Awhile back, we were
"talking" about old-fashioned medicinal remedies. It's fascinating to
learn that many of those old-fashioned remedies became the basis for very
I always think of digitalis, used today for the treatment of heart
disease. My lovely and faithful boxer dog, AKC Jack Dempsey, took
digitalis for years after his bout with heartworms (This is so long ago
there was no preventative then.). Digitalis is, of course, a derivative
of foxglove - given since at least medieval times for "troubles of the
Besides the foxglove, teas of black haw bark were used for heart
Chills and fever used to be treated with a tea made of the buds of the
common elderberry. Teas of Maywood (we call it dog fennel) or sassafras
roots were drunk to make us "sweat it out" of our systems. In my
grandmother's time, the theory was that if you drank sassafras tea during
the month of March, you would not need a doctor for the rest of the year.
Cancer was treated with "earth club" or "cancer root" mixed with bear
fat by the Indians. Stews were made from basil, chickweed and dog
Just now, on the Discovery Channel, there's a program on cancer about
dogs who can alert patients and doctors to skin cancers or others beneath
the skin that have heretofore gone undetected for too long.
Consumption - known as lung fever, but not as tuberculosis until the
19th century - was treated with whiskey stews, sarsaparilla tea and
feedings of terrapin flesh.
Diabetes was treated with the white sap of dandelions.
Diphtheria - called distemper which was common amongst children - was
treated similar to pneumonia and a tea brewed from the "self-heal"
What we call "gout" was called "dropsy" by our ancestors, was caused by
excessive accumulation of diluted lymph (serous fluid) in the body tissues
and cavities. The painful swelling started with the feet and moved
upward. Teas of goldenrod and sassafras root were tried and the columbine
plant was sometimes effective, although we now know it was dangerous
because of its narcotic effect.
Compresses were made of the comfrey plant and horseradish and baths of
ground ivy were taken. Teas included those made from lavender and
mullein, burdock roots and nettles, all without much benefit.
We still have mullein plants from Miles Henry Gay's farm at our little
place! I just let it grow wherever it decides to come up.and always think
of Mel's beloved grandfather when those gray-green leaves appear.
Grandfather Gay used a tea made from these leaves for his rheumatism, we
Dysentery - better known as "bloody flux" was responsible for more
deaths than bullets in our War Between the States. There wasn't much to
be done other than large doses of calomel and a brew made by boiling two
pounds of the inner bark from the north side of a white oak tree, boiled
in an iron kettle.
If you are interested in herbs and herbal remedies, I know of no better
way to painlessly learn a lot than to read the Diana Gabaldon Outlander
series of books! The heroine, Claire, uses herbs and is fascinated by
There are many books available today at any good book store.on herbs
used in cooking and for healthful supplements. There are complete stores
filled with herbs and combinations of herbs that are purported to be good
for us, even in our modern day.
Everyone who knows me has heard at least once my story of the dreaded
"onion poultice" which made my 100% attendance record at school possible!
Perhaps it was this horrid concoction of my Grandmother's that has
sparked my own interest in herbs and herbals today!