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General History/old medicinal practices in southern U.S.


jkw0457 wrote at 2006-12-12 20:01:22
The Asphidity bag was also used in other parts of the U.S. during flu epidemics of the early 1900's. People mistakenly thought the pungent scent, generated by the ingredients of the bag worn around the neck, would ward off the deadly flu virus.  

Ronald Smith wrote at 2007-03-28 10:47:52
To the author of the response to acifidity bags:

I grew up in the 1940's and 50's.  My grandmother was from the Ouchita Mountains in Arkansas, where I also grew up.  She insisted that I wear an acifidity bag to school each day. The truth was that it stunk so bad that when I got out of view of my house I hung it on a tree and left it there.  Why my mother didn't object to my wearing it I'll never know. However, it had the two roots that you mentioned, American Gensing and Goldenseal root that also stinks to high heavens but also another root that smells even worse. Grandma would never say what it was.

Thank you for your article.

Ronald Smith

Paige wrote at 2007-12-18 14:05:34
There is an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies entitled "Elly Becomes A Secretary" where Granny twice refers to people wearing acifidity bags around their necks to improve their health.

Randy wrote at 2008-02-26 00:15:30
In collecting memoirs from my 99 year old Aunt, she mentioned "acifidity" bags..  This is one of the sites I found...  The reason it's difficult to find information is that it's mis-spelled. Asafetida or asafoetida are two spellings.. See Wikipedia!  I ordered a package of it..  As it turns out, it is an Indian spice available from "Spice it Up" on the web.  It is inexpensive, and man-oh-man does it stink!!!


Tim wrote at 2009-01-07 19:22:30
My father told me about asphidity back in the early 60's.  He said it was good to put on your bait when fishing.  I remember buying some from the drug store. It was a dark liquid, but it was too bad to use for fishing!!

grannygear wrote at 2009-01-20 08:10:55
It was the Beverly Hillbillies episode that is on right now that led me to this site.  I appreciate having a computer and being able to do this, something I was never able to do when these episodes of the Hillbillies were fresh in the 60's!!

Ginger wrote at 2009-02-08 00:15:20
My father was born in 1919.  He will be 90 this August.  He very often talks of Grandma making him wear an "acifidity" bag to school so he wouldn't get sick. He wasn't sure what was in the "smelly stuff". Could have been some ginseng.  We still hunt it in season.  My Grandma made me "hot toddies" as a child to help me sleep when I had a cold. (In the 50's.)  I am glad she graduated from using the "bag".

milehighmal wrote at 2009-04-04 05:26:40
I am an African-American woman who grew up in St. Louis in the 60's &70's. Those bags were popular in my community. To this day my mom can't tell me what it was or where my half-Cherokee grandmother obtained it. I only remember 3 things: 1. I could never figure out what was in that bag. 2. It stank to high heaven 3. I couldn't wait for Spring to arrive, so that I could rid myself of that putrid bag and wearing undershirts all winter long! We never got sick, though.

Thanks for helping to solve the mystery.

Sandi wrote at 2009-11-19 00:38:53
My brother, born in 1943, and I, born in 1950, both wore acifidity bags around our necks until we were at least a year old. Back in the day, it was believed to keep babies healthy and I swear, it worked. Every baby wore these medicine bags, hand made by my Grandmother. She was half Cherokee, from Texas, and insisted all babies wear them and none of us ever got a cold, cough or runny nose. Ahhhh, the good ole days! How I miss 'em!

child of the 50's wrote at 2009-12-01 15:59:07
I, too, remember wearing those Acifidity bags as a child. My mother made me and my two sisters wear them

to ward off the Polio Virus in the '50's.  I guess it

worked....none of us got the virus and I remember several children in our school did contract the disease.  It was a scary time. I see many of the old remedies are coming back....I think the pharmacuticals are no longer interested in curing our ills, they have become greedy, money oriented corps.  It amayzes me that we prey so on our own kind.  Where has our empathy gone???????????

Ryan wrote at 2010-02-07 08:13:14
My maternal grandfather was born in rural Lithia Springs, Georgia in 1903.  My mother, who passed away recently at age 76, used to talk about how Granddaddy's mother made him wear an asphidity bad around his neck as a small child to ward off illness - and that it smelled foul.  That tradition died with Granddaddy, and any real notion of what those bags were like also died with Mom.  None of us grandchildren know what was in the bags or what they actually did!

momma judy wrote at 2010-02-07 19:50:36
i grew up in east tn. my grandmother on my mother's side of the family & great aunts on my father's side made these bags all the time. they were to hang around our necks to ward off colds or to help with sinus problems. sometimes they smelled strongly of garlic, depending on what they were being used for, always made out of a white cloth material.  

Jerry Hardin wrote at 2010-09-03 14:40:20
My wife's family swore by asphidity. They mixed it in whiskey. A couple tablespoons of that stuff would sure knock the cold out of you. I've been wanting to mix up some but, can't find the recipe for it.

Hylott L. Armstrong, Jr. wrote at 2010-09-22 23:37:41
I was born in 1936 in rural Central Alabama.  My recollections are clear about there being a pint bottle in our medicine cabinet that was a mixture of whiskey (moon shine) and Asaphidity [I do not recall ever seeing the word written and my attempt at spelling it is likely incorrect].  It was used for "anything that ailed you," but most commonly for a cold.  The mixture in the bottle would separate when left undisturbed and had to be shaken before using.  The color was white with a slight yellowish cast.

country girl wrote at 2011-01-13 22:04:41
I was born in 1928 in Chicago and the idea of a medicine bag came to this country with my grandmother who came to this country from Italy at four years old.  I do not know what she called it in Italian and I never knew an English word for it, but she made it out of white cotton and it was a little pouch about 2 1/2 inches square filled with garlic and pinned to the inside of my undershirt.  I started wearing it when I started school and only in the winter.  It warded off colds.  The joke was it smelled so bad no one would get close enough to you to give you germs.  Grandma said her children never got the flu in 1918 because they wore a garlic bag.  She also gave them a few sips of moonshine when they left the house and that might have kept them well.  

Max Mertz wrote at 2011-05-12 23:38:50
My Dad was born in 1920 in Nebraska. He and his frat buddies at the university of Nebraska in 1939 got some Asafetida from a science professor and put it on the heat registers in a rival trays house while they were out at the football game. According to my dad's version of the story, it reeked so bad they had to move out of the frat house for a time.  

greencovetom wrote at 2011-06-01 04:02:40
In 1981 my father and uncle would take us kids shrimping. They would always catch more shrimp than any one else around us later on in life I asked dad what my uncle used to make his shrimp bait he told me they used asphidity and that it could be illegal.  I went to the local pharmacy bought a small bottle of the brown substance added it to my bait balls and went shrimping.we did really good, twice as good as the people around us but we noticed that our shrimp seemed to be paralyzed. The net would make your lips numb when you would hold it in your mouth to cast again. I believe the shrimp would eat the bait and was unable to run from net. We did not notice any taste difference in shrimp when eaten.  

kathy wrote at 2012-02-06 12:14:03
I was born in north alabama and never knew what my mom was talking about when she said she had asthma when she was small and her mom hung a small pouch around her neck and when she couldnt breath she sipped on what ever was in this bottle.I would love to know the ingredients so i could fix her one now she is 80yrs. old and has asthma real bad,i think the old remedies worked because now she cant find anything to help.I say God bless the older generation for using what God put on this earth and it worked..

Len H. wrote at 2013-01-01 02:04:38
I also grew up in the 30's and 40;S in South Jersey and wore a Asphidity bag every winter until I started High School to ward off colds and to clear nasal and bronchial tubes of conjustion .

Another old time remedy we used for infected cuts and scraped skin was Balsam Apple,grown on a trellis' the fruit was inserted in a whiskey bottle tied to the trellis when it started to form and when fully grown broke off the vine and the bottle filled with alcohol as the apple got soft it was broken up and pieces were placed on the infected area along with some of the alcohol and bandaged and it would cure all of the infection.These old time remedey's should be looked into and developed for use today.The Natives in the jungles and the American Indian's used this form of medicine and it worked for them.

aquanino wrote at 2013-08-04 04:48:35
My Mom is 94 now and has told me about this concoction many times. One item she told me that goes in the bag in addition to some others happens to be sow bugs or rolypolies. She is always trying to get one of her greatgrand kids to find her some pill bugs. She said this mess kept you from catching flu or colds. She also said it works because it stinks so badly noone would get close enough to share a virus with you!

Ken Blackwell wrote at 2013-08-25 01:29:25
Asifidity is a resin from some plant or tree. It was worn in a sack on a string around one's neck. It was held that it would word off communicable disease, but the truth is it sank so bad that no one would come near enough to the person waring the bag to infect them with any thing. It is still available in some drug stores.  

Karl wrote at 2013-12-23 19:04:59
When I was a kid in Oklahoma in the 1940's, all local pharmacies carried asphidity.  It reeked, and was kept in a stoppered glass bottle.  The locals used it for catfish bait.  Obviously it had some medical use also, but what I never knew.

R. Stephens wrote at 2014-06-18 11:20:08
I am 45 years old and grew up in middle Tennessee. My mother grew up in rural Alabama, and dirt poor.  My great grandmother took care of her while my grandmother worked.  They were given asphidity when they were sick, especially for stomach issues. The doctor even told my grandmother's to give it to the kids, for just about everything.  

I had my children in the early 90's.  My son had colic so bad,he screamed for 4 solid months, sometimes 6 hours a day. Needless to say, I was beside myself trying to find a cure for this poor baby.  I tried everything the doctor ordered, but nothing worked. My mother kept saying "We need to give him asphidity." HA! over my dead body!!!  If the doctor doesn't prescribe it, he isn't getting it. I was so afraid of all that ol' time remedy stuff.  One day when I was visiting my grandmother, my boy had a terrible  episode.  I was a nervous wreck, and was near tears after trying everything to ease his pain.  My grandmother and mother told me to go shopping,so I could take a break, and they would take care of him.  They tricked me!!  My grandmother had a bottle of asphidity, and mixed it with a little garlic and sugar, (babies love it by the way)and put it in a bottle and my boy gulped it down.  I came home 2 hours later to a sleeping baby. I was shocked!  He slept  most of the day, but when woke up, he had poop all the way up to his neck, and he stunk to high heaven!!  You could smell the asphidity on his breath, and in his poop.  I was furious, but not for long.  My baby never had colic again.  I was mad because they tricked me, they were mad because I wouldn't listen.  Well I am about to be a grandmother, and I am going to find some asphidity somewhere for my babies!!

gee wrote at 2014-09-02 18:06:05
My grandmother in western Pennsylvania swore by the use of an acifidity bag around the neck.  Sometimes she would put a live caterpillar into the bag, changing it after it died. I never had flu, la grippe, colds, etc.,  which every child I knew got in winter.  She also made mustard plasters, a piece of flannel covered with mustard, then folded & placed on the chest.  It was very foul smelling, but quickly got rid of any beginning cough or congestion.  Rubbing a smooth white pebble on warts & burying the stone in the dark of night got rid of them within a day.  Those were simpler times!

donna wrote at 2014-12-25 23:06:12
My grandma told me that they would take acidfidity and put in a jar lid and position it high in a corner of the room to ward off sickness.  She never mentioned putting in a bag around your neck.

Lyn wrote at 2015-11-15 17:44:09
Both of my parents are from Southwest Louisiana, descendants of African slaves and Europeans.  They both migrated to California in the 1950s.  I recall in the 1960s my mother had a bottle of "asfidity" root ever ready for any kind of illness. I can still see it in the cabinet and feel the dread when she pulled it down, got a teaspoon or tablespoon and force fed us this pungent remedy. The bottle looked like a half pint of whiskey with a black root sitting on the bottom.  The liquid itself was a murky brown. Since my mother made trips by train "back home" every summer, I believe she always stocked up on the asfidity, because I don't believe it was a tonic sold in California.  What a memory...  

lee wrote at 2016-03-23 17:24:24
Mom said when she was a little girl she didn't want to assifidity ( as  it sounds), she called it abuttifidity bag.had to add this to folk lore..

Bobbi wrote at 2016-06-23 00:43:37
My father and his 8 brothers and sisters were in Vaudeville. He once told me that during the flu epidemic in 1918 (?) he remembers my Grandmother giving the whole family acifidity bags to wear around their necks as they performed. He said people were dropping in their seats in the audience and were being carried out but none of them ever got sick.  I wish one of them could have remembered what was in the bag.  

Sharon wrote at 2016-10-17 16:10:17
My mother was 6 years old in 1918 when her mother died in the flu epidemic.  Her grandmother sent my mother to the pharmacy and told her to get some acifidity.  To remember it,She kept repeating the name all the way there - acifidyacifidyacifidity.  When asked what she wanted, she said fidityas. On a more somber note, as I said before, my grandmother, who was pregnant at the time, left behind 4 little girls, the youngest being only two.  They, as well as my grandfather survived.  Maybe the acifidity helped them survive.

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Michael Troy


My specialties are 17th through 19th Century history, especially in the Americas and Europe. I also have a fair knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman History, and some knowledge of Medieval European history. My expertise is focuses on Military and political history, but I`ll take a crack at anything.


I have been a guest lecturer at George Washington University. Mostly, I have just read hundreds of books about world history.


J.D. Univ. of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

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Truman Scholar

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