Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide: Day 23

Milkweed and Spiderweb Cures

“Mama used her fingers to form some of the spider webs into a soft bandage. She placed this web bandage on the milkweed sap. She used another clean cloth to wrap around Oscar’s forehead again.” ~ Oscar’s Gift

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Homesteaders like Tomas’s family often had to rely on home and folk remedies to attempt to heal injuries and illness. The following are just a few of such “remedies to stop the flow of blood from cuts and sores, from a nail in the foot, and from a nosebleed,” from A Treasury of Nebraska Folklore (compiled by Roger L. Welsh, University of Nebraska Press, 1966):

  • Stop bleeding by applying spiderwebs to the wound.
  • Mix brown sugar and whiskey, and put the solution on the bleeding surface to stop its bleeding.
  • Apply flour to a cut to cure bleeding.
  • Use milkweed lotion (the sweet juice of milkweed) on cuts and sores to heal them.
  • Put a cut in the mud to heal it.
  • Tie a chew of tobacco to the wound. This was used on a citizen of Lincoln when he cut his foot badly with a garden hoe. The wound healed in a short time.

While we wouldn’t want to use many of these remedies as a first resort today—or trust a foot gashed by a hoe to a wad of chewed tobacco—they are not all without merit. The chemical properties of spider webs, for example, are being studied more closely by scientists for potential medical applications, and the waxes and fatty acids in milkweed may make the favorite plant of monarch butterflies a good candidate for use in sunscreens.

Photo: Frozen cobwebs on a lock gate (Dr Neil Clifton) / CC BY-SA 2.0


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