Friday, May 3, 2013

Mother Bickerdyke's Home Remedies

By Robert E. Denney

June, 1864
In Georgia, Mother [Mary Ann] Bickerdyke and Mrs. [Eliza C.] Porter were following Sherman's fifteenth Corps, doing all they could for the sick and wounded. One major problem was the lack of medicines and drugs, since the army made little provision for the treatment of the patients.

This was the period when Bickerdyke's knowledge of botanical medicine came into play. for her, the woods abounded with plants (weeds, to some) that could be used effectively. Blackberries were plentiful, and blackberry cordial could be used to treat diarrhea, Painkillers could be made from the jimsonweed, and heart stimulants from wild cherry and bloodroot. Chigger bites, always a big problem when living in the woods, she treated by rubbing the bite with a bit of wet soap, saying that the scratching was the problem, not the bite.

Bickerdyke wasn't the only one in the South to use "homegrown" remedies. With the blockade of the Southern ports cutting off most of the supply of drugs and other medicines the "old" recipes for specifics were dug out from grandmothers' cookbooks and used liberally. The slaves' medicinal lore was also tapped for treatments. Many of such medicines were very effective.

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded


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