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NoahBriggs
12-20-2007, 05:22 AM
Okay, I was intrigued by the blog and his weird list of unconventional treatments, supposedly from the "CW era". (I hate that term. What's wrong with "nineteenth century medicine", which is what the topic usually covers?)

The way I read the list it appears he lifted it from some reference which offered "folk wisdom" remedies for people who might not have had immediate access to a doctor, or preferred not to see one for whatever reason. It's out of context, of course, so it implies these treatments were common and somewhat standard in the 1860s. Also it's hard to tell if he lifted it from a primary or secondary source. I am guessing secondary from the way it's written.

Here is the link to refresh yourself:

http://fspowerscw.blogspot.com/2006/09/civil-war-remedies.html

I reprinted the list. Feel free to dive into this pool; what with the talent that hangs out here I am certain this will make an interesting mental workout. My remarks are italicized.

Here is the list:

Sunday, September 03, 2006
Civil War Remedies

1. Thieves Vinegar: Take a handful each of rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood, and lavender and out into a gallon of vinegar to infuse. Let sit in a warm place for four days. Strain the mixture and then add one ounce of camphor. Wash the face and hands with it before exposure in a hospital or sick room. It is called Thieves Vinegar because of a legend of thieves using this liquid to protect them as they plundered the houses of people sick with Bubonic Plague at Marseilles, France.

2. Prevention of Mosquito Bites: Mix oil of pennyroyal with olive oil and spread on the skin to repel mosquitoes.

3. Sprains and Bruises: mix one pint of train oil, ˝ pound of stone pitch, ˝ pound of resin, ˝ pound of beeswax, and ˝ pound of stale tallow. Boil for ˝ an hour and skin off any scum. Pour liquid into cups to cool. When needed, spread it on a cloth and apply it to the sprain or bruise.

In Paris, the treatment for a sprain was to have the doctor grease his thumbs and press them on the sprain for ˝ hour. Within one day, the patient was relieved.

A specific treatment for a sprained ankle was to wash the ankle with salted water and keep the foot as cold as possible. Elevate the foot, don’t eat too much, and take a “cooling medicine” until the sprain is cured.

Another cure for a bruise was to bath the area with water and apply a paper or cloth spread with treacle.

4. Stings: Take a wine glass of vinegar and mix in common (baking) soda. Apply it to the affected areas.

Another treatment was to apply a plaster of moistened salt. This was to draw out the venom of a bee or wasp sting.

5. Blisters on the feet: Rub the feed with spirits mixed with tallow from a candle.

6. Dirt in the Eye: Place a finger on the affected patients cheek and slightly pull down, exposing the area under the eye. For over the eye, use a knitting needle over the eyelid to hold it up. Use a silk handkerchief to remove the dirt. Bathe the eye and have the patient stay out of the sun for the day. If there is any inflammation, have the patient take a purgative and apply a cooling lotion.

Opthamology had developed a set of retractors to hold the eyelids open during the course of an opthalmic procedure. An eyewash cup ought to do the trick of flushing the eye.

7. Frostbite: For the feet, apply deer’s marrow to the affected area.

For other areas, take chrome yellow and hog’s lard and mix them into an ointment. Apply to affected areas after warming the ointment.

8. Coughs: Take one teacup of molasses, add two tablespoons of vinegar and bring to a simmer. Then add three teaspoons of paregoric and as much refined niter as you can place on a breakfast knife. Take two or three teaspoons before bed and one of two during the day to dispel coughs.

9. Nosebleed: Blow powdered gum Arabic or alum up the nose with a quill to stop the bleeding.

Blowing anything up a nose will induce a sneeze which counteracts the purpose of having the alum up there in the first place. Tilting the head back would work for me.

10. Headaches: Use epodeldoe, spirits of wine, and sal ammoniac applied as a lotion to the forehead.

A mild dose of Dover's Powders will work nicely.

11. Bleeding Wounds: Apply flour and lint to the wound.

Depends on the size of the wound. Small cuts can be stopped with alum powder or an alum stick. Larger wounds are going to need sutures.

12. Infectious wounds: Apply sugar to the wound. Another procedure is to wash the wound with wine, then apply sugar.

See the thread on sugar wounds.

13. Warts: Wet the wart with tobacco juice and apply chalk. Another method is to rub the area with fresh beef.

14. Corns: Mix and melt together two ounces of beeswax and two ounces of ammonia. Then add ˝ ounce of verdigris. Spread on linen and apply it to the corn.

15. Bunions: If caught early, bind the foot tightly to prevent bunion growth. If inflames, a poultice of twelve grains of iodine and a ˝ ounce of lard can be applied. This should be done two to three times daily. If the bunion is enlarged, apply salad oil. Wear lose shoes or slippers.

16. Boils: Treatment is a poultice of molasses or honey mixed with flour. Apply until it disappears. If the boil is painful, a poultice of bread, milk, volatile liniment and laudanum should be used.

You could lance it.

huntdaw
12-20-2007, 07:53 AM
Prevention of Mosquito Bites: Mix oil of pennyroyal with olive oil and spread on the skin to repel mosquitoes.


This one I'm going to try when springtime comes around. I don't suppose he lists any ratios or formulas for any of this stuff?

NoahBriggs
12-20-2007, 08:44 AM
No, nothing of the sort, which is why we are curious as to where he got the information.

Last I checked, pennyroyal was used to suppress menses and induce abortions. I guess to prevent the mosquitoes from reproducing? (It is the female that makes the stuka runs on you in the summer.) :rolleyes:

celtfiddler
12-20-2007, 11:33 AM
Last I checked, pennyroyal was used to suppress menses and induce abortions.

Found an article that lists some of the illnesses/conditions that pennyroyal has been used to treat

http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/8513/31402/351441.html?d=dmtContent#uses


A specific treatment for a sprained ankle was to wash the ankle with salted water

I can understand this recommendation having used epsom salt soaks to treat sprained ankles before.

Bushwhacker Bo
12-21-2007, 01:34 AM
Howdy folks, I am new here and perhaps this has already been covered. One old time home remedy that I know works is using plain yellow mustard on a burn. This has been common knowledge in our family as long as we can look back into our family history in the US.

I keep a big gallon jar of it close by the welding and cutting table beside my forge. For in camp a squeeze bottle will do nicely. Applied immediately after the burn, it will provide instant relief from the pain, and even reduce the effects of the burn somenwat, depending on the severity of course. There is no medical risk unless you are allergic to mustard. This has been tried and proven by many including myself.

Bo

chatrbug
12-21-2007, 02:43 AM
Indians would use the pennyroyal crushed up to repel mosquitoes. They would also drink it as a tea to prevent pregnancies.
Pennyroyal is not the best smelling... you may repel more than insects. It can also be highly toxic. Recipe is 10-25 drops of pennyroyal essential oil and 2 Tbsp olive oil... combine in a glass jar. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing (keep away from eyes and mouth).

Noah.. if I recall right, I dont remember where I read it, Ill have to find it again. But blisters and boils werent ever lanced because they believed it would drain the body of blood or something like that. Ill have to see if I can find it again though.

Vinegar is an awesome remedy... though I dont see keeping the plagues from you.

hanktrent
12-21-2007, 08:10 AM
Noah.. if I recall right, I dont remember where I read it, Ill have to find it again. But blisters and boils werent ever lanced because they believed it would drain the body of blood or something like that. Ill have to see if I can find it again though.

Wait--you're saying blisters weren't lanced for fear of draining the body of something vital? Please do quote the source, because that's backwards of the typical period mindset. Blisters and boils were lanced in the period. In fact, the general thinking was that draining excess anything was good and any build-up was harmful--hence the emphasis on bleeding, purging, etc.

Blistering and draining was thought so beneficial that for many conditions, doctors would deliberately create a blister by irritating the skin with medicine, then drain it, as a form of treatment. For example, from A Dictionary of Domestic Medicine, 1866:


[After applying cantharides or another irritating substance on a plaster to create a blister...] When a blister has well risen, the plaster being removed, and a cloth placed so as to catch the fluid, the vesicle or bag is to be punctured at the most dependent part, by the point of a penknife, or with a pair of scissors, and the thin skin which has been raised allowed to subside unbroken, and the dressing applied. If there are more vesicles than one, each must be punctured, unless very small.

Of course there were individuals who opposed almost anything, and by the 1860s there was a general weakening of the heroic medicine mindset of earlier in the 19th century when bleeding, blistering and such were at their peak. So I'm sure one could find period advice not to drain blisters or boils. But it would be a minority voice speaking against common practice, and not common or typical.

From the original list:


10. Headaches: Use epodeldoe, spirits of wine, and sal ammoniac applied as a lotion to the forehead.

Looks like a typo for opodeldoc.

Searching for that unusual typo, I found one other example via google:

http://www.conservativeunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=98730

There, the poster cites his source as "The Military Handbook and Soldiers Manual of Information 1862 "

1862 may be a typo, or a second edition, but the 1861 edition is in reprint. The remedies all appear to come from page 93-95, but are heavily reworded.

The original introductory paragraph is:

Excellent Recipes for Various Cases. We here subjoin some excellent and very available recipes for various troubles which flesh is heir to in camp and campaign life. The soldier should preserve them and seek to aid his fellows when possible by their use upon others as well as upon himself:

For example, the mosquito paragraph actually says:


Protection against Musketo [sic] Bites.--Mix oil of pennyroyal with olive oil, and anoint the exposed parts of the person with it, when few if any insects will annoy one thus guarded. It is said that flies will not bite a horse if he is wet each morning with a decoction of walnut leaves.

The one about sugar reads:


To Prevent Wounds from Mortifying.--Sprinkle sugar on them. The Turks wash fresh wounds with wine, and sprinkle sugar on them. Obstinate ulcers may be cured with sugar dissolved in a strong decoction of walnut leaves.

Now that makes sense, and explains why putting sugar on wounds doesn't show up commonly in period medical references. The author is saying that the Turks use sugar and wine on wounds, and is recommending that his readers use the sugar. No indication if it's common in America.

But I doubt he saw Turks doing this himself, so where did he get the idea?

It goes at least back to The New Family Receipt-Book, 1819, where there's the same paragraph on page 400, word for word. The same paragraph also shows up, word for word, in a handful of similar home remedy receipt books.

So this explains the two contradictory things: that one can say wounds were treated in the 19th century with sugar, and that one can also say it's extremely difficult to find in primary sources, compared to many other common period treatments.

At this point, barring further research, it would be like picking one obscure recommendation for home treatment today, and implying that you'd see the average doctor applying it to a wounded soldier in Iraq.

Of course, it's possible that it was common in France, in Napoleon's day, as shown in the movie mentioned in the other thread. But we're a long way yet from showing it was common or even known, on Civil War battlefields or hospitals in America.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

chatrbug
12-22-2007, 04:18 AM
hank... Im trying to recall which book i read it in. From what Im recalling though it was in my relatives diary. There are bits and pieces in my family history. From what Im recalling it was something about how grandpa had a blister and they put a poultice on it, they were gentle with it because they didnt want it to bleed or he would bleed to death.

My Gunn Physician book... though the copy I have is 1900.. has a recipe for it also and says to apply gently so as not to empty the waters. I know thats 40 yrs later.

hanktrent
12-22-2007, 06:03 AM
hank... Im trying to recall which book i read it in. From what Im recalling though it was in my relatives diary. There are bits and pieces in my family history. From what Im recalling it was something about how grandpa had a blister and they put a poultice on it, they were gentle with it because they didnt want it to bleed or he would bleed to death.

This is why I like to ask for sources. Using a few entries in a relative's diary about the treatment of one individual, to reach the conclusion that "blisters and boils weren't ever..." is a greater leap of logic than I'd be willing to make, but with the actual source available, each person can make up their own mind.


My Gunn Physician book... though the copy I have is 1900.. has a recipe for it also and says to apply gently so as not to empty the waters. I know thats 40 yrs later.

Gunn's a great source. One 1860 book by him (not the New Domestic Physician) is online here: http://books.google.com/books?id=U90_-5e4d1wC&pg=PA298

Haven't seen any indication he was against draining blisters, in general. That's a link to the page where he talks about treating consumption.


After the inflammatory action is subdued, apply a blister over the breast and side, if necessary from pain; this blister is to be kept discharging or running, and should it heal, put on another; the object being to continue a drain or running as much as possible...

Using the search engine for that book for "blisters," you can see other discussions of them. Again, I'm not disagreeing that there were surely many individiual cases where the draining of blisters or boils was advised against, but I believe it was based on individual circumstances, and not the general mindset or practice of the period.

I have the 1861 Gunn's New Domestic Physician in hard copy. Using the subject headings, the closest I can find to what you mentioned is the section headed "Blisters" on page 369.

He quotes the London Medical Times about the best method of applying a blistering plaster (to cause a blister by irritating the skin with cantharides, not to treat it), which includes the sentence:


Used in this way the Blister acts speedily and without causing irritation, and never produces Strangury, or, in other words, does not prevent the water passing from the bladder.

In that particular case, though, he's using water as a euphemism for urine, since he's talking about the side effect of cantharides being absorbed into the body and affecting the urinary organs.

Do you have the whole quote from the 1900 edition about emptying the waters? Even though it's later, I'd be curious to see it.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net