Introduction to Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife

Map: Cultural Micro-Regions of the Delta, Northeast Louisiana

Working in the Delta

Homemaking in the Delta

Delta FolksHazel Dailey: "To Make Something Each Day That I Am Here" – Sylvia Frantom
Delta Folks – Folk Medicine Remedies Of Virginia Roberts: "For Tummy Aches" – Sylvia Frantom

Making Music in the Delta

Telling Stories in the Delta

Delta Archival Materials

Delta Folks

Virginia Roberts

Caldwell Parish

Virginia Roberts learned how to make medicinal folk remedies from her mother.

Folk Medicine Remedies Of Virginia Roberts: "For Tummy Aches"

By Sylvia Frantom


Virginia Roberts remembers her mother using medicinal folk remedies to treat her children's illnesses. She especially remembers her mother giving her children blackberry juice for stomach aches and putting tobacco on their insect stings. She learned to use fluxweed from her husband's family, and she also used it on her grandchildren. Virginia was born on April 3, 1936 in Clarks, Louisiana. She married Merlon Roberts, had four children and nine grandchildren, and lived in Grayson, Louisiana in 1994 at the time of her interview.

When Virginia Roberts was a child, her family would go out in the woods to pick wild blackberries. They made jelly and jam from some of the berries, and they canned some to be used to make cobblers. Her mother also canned the juice from the blackberries "strictly for medicinal purposes." Roberts explains the details of the canning and its use: "She didn't put any sugar in it. Anytime we complained of a stomach ache, we got a little glass of berry juice. And it helped really well." She reflects, "Anytime you said you had a tummy ache, from cramps to diarrhea, to maybe throwing up, vomiting, you got this blackberry juice." She gave the children "probably a fourth to a half a cup to begin with and then that much every so often, as long as we complained."

Another major remedy practiced by Roberts was the use of fluxweed to treat diarrhea. She learned to use the plant native to the Grayson area from her husband's father and grandfather. Virginia Roberts explains the treatment that she gave her children and her grandchildren when they were growing up:

There's a plant that grows wild in my area. My husband's father called it a fluxweed. It's similar to an old sawbriar. The leaves are similar and it runs. It's a running vine, similar to the sawbriar, but it does not have thorns on it. And it is fuzzy underneath the leaf. You can pick these leaves and put them in a bowl. Put boiling water over them. Put a lid on it and steep it for about 5 minutes. Give a tablespoon or so for diarrhea. About 2 doses and the diarrhea is gone. That's why it was called the fluxweed. My father in law had used it and his father, my husband's grandfather. And it really works.

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There's a plant

According to Culpeper's Complete Herbal (1880) by English physician Nicolas Culpeper (1616-1654), fluxweed was used for stomach ailments and even has bone and sore healing properties. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Resources Conservation Service lists fluxweed Trichostema brachiatum, the native American species, as an endangered or threatened species in some states. It has small purple flowers and is found in sandy soil and along streams.

Virginia Roberts does not use all the remedies used by her family members. For example, her mother used tobacco to treat insect stings on her children. Virginia recalls her treatment: "She smoked and she would just chew some of the cigarettes and lay it on the stings. But I never did that to my grandchildren, but I do use the herbs." Virginia Roberts also uses popular herbs that she buys from the health food store.

Virginia Roberts treated her children and grandchildren with medicinal folk remedies that were handed down within her family. These included blackberry juice and fluxweed. She liked to use these folk remedies because they were safe and they really worked, especially for sick children.

Works Cited

Culpeper, Nicolas. Culpeper's Complete Herbal. London: Foulsham 1880.

Sylvia Frantom wrote this article as a part of the Delta Folklife Project in 1994 and she revised it in 2012 for Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife. She is a native of Louisiana with a heartfelt interest in Louisiana history and folklore.