I really enjoyed the January/February 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, especially Dave Caudill's report about caring for goats, using herbs and storing food, and thought I'd add my two cents' worth on some of his suggestions concerning herbs for human use.
Home Remedies for Insomnia
I'd never heard of the heather leaf cure. The old timers up here used the strobiles (seedpods) from hops (Humulus lupulus) both in tea and made into pillows.
Oak Bark Uses
Dave listed "oak bark" as an ingredient of a salve for open wounds, corns and bunions . . . but he didn't say whether the bark should be from the black or white oak group. The leaves of the white oak have rounded lobes and the acorns are in pairs. (After the tannin is leached out of this fruit, it can be pounded into flour or used as grits.) The tree's inner bark-an astringent and a tonic-is used as a gargle for sore throat, to treat spongy and bleeding gums and prolapsus uteri and as a deodorant or a wash for nipples during late pregnancy.
The black oak group has leaves with sharp-pointed tips at the ends of the lobes and bitter, inedible acorns. The inner bark-especially that of the red oakis made into a poultice and applied to skin cancer (apparently it destroys the malignant cells by abstracting water from them). Honey is used to heal the area after the growth is gone. One caution: Do not employ oak preparations over large areas of the body, or on mucous membranes, for extended periods . . . the tannin tends to contract tissue permanently
Willow Bark Tea
This is, as Dave says, a good headache remedy. People who may not be able to get willow bark should try betony (Stachys betonica) which is often grown around the house.
Dave's grandfather had the right idea: Bee venom has been used successfully for years as a "cure" for arthritis and rheumatism. The method works only if the patient receives actual bee stings (not injections of the poison). One person didn't get results until he'd been stung 2,000 times . . . but was completely free of all symptoms thereafter.
A Note On Homemade Wine
Makers of homemade wine might try putting a 25 cent balloon over the mouth of a gallon jug as an air seal.