The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Spring Tonic - Good for What Ails You

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: March, 1983

Many old timers around here tell of springtime in their youth and Mama’s spring tonic. The recipe varied greatly from one family to another but one thing remained constant, there was no getting around taking a dose of it.

The most common ingredient was spicewood twigs; to this might be added Boneset leaves, dried in the fall or fresh violet leaves. (Violet leaves are now known to contain a high vitamin C content.)

The tonics were usually bitter, foul tasting concoctions that would, “Make your blood rise like the sap in a tree.” The more compassionate mothers laced it with honey, though the general feeling was if it tasted good, it wasn’t doing you any good. Many of these remedies have been found to have a good medical reason. Ground Ivy was made into a tea for colicky babies. We know today it contains a mild tranquilizer. It’s a wonder people survived other remedies such as brown sugar and kerosene for whooping cough.

All in all, unpleasant as spring tonic must have been, everyone I asked remembered it quite clearly though none seemed to remember seeing their mother take it herself!