Approximately a year ago we pointed out that the lore of the Pennsylvania Germans contained many home remedies which scientific research was proving to be worthwhile. Among others we mentioned the molds which led to the discovery of the useful drug, penicillin. Now we find that others have noted this particular drug’s origin. With the permissions of the publishers of the magazine, “The Woman”, and the author, Louis Devon, we offer excerpts from an article which appears in the April 1945, issue of that magazine. The article is entitled, “Your Great-Grandmother Used Penicillin.”
“Some years ago, a doctor in a Pennsylvania rural district stopped to treat an old farmer who had fallen over a plowshare and had cut a deep ugly gash above the knee. The wound was a nasty one that had started to fester and according to the doctor’s estimate, would take a long time to heal.”
“But when he saw the farmer again, a short time later, the doctor was surprised to find the sore completely healed.”
“Figured I might as well use an old remedy’ the farmer admitted. ‘I stuffed some bread mold right into the open sore and left it there, and that’s what did the work.’
“That was long before Alexander Fleming’s discovery of the wonder drug, penicillin, in mold. And despite the fact that physicians saw no merit in such remedies as the old farmer used, mold long had its place in home recipes, along with the lowly onion and the potato, the old worn sock and the asafoetida bag.
“The Pennsylvania Dutch knew the use of mold in the secret recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. Applications on open sores have been made with bread mold, yeast, butter mold, and vinegar ‘mutter’ that is plentiful in a section where good apple cider is one of the traditions.
“Other ‘medicaments’ are the inner skin of an egg from a virgin pullet, a strange assortment of herbs, and cobwebs scraped from a barn rafter (to stop bleeding).
“Whatever its value, mold has a place among these remedies, but it is certainly dangerous to experiment with crude remedies that might result in blood poisoning. Sound medical practice steers clear of them.
“The use of stale bread is not confined to the Pennsylvania Dutch. It is in common use for boils, carbuncles, and festering sores — soaked in hot milk and the underside of the bread applied to the sore. A variation in the South calls fro the old crust from thick corn pone, heated in milk, with salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon added. This is applied and covered lightly and is said to be potent enoguh to draw the core from the most stubborn boil without leaving a mark.”
We suggest that there may be other home remedies which have within them elements which science could apply to help cure the ills that flesh is heir to.