Background: The informant is a man in his late 50s. he grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania before moving to upstate New York for college. In his mid 20s, he moved to Southern California and has lived there ever since.
Context: Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the 70s, the informant recalls that the suburbs were relatively remote with forests on either side, where children would often play unsupervised. Because the neighborhood was relatively new, most of the adults living there had not grown up in the neighborhood and were not familiar with the local flora and fauna.
“Along the creek, you could just walk along and there would be, yknow, bushes and things like that. So one of them was stinging nettles, but we called it “Burn Hazel” when I was a kid. So when you brushed against it, it felt like you got poison ivy—you’d get bumps, all of a sudden it was incredibly itchy, but the older kids taught the younger kids…there was another plant called the “Elephant Ear” plant, and I have no idea what this plant was in reality, but it had big leaves. If you took that plant and rubbed it on it, it would cure it. And the parents never knew this, it was passed on from kid to kid, generation to generation.
Thoughts: Perhaps the most interesting part of this remedy is that the informant can identify the irritant plant “Burn Hazel” by its more commonly known name of Stinging Nettle but has had no luck finding out what “Elephant’s Ear” actually is. The other fascinating element about this herbal remedy is that only children seemed to know about it, since most of their parents did not grow up in the neighborhood where this herbal remedy was located. I wonder if children in the neighborhood nowadays know these tips and tricks—the informant says that much of the forest has been destroyed to build more homes, and his family who remained in town and are raising their children there don’t let them go around unsupervised.