Cow slobber to treat ringworm? Local author delves into strange world of folk medicine


August 08 at 9:12 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Eddie Boyd shows off his strange self remedies to visitors at Destrehan Plantation.
Eddie Boyd shows off his strange self remedies to visitors at Destrehan Plantation.
After decades of research into the strange world of folk medicine, former pharmacy professor Eddie Boyd has released a book filled with unique African-American home remedies that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Only four days after it was released last month, the book sold out on Amazon.com.

Home remedies mentioned in the book include using cow slobber to treat ringworm, earwax to treat fever blisters and cow manure to treat athlete’s foot. Using manure to fight athlete’s foot is something Boyd did himself when he was a kid.

“You would step right into a fresh pod and it did work for me...at least it stopped the itching,” he said. “There is no trial that shows that it works, but I’ve actually used that.”

After retiring from a career as an academic pharmacist, Boyd, 75, has lived in St. Charles Parish for the past decade and puts on a weekly show at Destrehan Plantation highlighting unique folk remedies. His new book, “African American Home Remedies, A Practical Guide With Usage and Application Data” is based on decades of study and analysis as well as personal experience.

Boyd grew up as one of 12 children in Mississippi and his family had little recourse but to resort to the use of home remedies.

“I grew up in central Mississippi where about 50 to 60 percent of what is included in the book was used on me as I grew up as a child,” he said.

Boyd said although most of the remedies in the book are based solely on anecdotal accounts and the text is not meant as a guide, the information is fascinating. While the publication is written for the layman, Boyd said it should also inform other pharmacists and physicians who are looking into home remedies.

“The information about the herbs and etcetera is updated for use today and that is important for healthcare professionals, but the book is written for an everyday audience,” Boyd said.  

Boyd’s first foray into the academic study of such remedies came while he was a pharmacy professor at the University of Michigan.

“One of my students was a pharmacist working for a chain in Detroit. When he went from one neighborhood to another he ended up in an African-American neighborhood and picked up all sorts of stuff about home remedies,” Boyd said.

In 1977 Boyd and that former student released the first study in the United States dealing with home remedies commonly used by African-Americans. In a 1984 study, Boyd and a co-author collected first-hand accounts from African-Americans on what they used to cure themselves and their families in the absence of medical attention.

“There was nothing about this stuff in the medical literature so we were trying to generate some information about these things,” he said.

Boyd has tested out many of the remedies on himself, including placing spider webs on a puncture wound to stop the bleeding. Boyd says the spider webs have stopped the bleeding more quickly than a gauze bandage on several occasions.

One of the strangest home remedies Boyd came across is using urine to sterilize wounds and fight infections.

Although Boyd has not used urine as a sterilizing agent, he said there have been many reported uses for it in medical applications.

“One of the things we found is that male urine was used for an ear ache and you would gargle it for a sore throat,” he said. “If you go back to sometime in World War I, when they ran out of first aid supplies they were using urine to clean wounds, but that’s that person’s urine. You don’t want to use my urine, you use your urine because your urine is sterile for you, but not somebody else.”

Those interested in seeing Boyd’s folk remedies can visit him at Destrehan Plantation where he has a display every Friday. His book is also available at the plantation.




View other articles written By Kyle Barnett

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