View Full Version : Olde Tyme Remedies from the 18-19th Century

06-03-2007, 07:36 PM
OK, I'm reading about Tom Tobin who was one of the mountainmen scouts of the Nineteenth Century. Apparently besides being adept at tracking, farming, hunting (game & people), he also picked up skills as a frontier doctor. Here's somethings out of the book (which I bought from the Pueblo Historical Society):

:"...powdered sagebrush leaves were a remedy for diaper rash and any moist area chafing. Boil the sagebrush leaves in water and you have a strong disinfectant and body cleaning wash. A tea made from the twigs, bark and pods of the mesquite plant will inhibit diarrhea and other gastrointestinal tract inflammation, including ulcers and hemmorhoids. Boil just the mesquite pods for an eyewash that helps any conjunctivitis of any type and will cure pink eye in children or livestock. Then there is silver sage, which is not a true sage but a small wormwood that grows everywhere in the San Luis Valley. Grind up some silver sage leaves and twigs, place in a glass jar with enough Taos Lightning to cover, shake the jar every few days, and in about a week you have a tincture which, when diluted with twenty to thirty drops of cold water, will effectively retard acid indigestion. Make a simple tea from the silver sage leaves and the result is a strong diuretic and a mild laxative. And, always, there is the marveloous yerba mansa plant which can be used to treat infection of the mouth, lungs, and urinary tract. It is also an astringent and a diuretic, and is aspirin-like in its anti-inflammatory effects, which makes it effective for the treatment of arthritis. It is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal as well as an excellent first aid for abrasions, contusions; also yerba mansa will heal boils, cure athlete's foot and other fungus-type infections, including vaginitis. It is effective against gout, reduces fever, and makes a good enema or douche solution. This versatile herb is virtually a medicine chest in itself."

I don't vouch for any of the above, but it's fun to read. If anybody has any "cures" for the period, please share them. Only by sharing may we advance our knowledge of period medicine?

06-03-2007, 08:26 PM
If you want stuff like that for pages and pages, read Porcher's book on natural remedies which can be used by our gallant southern forces. Some of it is legit, the rest is fun to read, but I would not try it at home.


06-03-2007, 09:18 PM
There is just so much of this stuff, it seems some sort of order or context or focus is necessary to make a compilation useful. Are we talking about medicinal use of plants in the far west? Local plants as substitutes for unavailable imported or mineral medicines? Medicines used by non-doctors? Alternatives to medicines in the U.S. Dispensatory? Any plant-based medicines?

For use of local plant substitutes in the south, Noah's mention of Porcher is hard to beat.

For medicines used by non-doctors, I'd nominate Samuel Thomson as one of the more influential non-doctors of the early 19th century, though his influence was sharply waning by the 1860s. Here's his New Guide to Health, describing his system of treatment: http://books.google.com/books?id=ZYyMj_4wFr0C

Not nearly as influential, but another random non-doctor reporting her own viewpoints, is Mrs. Child in The Family Nurse at http://books.google.com/books?id=AU0EAAAAQAAJ

Then there are other alternative medical philosophies, like hydropathy, as represented by The Hydropathic family physician: a ready prescriber and hygienic adviser: http://books.google.com/books?id=4HnUOqaQh1MC

For an eclectic approach, there's Dr. Gunn http://books.google.com/books?id=U90_-5e4d1wC

And that's not even starting to get into the numerous books about medicine so diluted there's no medicine there: homeopathy.

Or all the official recognized herbal medicines, in with the mineral ones, in something like the U.S. Dispensatory or various formularies.

Hank Trent