Ozark Encyclopedia – N – Nails

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Nails have been used in Ozark folk healing and magic in a variety of ways. There’s a belief among Hillfolk that the object that hurt the individual was just as important to the healing process as the medicine put onto the wound. Knife blades, bullets, and nails were often treated with healing salves and plants alongside the puncture or cut itself. Rusty nails were added to tonics to prevent tetanus or to treat illnesses like tuberculosis. Water made from soaking new nails was seen as a sure treatment for anemia and iron deficiencies, and sometimes the sickness itself could be taken off the patient and nailed to a tree. Nails were driven into footprints to deal lethal blows to foes and witches alike. Coffin and gallows nails were carried by Hillfolk as an amulet to ward of certain venereal diseases.

Curing a boil – “One way to cure boils, according…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Mustard

My grandmother was a BIG believer of in mustard plasters.

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mustard – Brassica

Parts used: seed

Traditional uses: “Irritant, stimulant, diuretic, emetic. Mustard is used in the form of poultices for external application near the seat of inward inflammation, chiefly in pneumonia, bronchitis and other diseases of the respiratory organs. It relieves congestion of various organs by drawing the blood to the surface, as in head affections, and is of service in the alleviation of neuralgia and other pains and spasms…Internally, Mustard is useful as a regular and mild aperient, being at the same time an alterative. If a tablespoonful of Mustard flour be added to a glass of tepid water, it operates briskly as a stimulating and sure emetic. In cases of hiccough, a teaspoonful of Mustard flour in a teacupful of boiling water is effective. The dose may be repeated in ten minutes if needed.” ~Grieve MH 

Mustard and camphor poultice for colds – “I know…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Mullein

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mullein – Verbascum thapsus

Parts used: root, leaf, flower

Traditional uses: Leaves and flowers can be used to clear chest congestion (smoked or as an infusion), as an analgesic for rashes, aches and pains. Leaves can be wilted and used in poultices for swollen glands. Roots can be used in decoctions for gynecological issues.

“The Mullein has very markedly demulcent, emollient and astringent properties, which render it useful in pectoral complaints and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. The whole plant seems to possess slightly sedative and narcotic properties…The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and will completely control, it is said, the hacking cough of consumption. They can be employed with equal benefit when made into cigarettes, for asthma and spasmodic coughs in general. Fomentations and poultices of the leaves have been found serviceable in haemorrhoidal…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Moon

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Silver connection to the Moon – “It is always a good idea to be touching a silver coin whenever you see the moon, and it may be for this reason that rings hammered from silver coins are so popular in some sections.” ~Randolph OMF 330

Medicine and the Moon – “Medicine works best when there is a full moon.” ~Parler FBA II 1376

Moon ritual for warts – “Go outside on a moonlight night and sit down on anything. Look at the moon and concentrate on it. Then after a few minutes, still looking at the moon, reach down and pick up whatever your hand touches. Rub it on your wart. The wart will go away.” ~Parler FBA III 3628

Moon madness – “If you look at the moon too long it will make you go crazy. This is called ‘moon madness.’” ~Parler FBA III 3944

“A person who sleeps…

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That Old Granny Magic

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Last night, in the darkest of early morning hours, I heard the call of a distant train. We all know what that sounds like. It’s unmistakable, like the voice of somebody you once knew. I heard it just as clear and plain as I did when I was a child, when we lived across the river from the railroad tracks and the Norfolk and Southern would sound her alarm as she sauntered by our quaint, coal town neighborhoods. Most of the time, the train’s call was such a distant nuance, like a dream, that we never even woke up at all. We got used to that distant call, and after a while, it became a part of us, a comforting and peaceful wail, an Appalachian child’s lullaby, faithfully reminding us that we were home in our warm beds.

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Despite the passing of time and the fact that I no longer…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Moles

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mole’s foot for teething – “Another way to make teeth come easier is to give the child a mole’s foot to play with. The old tradition is that it should be the left hind foot, but the big fleshy front paws are the only ones I have actually seen given to babies.” ~Randolph OMF 145 

Mole skin worn for asthma – “Some say that the dried skin of a mole, stuck fast to the chest with honey, will prevent or even cure asthma. I once persuaded one of my neighbors to try this, but it didn’t seem to do him any good.” ~Randolph OMF 155

“Stick a dried skin of a mole to your chest with wild honey and it will cure asthma.” ~Parler FBA II 1425

Mole skin and feet worn against cancer – “Women sometimes wear a mole skin, or the dried foot of a mole, between…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Mistletoe

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mistletoe – Phoradendron leucarpum

Parts used: foliage, berries

Traditional uses: Poisonous. ‘Tea ooze’ used to bathe head for headache. Infusion used for high blood pressure. Compounds containing leaves and branches used for lung trouble.

Used for dizziness – “Mistletoe leaves are made into a remedy for dizziness and head noises.” ~Randolph OMF 114

Used in love medicines – “The leaves and stems of mistletoe are made into some kind of ‘love medicine,’ but the whole matter is very secret. I have on two occasions seen women boiling big kettles of mistletoe out of doors but was unable to get any details of the procedure.” ~Randolph OMF 167

For a woman to get pregnant – “Mistletoe is used somehow by women who wish to have children, and some say that it can be administered by the husband, without the wife’s knowledge or consent. If a woman cannot conceive, the power…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Mirrors

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mirror used to divine a future husband – “A girl who looks obliquely into a mirror when she first wakes up on May Day will see the reflection, or at least initials or letters forming the name, of the man who is to be her mate.” ~Randolph OMF 175-176

Mirror and well used to divine a future husband – “A maiden lady who wants to see her future husband goes to a well at noon on May 1 and holds a mirror so as to reflect the light down into the darkness. Some girls say that they have actually seen their mates-to-be in the water. Others are afraid to try this stunt, because sometimes a girl doesn’t see any man, but an image of herself in a coffin, which means that she’ll die before another May Day. If a girl sees nothing at all in the water, she is very…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Milk

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mother’s milk to treat sore eyes – “If a baby’s eyes are sore, the mother’s milk is regarded as the best possible lotion.” ~Randolph OMF 138

Sweet cream for eyes – “Young girls often rub sweet cream into their eyes, but I am not sure if this is a medicine or a cosmetic.” ~Randolph OMF 138

To wash off a curse – “…wash such clothing in milk and hang it out of doors over night in freezing weather; this is supposed to take the curse off somehow, so that the garments may be worn without danger.” ~Randolph OMF 292-293

Mare’s milk for whopping cough – “Cure for whooping cough. Drink mare’s milk every day and this will cure the whooping cough.” ~Parler FBA III 3879

Dreaming of milk – “It has always been good to dream of milk because it means peace and plenty.” ~Parler FBA XV 11375


Parler, Mary…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Meat

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Used on boils – “Put a piece of fat pork on top of a boil.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO 28

“Fat meat will make a boil come to ‘a head’ then it will run pus.” ~Parler FBA II 1574

“To bring boils to a head lay a piece of fat sow belly on the place.” ~Parler FBA II 1575

Beef liver for low blood pressure – “Season beef liver to taste, put into a pan and let it come to medium heat, just enough to bring up the blood, eat it while it’s still warm. Let this be your daily diet.” ~Parler FBA II 1537

“Meat causes high blood pressure.” ~Parler FBA II 1539

Used on a sting – “Put lean raw meat on a bee or wasp sting. This also works on snake bites.” ~Parler FBA III 3243

Bacon rind for warts – “To get rid of a wart…

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