1950s Home Remedies for Flu

Just a bit of onion syrup and some elderflower wine…

Growing up you may have heard all kinds of “cures” for cold and flu symptoms. There used to be fewer medications available for the average consumer to purchase and this made having your own special remedies all the more important. In 1959 there was a survey of people on the street broadcast by the BBC. Many of the people interviewed would have grown up using homemade cures first and foremost- and medicines only if the illness was more severe.

The interviewer asks people what their own cure for the flu is and the answers are truly all over the place.

taking childs temperature
Via: State Archives of Florida

Several folks included whisky in their list of cures, with one of the men interviewed claiming it “kills the germs”.

Another woman touted a remedy that was popular in the early part of the 20th century: onion syrup. To make this concoction you would chop an onion finely then mix it with some brown sugar and some vinegar. Then drink it before bed. I wouldn’t want to deal with that morning breath!

bowl of chopped onions
Via: Gaelle Marcel/Unsplash

However strange onion syrup might sound there are even worse cures in the bunch! The worst remedy has got to be from the man who said his mother would make a poultice from an old, sweaty sock coated in salt which was then wrapped around the throat. This was to be accompanied by a hot water bottle, of course. Other cures involved goose grease and one poor fellow said the best cure was to “work it off”.

One woman wisely suggested flushing your body by drinking 5 or 6 glasses of water a day, which is probably the best advice of all these to be honest.

glass of water on table
Via: Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash

Perhaps the most elegant home remedy offered in the interviews was to drink a glass of elderflower wine before bed to be better “in a day or two”. Each household had their own way of dealing with cold and flu symptoms, that’s for sure.

You can hear all these fascinating flu remedies and more in the video below.

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