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  • Writer's pictureJenny Lynn Keller

Bags of Love

Sickness is no laughing matter, but I always chuckle when listening to my mother and her siblings describe the homemade medicines they endured as children. They claim if the taste of my grandmother’s mountain recipes didn’t make them sicker the smell surely would. The most offensive was an acifidity bag, a small cloth sack of unknown stinky contents they were forced to wear around their neck every winter to ward off whatever illnesses going around and keep everyone else far away. Were the bags successful? Their answers vary, but the oldest is a 90-year-old champion bingo player.

My curiosity discovered the most likely ingredients to be pungent herbs growing wild in the Smoky Mountains—ginseng, pokeweed, and yellow root, with garlic and onions as possible additions. The name originated from the 400 BC use of asafoetida, a resin collected from a type of fennel native to the Middle East. During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic killing almost 100 million people, United States pharmacies sold small bags of asafetida to be worn as a preventative. Without cures for many childhood diseases, no wonder mothers of that era tried everything with any promise to protect their children. As I Corinthians 13:7 says, love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” and in the past meant wearing acifidity bags for some youngsters.

What home remedies work for you?


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