Today, our guest author is Susan Craft. She’s giving away a copy of three of her novels in the Xanthakos Family Trilogy. See the end of this post for how to enter.
A Colonial Woman’s Medical Kit
by Susan Craft
Author of the Xanthakos Family Trilogy: The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia
Sometimes doing research for my colonial era novels can be amusing.
A while ago, I saw my family doctor for a problem I’d been having. The night before, I’d been reading a resource book, Indian Doctor – Nature’s method of curing and preventing disease according to the Indians. I took the book with me to show the doctor the Indian cure for my problem.
What a hoot! We had such fun looking through the book. Seems as if every cure involved mixing something with wine, ale, beer, or liquor. We came to the conclusion that with enough of the “cure,” even if you still had the problem, you wouldn’t care anymore.
Here’s what the book says for my problem, “Take some pounded panic (panic is the name for powdered corn), and give it to the patient to drink with wine, and he will recover. The same panic, being boiled with goat’s milk, and eaten twice a day, morning and evening, will operate the same.”
Seriously, knowing the right herbs and natural cures was extremely important in an era where there were very few, if any, doctors available. And, most of the time, those doctors weren’t classically trained.
Lilyan Cameron Xanthakos, the heroine of the Xanthakos Family Trilogy, is not only a portrait and mural artist she is a healer who carries her medicine kit wherever she goes. In Cassia I mention an incident in Swansboro, NC, where pirates blockaded the port not for money or other booty, but for medical supplies (which were worth their weight in gold.) There’s also a scene where the ship’s cook, because there is no doctor on board, applies a camphor-based ointment to the scratches on Lilyan’s face. She checks out his medicine kit that has: jalap for purging, mercury salves for the Foul Disease (venereal disease), autumn crocus and meadow saffron for gout, and St. John’s Wort for insomnia, all carefully wrapped in oil-soaked paper.
Lilyan, along with most colonial women, maintained a medicine kit that might have included the following: (Some of the items in this list that may seem misspelled come directly from Nicholas Culpepper’s The English Physician, Enlarged in 1653.)
Valerian root, combined with hops and lemon balm; a sedative for sleep disorders, insomnia.
- Sweet gum bark, boiled; for sore eyes, wash eyes three times a day Rum or brandy; for a burn apply a wet rag doused
- Two or three swallows of cold water before breakfast; for heartburn
- Feverfew; for headaches/migraines, body aches, and fever
- Southern Wood; for upset stomach (also used as an insect or moth repellent)
- Calendula, dried, ground and mixed
with animal fat; for cuts
- Tansy; for indigestion, cramps, sunburn, and to remove freckles
- Basil; draw poison out of animal bites
- Black Cohosh; for menopause
- Boswellia; for arthritis
- Chamomile tea; for digestive problems
- Flaxseed; for menopausal discomfort and osteoporosis
- White Willow Bark; for back pain
- Ginger; for nausea and
- Lavender flowers; for anxiety
- Fleabane; for venomous bites, smoke from it kills gnats and fleas; dangerous for women and children
- Hellebore root snuffed up the nose; for sneezing and melancholy and to kill rats and mice
- Penyroyal; for vomiting, gas, and vertigo
- Fox’s tongue softened in vinegar; applied topically, draws out a thorn or splinter
- Rose petals steeped in vinegar; applied topically for headache
- Chalk; for heartburn
- Calamine; for skin irritations
- Cinchona Bark (contains quinine); for fevers
- Garden celedine, pile wort, or fig wort; for boils
- Cottonweed, boyled in lye; it keeps the head from Nits and Lice; being laid among Cloaths, it Keeps them safe from Moths; taken in a Tobacco-pipe it helps Coughs of the Lunges, and vehement headaches.
- Take howse leeke Catts blod and Creame mixed together & oynt the place warme or take the moss that groweth in a well & Catts blod mixed & so aply it warme to the plase whare the shingles be; for the shingles
Oh, two weeks after I saw my doctor, who prescribed medicine that cured my original problem, I had to see him again for a terrible earache. So, of course, we looked at the Indian cure. It involved lily onions, marsh mallows, oil of violet—all taken with wine. And then, bleeding.
I’ll stick with the antibiotics.
I’ve lived in Columbia, SC, since I was five years old. Forty-five years ago, I married my high school sweetheart, and we have two adult children, one granddaughter, and a granddog. I’m a history nerd who enjoys researching for my novels, painting, singing, listening to music, and sitting on my porch watching the rabbits and geese eat my daylilies.
I recently retired after a 45-year career as a communications director, editor, and proofreader.
I write inspirational historical romantic suspense. My Xanthakos Family Trilogy includes my Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile, which won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick; its sequel, Laurel, which was released in January 2015; and the third in the trilogy, Cassia, which will be released in September 2015. My publisher is Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). My literary agent is Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency.
To assist authors to “get it right about horses in their works,” I worked with the International Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation to compile A Writer’s Guide to Horses that can be found at www.lrgaf.org.
Where you can find Susan:
- www.susanfcraft.com (personal website)
- Historical Fiction a Light in Time
- Colonial Quills
- Stitches Thru Time
- Heroes, Heroines and History
- @susanfcraft (Twitter)
Giveaway: Anyone who answers this question will be included in a drawing for the Xanthakos Family Trilogy. The winner will be announced through email and in the comments on Thursday, August 18th.
Question: What’s in your First Aid Kit?
Click on the novel covers to learn more about her novels and where to buy them.