Medical treatments have certainly changed for the better over the years. Home medical books, such as the “People’s Home Medical Book”, included in the “People’s Home Library”, copyright 1911, list various treatments for numerous illnesses and diseases common in that era and makes one appreciate the first-aid measures and easy-to-take pills and potions we take for granted today.
Those suffering from illnesses or injuries in earlier days often used herbs to treat various maladies.
Herbs were cut or dug, and then used fresh or dried for use as medicine.
Herbs believed to have medicinal properties were used in making medicinal teas or infusions, ointments, cerates, extracts and fluid extracts, syrups, powders, tinctures, fomentations, liniments, and suppositories.
Following is a list of a few herbs and other plants our ancestors may have used as treatment for medical conditions.
Asparagus: Teas and decoctions made from asparagus were used in treating dropsy and “stones or gravel” in the kidney and bladder.
Butternut: The tree’s inner bark was made into extracts and used in treating constipation.
Blue Violet: A syrup made from the plant’s flower petals was used in treating children’s sore throat, cough, and constipation.
Blood Root: Tincture of blood root and blood root tea was used as treatment for liver and lung problems, typhoid pneumonia, croup, whooping cough, rheumatism, dyspepsia, jaundice and headache.
Cayenne Pepper: Powders were used in making plasters and tinctures for treatment of flatulent colic, neuralgia, digestive problems, rheumatism, delirium tremens, and “vomiting of drunkards.”
Dandelion: The root was used in making tea, fluid extract, an infusion and a decoction for treatment of dyspepsia, dropsy, jaundice, constipation and liver complaints. Dandelion was also used as a blood purifier.
Slippery Elm/Red Elm: The bark was used in making poultices for treating external wounds, and was used as tea for treating poisoning, inflammation of the stomach and bowels, piles, ulcers, gleet, diarrhea, cramps, dysentery, coughs and colds, quinsy, erysipelas, and gonorrhea.
Ginseng: Tea, tinctures, decoctions, and powders made from ginseng were used in treating stomach troubles, debility, gravel, and weak generative organs.
Golden Seal: Teas, tinctures, decoctions, fluid extraction tonics, and powders made from golden seal were used in treating sore throat, bladder inflammation, dyspepsia, sore mouth, gonorrhea, leucorrhea, and ulcers.
Horehound: Tea, syrups, and candy made from horehound were used in treating colds, coughs, and lung troubles.
Milkweed: Bruised pieces of milkweed were used to treat sores and ulcers, and roots were used in treating dropsy and gravel. Milkweed was also used in treating scrofula, asthma, catarrh, and rheumatism.
Onion: The plant was boiled and eaten for use as a laxative, applied locally for treatment of inflammation, and used as a poultice. Onion was used for treating eczema, bronchitis, croup, laryngitis, and earache.
Rhubarb: Spiced tea made from rhubarb was used in treating bowel troubles in children.
Sassafras: Tea made from sassafras was used for treating eruptive diseases, corrosive poisoning, rheumatism, and kidney troubles. A salve made from sassafras wood was used in treating “old sores.” A wash made from sassafras was used in treating inflamed eyes.
Thyme: Thyme was cut while in bloom, dried, and used as medicine. Oil of Thyme was used as an antiseptic. Thyme tea was used in treating leucorrhea, hysteria, flatulence, colic, and painful menstruation.
Wild Carrot: Decoctions made from wild carrot were used in treating bladder and kidney stones and gravels. Wild carrot seeds were used in treating “hiccoughs,” chronic coughs, obstructed menses, flatulence, and dysentery.
Treatments for medical conditions or injuries in the early 1900s and beyond consisted of a variety of substances such as teas, liquor, fruits, salt, vinegar, herbs, milk, buttermilk, salted meats, camphor, creosote, arsenic and strychnine. The above-listed remedies are intended for reader interest only. Please consult a qualified medical provider for all of your medical concerns.
(Note: This is the last of a three-part series of columns about home remedies from the “People’s Home Medical Book”.)