Herbs and Remedies

May 28, 2019

It can seem like every town in Vermont once had a pharmacist brewing their own special blend of medicine. Some of these cures were derived from herbal folk remedies. Others were created from a lot of alcohol, some food coloring, and a pinch of carefully honed hokum.

This Episode’s Featured Object:

Memphremagog Diarrhea & Dysentery Cordial

The Historical Society has hundreds of these bottles. While most are empty, some of them are still unopened and full.

Mary Labate Rogstad: In this one group that were given in 1997, there were one hundred and seven.

Amanda Gustin: One hundred and seven? From one donor?

Mary: From one donor. Pharmaceutical and druggist bottles.

Images: broadsheet ad for Kendall’s Spavin Cure, which was manufactured in Enosburg Falls, Vermont beginning in the 1870s.

Dr. DeForest Clinton Jarvis

Episode Transcript

Suzanne Richmond: You know how dandelion in Vermont comes up in May. And the fields are surrounding the roads you’re driving down or biking down or walking down. Glistening in yellow, and those were the dandelions. And Adele had a particular affection for dandelion.

Suzanne Richmond teaches at the Institute for Social Ecology at Goddard College. In the 1980s, she befriended the herbalist and writer Adele Dawson, who lived nearby, in Marshfield.

Suzanne: So if we were to visit her in May or early June, she’d send us out in the backyard and she’d have us pick off the heads of the dandelions, bring in a giant pile of them and then dip the heads in milk, then dip those milky dandelion heads in cornmeal. And then she’d fry those up in a big cast iron skillet and it was dandelion fritters.

Suzanne: And you would feel like you had gone to the most exquisite restaurant and no one else in the world could possibly make anything this magical. There’s such an abundance of these dandelions in spring, all over Vermont, and we can eat them.

The dandelion fritters were delicious. But they served another purpose.

Read the full transcript.

Episode Credits

Before Your Time is presented by Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Historical Society. This episode was produced by Amanda Gustin, Eileen Corcoran, Ryan Newswanger and Abra Clawson. Thanks to our guests: Mary Labate Rogstad, Alison Cornwall, Paul Heller, and Suzanne Richman. Thanks also to Jason Broughton for voicing the Kendall’s Spavin Cure testimonials, and to Marjorie Strong for research help.

Music by Michael Chapman and the Woodpiles, Fairbanks, Ben McElroy, Cottages and Blue Dot Sessions.