-medicine-in-arkansas/
Thomas-Stevenson, B. (1991). Ozarkian and Haitian Folk Magic. Retrieved May 27, 2019 from http://faculty.webster.edu/corbetre/haiti/misctopic/medicine/ozark.htm
Weston, B. (n. d.) Ozark Healing Traditions. Retrieved April 13, 2019 from http://www.ozarkhealingblog.com