Friday, July 3, 2015

The Golden Age of Medical Quackery

By: Peggy L Henderson

On my recent vacation, it was fun to buy a few potential research books that might come in handy for future historical western romances. From famous mountain men, to Indians, and Prostitution and women in medicine in the 1800’s, these books make for some interesting reading, regardless if I use any of the information contained within or not.

One such book was filled with “granny medicines,” or medicine used during the time. Among the many chores women were charged with on the wagon trains, they were also responsible for the overall health of their family members. Their supplies contained not only ingredients for cooking supper, but also herbs and journals handed down through the generations with home remedies. Items such as juniper berries, garlic, and bitter root were used to treat anything from nausea to typhoid. These remedies were usually a combination of advice passed down through the generations, to superstition, to religious beliefs. 

Advise such as “rinse your mouth each morning with urine to preserve your teeth and prevent mouth odor,” or “mold scraped from cheese will heal open sores,” to “wrap a piece of bacon sprinkled in black pepper around your neck to cure a sore throat,” was common.

Some medicines, such as poultices or teas might have brought some relief, but most often they were of no use, and at worst, did more harm than good.
The Missouri State Historical Society has compiled a list of frontier medicines, which shows that the 1800’s were truly the “golden age of quackery.” Here is a short sample:

-       The hot blood of chickens cures shingles
-       Carry a horse chestnut to ward of rheumatism
-       To remove warts, rub them with green walnuts, bacon rind, or chicken feet
-       Owl broth cures whooping cough
-       Warm brains of a freshly killed rabbit applied to a teething child’s gums will relieve the pain
-       Carry an onion in your pocket to prevent smallpox
-       Brandy and red pepper will cure cholera
-       Mashed snails and earthworms in water are good for dyptheria.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series


Caroline Clemmons said...

Ugh, those are disgusting. I hope no one actually followed that advice, but I'm sure they did.

Paty Jager said...

There were so many "quack" remedies I sometimes wonder if that killed more people than anything else. Great post!

Shanna Hatfield said...

Makes me so glad I don't live back then! Some of the "cures" are just awful.