Monday, May 21, 2012

Take two aspirin ...

Navaho medicine man
Last week, I was researching painkillers for a story I'm working on. Long before antibiotics and anesthetics, even before laudunum, pioneers depended on plants and animals to treat injuries and illnesses. Unfamiliar with the plants and animals of the old west, the pioneers learned from the medicine men of Native American tribes nearby and passed their remedies down from generation to generation. Do any of these treatments actually work? Some of them have been proven to have scientific value, but I'm not about to experiment and see for myself. While I don't even know what some of the ingredients are in these "receipts", some are barbaric and gross (not to mention it's probably illegal to use them nowadays.

For influenza: Take one ounce of cinnamon, half ounce of coves, half ounce of hemlock bark, half ounce of gum arabic, mix all together in one quart of boiling water, take half teacupful, three or four times an hour, till you are in a profuse sweat, then take less as the occasion requires. make a mucilage of elm, or blue flag, and drink plentifully, also sweat the throat with sage and hops, bath the feet in saleratus, and vinegar, and keep warm. This is a good receipt and seldom fails. (Author's note: seems to me the cure is worse than the illness.)

For coughs: Take one ounce of meadow cabbage, one ounce of lobelia, half ounce of indian turnip, one fourth ounce of blood root, handful of hoarhound, one fourth ounce of elecampane, and the weight of the whole of purified honey, pulverize the ingredients and mix them up, and let the patient take what the stomach will bear, until well. (Note: anybody know how much a "whole of purified honey" weighs?)

For rheumatism: Take one ounce of cayenne pepper, four ounces of ginger, two ounces of cinnamon, two ounces of cloves, one ounce of gum guiacum, one ounce of gum myrrh, one gallon fourth proof spirits, let them stand by the fire ten days before bottling, then place them in corked vessels and take one wine glass full three times each day, before eating. Rubefacient for the surface, boil one pound of red pepper, in one gallon of vinegar and wash every night just going to bed, also wear flannel next to the skin continually. (Note: three glasses of booze every day and you wouldn't even notice the rheumatism, not to mention the lack of a social life from the smell.)

For cracked hands: In the first place wash your hands in warm water, then rub on common soap thoroughly, and scour yoru hands about two minutes with house ashes; then wash them again in warm water. This repeated a few times will effect a cure and keep the hands soft and pliable. (Note: to think I spend millions of dollars on hand lotion and all I need is ashes. Quick, light a fire.)

Ointment: Take four pounds of mice dung, pound them, and put them in a new pot glazed inside, add to it one pound of fresh butter; boil the whole during this time, and strain it through a linen, and in this liquid, put two ounces of turpentine, and finish boiling the whole. This is a wonderful ointment. (Note: first, eeeeeewwwww!! Second, how many mice would it take to come up with four pounds of dung? Can you say "eeeeekkkkkkkk?")

One thing is certain - modern medicine might not be perfect, but in the case of medical treatment, the "good old days" left a lot to be desired.

1 comment:

  1. That is one heck of a lot of mouse poo, and where would you even find it? Yuck. But this is a fun post. Thanks!