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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  The American Plainsmen Society (Moderators: Caleb Hobbs, Tsalagidave)  |  Topic: Hunting Bag Medicine 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Dave Rodgers

« on: December 26, 2017, 04:03:03 am »

Merry Christmas everyone.  I am working on an online publication about historic anthropology and Early America. Here is a sneak peek of a new article before I have added the photos and cited sources.
Hunting Bag Medicine

How early American travelers and frontiersmen attended to basic medical needs using the basic essentials carried on their person.
By Dave Rodgers

In his 1859 book, James Marcy, a US Army veteran of 25 years on the frontier remarked that “A little blue mass, quinine, opium, and some cathartic medicine put up in doses for adults will suffice for a medicine chest.” Although wagon trains would commonly have some form of medicine kit, the individual traveler on foot or horseback typically has a more minimalist approach toward what he carried.  Since carrying a heavy pannier of medicines for every occasion is out of the question, here are some period remedies to treat basic ailments that the average frontiersman would likely have on hand in his hunting bag or food supply. This means that in addition to commonly carried medicines such as mountain mint, cedron nut, or blue indigo, other cures may reside in everyday foods or even the contents of a powder horn.

*Disclaimer – This is not professional advice for handling modern emergencies, it is merely meant as an educational article about primitive cures our ancestors used and the modern  scientific analysis of how effective they actually were.

Treating wounds and bruises:
Apply moistened tobacco shavings to the cut or bruise and bandage it in place if necessary.  When the bleeding stops and soreness abates, remove the tobacco and treat the affected area with salt, honey or molasses, then wrap in a clean, dry bandage.  Powdered alum with salt is another effective treatment.
•   Tobacco (Nicotina Tobacum) has been proven to possess antibacterial/antimicrobial qualities in addition to its ability to alleviate pain.  Its astringent properties also reduce blood flow in wounds. All this would have made a tobacco poltuce an effective form of treatment for said afflictions.  As a caveat, Nicotine can also be extremely toxic. Overdosing can result in sickness and even death.  Tobacco also has a variety of chemicals now known to be carcinogenic so by modern medical standards, other options are advised.
•   Molasses  - is often touted as a key ingredient in making salves or poultices for wounds.  Many old medical books recommend applying them directly onto bites and wounds (same as honey) to arrest infection.  Medical analysis has determined that molasses (aka. blackstrap molasses)  to contain two active antibacterial compounds, dehydrodiconiferylalcohol-9'-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside and isoorientin-7, 3'-O-dimethyl that are especially effective against cariogenic bacteria including various known and mutated forms of streptococcus. This makes molasses an especially good treatment for animal bites as well.
•   Honey – has been used since ancient times as both a food preservative and for wound treatment, ulcers, etc.  Scientifically, honey contains  enzyme-produced hydrogen peroxide and phytochemical agents like methylglyoxal  which are highly effective against bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, including modern antibiotic resistant  strains. It also prevents food spoilage and combats  food borne pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella.  It’s wet nature has made it an effective treatment of even deep tissue wounds when no other options are available.
•   Salt – or Sodium Chloride is another element that dates back to ancient times.  Although it was not even added to the periodic table till 1870, it has been identified for its antimicrobial properties.  It has been used to treat wounds, head colds and even gastrointestinal discomfort.
Burns (serious):  Treat with scrapings from a raw potato. For lesser burns,  make a paste of wheat flour and apply.  In either case, keep wrapped with a clean bandage and change the poultice often.
•   Potato – contains tannins that have drying properties.  It also contains high levels of potassium, Vitamin C, and a variety of enzymes  that nourish skin tissue as well as relieve burns and inflammation.  This has made it a favorite poultice for treating burns and scalds.
•   Flour  - carries the chemical betaine which is an anti-inflammatory that can help sooth an upset stomach, intestines or irritated skin.  This makes it a good quick cure for bakers who have just suffered minor burns, it’s not a sterile compound so applying it to 2nd or 3rd degree burns is not at all advised. Added note, flour can also be used to harden the bowels in the case of diarrhea.

Poison Oak / Poison Ivy:  Apply a paste of black powder and water to the affected area. (Sulfur and milk works well back at the homestead too.)
•   “Gunpowder” (aka. black powder) Is a combination of Saltpeter (sodium nitrate), Sulfur, and Charcoal.  This is important since two of the ingredients have strong medicinal applications.
o   Sulfur is a known as an effective topical to treat inflammation. It is ideal for skin eruptions from poison ivy to acne.  In diluted quantities, it may compliment other ingredients found in eyewash.  Sulfur is a common mineral found in the human body, especially in hair and nails which adds to the “brimstone” stench when hair and nails are burnt.
o   Saltpeter has antibacterial qualities and was a favored meat preservative in previous centuries. It is also a common ingredient in eye wash.

Eye wash:  Mix a pinch of gunpowder into a dram of warm water.  Add water till it has the subtle saltiness of a tear.  Tilt the head, lift the eyelid, and flush from the corner toward the nose. (See notations on “gunpowder” in the bullets above.)
Earache: Treat similar as insects in ear or nose but use a poultice of roasted onion and flush out with a syringe using a solution of castile soap and water.
•   Onion - contains phytochemicals that boost the immune system and inhibits the harmful effects of substances such as insect venom upon human cell structures.   It also makes an effective element in treating wounds or even earache.
Insects in the ear or nose:  Introduce a few drops of warm “sweet oil” (olive oil).  Either the bug will vacate or drown and the oil soothes the irritation.  Either way, a syringe of warm water will flush everything out.  If you don’t have a syringe, an assistant with a mouth full of warm water and a pipe stem can do the same.
•   Sweet Oil  (Olive Oil) – Has been used in medicine since ancient times. Phytonutrients such as oleocanthal along with various amino acids and antioxidants are highly effective in reducing pain, inflammation, and infection. It is also rich in vitamins A and E to promote healthy tissue regeneration.

Treatment of insect bites:  Apply a fresh slice of onion or a paste of salt.  Another easy treatment is a compress of common clay.

Mosquito and black fly repellent: Crush sage leaves in your hand and wipe it onto the exposed skin that insects may attack.  More effectively a couple drops of pennyroyal or mountain mint (Oregano oil) in with olive oil will ward of these venomous creatures.
•   “Mountain Mint” (Oregano Oil) – is another ancient treatment that is a seemingly amazing panacea. Its high levels of Omega 3 acids and other amino acids give it a strong antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, antifungal, and even anti- parasitic capabilities. It can be consumed orally for head colds or used in treating a variety of infections or as an insect repellent.

Poisonous Snake Bite:
Bite off and chew a portion of Cedron Nut or scrape into a poultice and apply to  the wounds. Make a strong tea of the bean shavings and drink ½ pint of it every 30 minutes for about 6-hours or until the effects are greatly diminished. Another treatment is to pulverize blue indigo and mix with water to make a paste to be used as a poultice. Apply to the wound till the blue color fades, then apply a fresh poultice repeatedly until the effects subside and the indigo stops fading in color.
•   Cedron Bean or Cedron Nut – I was unable to find modern medical research as to which active properties in this nut served as an effective antivenom.  That said, it was a well known treatment in the 19th century and the preceding centuries as well.  Despite its documented usage to much earlier dates, the Central American nut was featured in numerous experiments especially in the late 19th century demonstrating the efficacy of the bean’s ability to negate the toxic effects of venomous snake bites.
•   Blue Indigo – is not water soluble but could be powdered and mixed with water to form a paste to be used as a poultice for venomous snake bites.  It appears that blue indigo is especially potent with high levels of potassium permanganate that  greatly diminish the toxic effects of snake venom. Although modern antivenoms are a  more effective treatment, indigo has verified chemical properties and a long history of serving as a working treatment when others are not at hand.

Sore, blistered feet: Treat them with a mixture of fig lard and flour or chalk. Change to dry socks and rub the soles of the socks with soap for greater relief on the march.
•   Lard / Tallow- contains myristic acid and high levels of unsaturated fats that can both sooth and nourish inflamed skin and muscle tissue. The antiseptic qualities of soap in addition to the lard provide further relief.
Treatment of cough:  1-to-1 mixture of molasses and white wine vinegar.  A stronger version of this concoction involved   40 drops of laudanum to 6 ounces with the afore mentioned cough syrup.  Other cures involve a solution of strong honey with warm water or tea.
•   Vinegar – dates back to ancient times as a form of wound treatment and antiseptic cleansing ingredient.  Although modern medical analysis has downgraded its effectiveness at wound treatment of cleaning human pathogens from surfaces, its antibacterial qualities have been affirmed.  Regardless, It remained a highly effective solution for proper oral hygiene in addition to treating head colds from ancient times to the last century.  Oregano oil in tea or soup is another treatment. (*Note: also see bullets describing molasses.)

Eliminate Gastrointestinal parasites: Sift in a little hardwood (white) ash into your corn meal or flour.  It has been an ancient practice with many American Indian tribes and was first documented by English anthropologists among the Cherokee in the late 1700s. When asked why they added ash to their cornmeal, the Cherokee reply was “It is to kill worms that get into the belly”.
•   Hardwood Ash – is a source of lye when distilled. It can be used in the manufacture of soaps or stronger cleaning solutions also. When the hardwood (white) ash is mixed with meal, it works as an effective vermifuge that poisons parasites living in your gastrointestinal tract. *Note: Coniferous trees and other softwoods do not have an adequate degree of lye in their ash.

Frontiersmen and pioneer travelers are often underestimated by modern historians for their ability to provide an adequate degree of effective medical care.  The reason for this is that research is tedious and the narrative has become inundated by the inaccurate depictions of twentieth century authors and script writers who simply lacked the desire to do the research.    Although modern medical technology now offers more effective methods, it’s nice to know you aren’t completely out of luck should the day come again when the gas no longer flows and electricity is replaced by firelight.



Guns don't kill people; fathers with pretty daughters do.
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