Blackberry Balsam

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Blackberry Balsam

Blackberry Balsam, the scourge of my youth.
It was repulsive, my father uncouth
for presenting this mucous-like liquid most vile,
insisting I swallow the ghastly brown bile.
I gritted my teeth and went sullen and wild,

but how could I refuse? I was only a child.

Gagging and choking, I chased it with Coke,
expecting another dose when I awoke.
All these years later, its flavor unfaded,
its vomitous odor my memory invaded.
Blackberry Balsam? No taste could be worse,
proving sometimes the cure is worse than the curse.

19 thoughts on “Blackberry Balsam

  1. SAM VOELKER

    Oh ours was Caster Oil. My mom lined us kids up and gave each a table spoon full of that nasty stuff each night. Years later I asked her why “she did this to us”. Her answer was “We couldn’t afford for you to get sick”. But on the good side, she had a (sweet) remedy for a belly ache…. When I felt bad she would bake peanut butter cookies. Oh, just this week I baked a batch of them, and still have great memories of them as a kid. Good with a glass of milk for what bothers you, and I bet your problems too would have quickly gone away if given the choice~!

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          I always thought the Blackberry Balsam was a sort of spring tonic, but it is my sister who revealed what it was really for. I don’t ever remember having diarrhea as a child. Maybe this was why! Ha.

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  2. slmret

    Oh, the strange regional “cures” of our youths. As a pediatrician’t daughter, I have never heard of Blackberry Balsam, and only knew of Castor Oil because our friends used it. Milk of Magnesia did quite nicely for diarrhea, and I don’t remember vomiting more than once or twice in my childhood. Perhaps that’s why my health is still as good as it is!

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  3. SAM VOELKER

    There is more background to my Castor Oil story. Today we realize that Ricin is a serious poison found naturally in castor beans, the same beans that caster oil is made from.

    We had a (beautiful) Caster plant, by the side of our house, and as kids we would play a game, coming from our deep religious background, based on the bible. We would break the leaves off the castor tree, which were about ten inches across and palm like. We would wave these “fans” at my older sister bowing and chanting “Hosanna in the Highest”, while she played the part of the queen.

    The seeds were in a round pod, marble like, and when removed were about ¼ inch, tan and looked much like a “Mexican jumping bean”. I am sure that I have had some of those beans in my mouth, because we tried everything.

    Does anyone else wonder how we survived childhood, based on the precautions we take today~? Maybe it is a good thing about cell phones and video games, which we did not have, so made our own games up as we went, thinking back, many would be very dangerous today.

    Actually it was a lot of fun growing up; no shoes, “sling shots” made out of real rubber inner tubes and with a name we would never use today (we never gave it a second through at the time), no real rules except to be in by supper time and go to church on Sunday and Wednesday night, but there were a few down sides like a good switching from a plum branch, or being told, in church “you are going to get it when we get home” and worrying the rest of the service if she would forget. So happy my mother did not know about Blackberry Balsam, knowing her she may have had one working against the other. I could write a book and this post would be one of the chapters~!

    By the way there were times when the Caster Oil was substituted with the use of “Mineral Oil” which if I remember correctly is much nastier than the C-oil. My grandfathers brother was the town physician (doctor) and he mixed most of his tonics. He made a cough medicine which was red, and checking back it was a cherry syrup base with codeine in it… Wow that was a good medicine to take for a cough though. Later I switched to terpin hydrate and codeine, until I realized exactly what I was taking.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      My whole spare lot here would fill with castor bean plants that would get 12 feet high or more. They are not poisonous to birds but I worried about kids somehow eating them and it was always a problem how to dispose of them as the club said to burn but my neighbors protested..which I could understand. So it is a relief to be rid of them.

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      1. SAM VOELKER

        You could sell the beans, they look so much like Mexican Jumping beans~! Those Gringos would not know the difference and when they did not jump, just think they got a bad bean….. Ha~!

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          1. SAM VOELKER

            I have not seen one in many years, but as a kid we would buy them… Most did not move…They do not jump but move a littl…

            You are right about the danger. So many plants are poison. My sister was so proud of her “moonflower” It is a beautiful white flower that blooms at night, but I took one look at it and asked her: “why are you growing Jimsonweed~? This is an invasive plant that really plays heck with the Cotton in Louisiana and we would always try to remove it, she was growing it all over her yard and had several small grand children, a dog and a cat.

            She refused to remove it and it will even kill an animal.

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            1. lifelessons Post author

              On the back page of comic books, they sold Mexican jumping beans that were just capsules with one ball of shot in them. It would roll to one end and make them jump. They also sold real ones that would work for a little while before the worm inside died.

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  4. Eilene Lyon

    I recall some gross cough syrups, but mostly it was just topical nasties. What’s the bright pink stuff – mercurochrome? And stuff for rashes. There was one horrible medicine that I also can’t recall the name of. Good riddance to all that!

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