An Occasional Brisk Laxative

One of the projects I planned for retirement was going through my grandmother’s old recipes. Many of these old recipes are in her own handwriting written in fading ink on paper that is falling apart. I want to do something to preserve them.

Grandma also collected recipes from the newspaper; there are random clippings as well some full newspaper sections. These newspapers provide a fascinating glimpse into the times. This morning I was reading in the October 14, 1936 edition of the Free Press Prairie Farmer, Winnipeg and came across an interesting column.

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Readers were invited to send in their health-related questions to be answered. There was no indication of who was answering the inquires–no assurance that the advice being given was being provided by any kind of medical professional at all. Here’s a sample of the types of questions in the column:

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Q-Girl, 18 years of age, five feet six inches tall and weighing 136 pounds has lately had headaches and felt dizzy and often feels very sleepy. This causes her to feel sick and weak. What will improve her condition? –Just Wondering

A-Probably if this girl had a little more active life and took an occasional brisk laxative it would remedy this condition.

I was surprised at the number of maladies for which an occasional brisk laxative was suggested as the remedy.

For a young mother who isn’t sleeping, has bad nerves, and who has had a backache for a year–try an occasional brisk laxative.

A seven-year-old boy who tires quickly and has a sore knee–why, an occasional brisk laxative will take care of that pronto.

Another interesting query came from a middle-aged man who was jumpy when sleeping, talking a lot, and going over in his sleep all the work he had been doing all day. Solution? A physical examination of the circulatory system, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. Interesting, given that this was written in 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression. No wonder the poor fellow was restless and having trouble sleeping. It wasn’t advised, but I wonder if an occasional brisk laxative wouldn’t have helped him too. Kind of like chicken soup–couldn’t hurt, right?

There were a couple of more serious questions and, thankfully, the columnist advised the reader to get a complete physical examination pronto. One might read between the lines and infer that taking an occasional brisk laxative while waiting for that examination might be prudent too.

I’m enjoying this journey into the past and I’m sure I’ll have more tidbits to share as I continue to browse through the old newspapers. Meanwhile, now you know what to do to cure what ails you. You’re welcome.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. Mother always had me drink a glass of prune juice, it once contained senna leaf, to cure me of various problems. If that did t work then we’d see a doctor.

    1. Seems that many mothers from that generation bought into the occasional brisk laxative method of curing what ailed us–my own included!

  2. Grandma Longenecker collected herbs from the woods which she pulsed into a salve for various injuries. This is my kind of collecting. You are retrieving and re-fashioning a legacy, one of a kind.

  3. Grandma Longenecker was a wise woman, indeed. Funny how we seem to be returning to many of the older, wiser, ways, isn’t it? And yes, Marian, these newspapers and recipes are part of a legacy. I hate to think of them being lost forever.

  4. No wonder my grandma used to ask about how my excretory system (although she used different words) was working if I ever said I wasn’t feeling well. Now my sisters & I laugh about it, but your post makes me wonder if doctors focused on this as a remedy back in the 30s.

    1. I think they did to some extent, Kas. Interestinf, isn’t it?!

  5. Love this! Prune juice used to be big when I was a kid. I hated it with a passion. Thank goodness that fad passed.

    1. Yeah, prune juice and castor oil! Glad both of those fads have passed!

  6. Funny stuff, Linda!
    I remember my grandma always drinking a tall cup of warm water each morning for her ‘constitution.’ And I used to think she was being patriotic!

    1. That is too funny, Denise!

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