The Doctor Is In! Part 1 of 4
By: Teresa Divilio, PMV Co-op Student
Over the next four weeks, I will be writing on the subject of medicine and medical practices. Today’s blog is about the herbal remedies pioneers would turn to in times of sickness.
Medicine in the 1800s is vastly different from medicine today. For example, let’s look at the common cold. Today, if you have a cold, you turn to medicine to relieve your symptoms. Buckley’s, Halls, Nyquil and plenty of sleep become your best friends for about 3-4 days as you fight off the cold. In the 1800’s, you had several treatment options. You could drink catnip tea, flaxseed tea, ginger tea, horehound tea, peppermint tea, or yarrow tea. If those treatments weren’t your cup of tea (haha) you could always chop onions and garlic very finely and allow them to sweat in raw honey for an hour. Eating this mixture was guaranteed to help cure a cough quickly. Another common cure for colds was to cover your chest in a mixture of mustard, flour, and lukewarm water.
These treatments may seem weird to us, but there is a hint of truth to them. The teas would have soothed a sore throat. The list of herbs used in the teas may seem odd to us, but almost all medicine today originated as natural herbs and plants that have been chemically enhanced or synthesized. Honey soothes inflamed throats and relieves congestion. Garlic and onions are both full of anti-oxidants and other beneficial vitamins. Even the mustard treatment, as bizarre as it seems, has been proven to increase circulation and warmth in the chest.
Not all pioneer remedies were as safe or effective as the ones listed above. Next week we’ll take a look at why the pioneers hoped an apple (or a spoonful of honey and onion) a day would truly keep the doctor away.