O! Mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones and their true qualities
For naught so vile upon the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give.
(Romeo and Juliet)
olk medicine, home remedies or "old
time cures" are often looked upon
askance. Nevertheless, a consideration
* of them can be tantalizing and pun-
gently stir our imaginations. In the present day
of polypharmacy, double blind studies, govern-
mental controls of drugs and the fierce com-
petition between pharmaceutical houses, it seems
worthwhile to look back at some of the remedies
of the past and how some of these have evolved
into useful drugs. Others are still in use in our
communities in their pristine forms.
Of Yesterday and Today
Folk Medicine of the Past
Max Michael Jr., M.D.
Mark V. Barrow, M.D.
Since man's beginning, plants have provided
the medicinal remedies for the human race. With
his civilization and enlightenment, man produced
the herbals which contained the cure-alls of man-
kind. The Bible contains abundant references to
the use of herbals for treatment and for preven-
tion of disease. The structure of even the modern
pharmacopoeia is still based on historical knowl-
edge of flowers, herbs, plants and trees and how
they may be developed into stimulants, tonics,
diaphoretics, emetics, cathartics, astringents, car-
minatives, poultices, diuretics, demulcents, anti-
pyretics and the like.
Since most of the "sure cures" of the famous
herbalists and the old time family remedies have
gradually and steadily disappeared from the phar-
macopoeias, one wonders if these old time
remedies-these roots and herbs-were based on
theoretical grounds almost entirely erroneous and
were no more than grand illusions aided at times
by charlatanry. As Kipling stated,
Wonderful little when all is said
Wonderful little our fathers knew
Half their remedies cured you dead
Most of their teaching was quite untrue.
Most folk medicines, although highly recom-
mended, likely had no base in fact whatsoever.
From Jacksonville Hospitals Educational Program and Depart-
ment of Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine,
Volume 54/Number 8
WARING: JOHN MOULTRIE JR., M.D.
elected in the intestines flushed out and all these
parts fomented, but in addition the emollients and
antiphlogistics received in the intestines are
absorbed by the relaxed and cleansed tiny mouths
of the mesenteric veins and thus become thorough-
ly mixed with the blood; whence is obtained the
best and swiftest dilution of the same. . ."
". . And since the patient suffers from
nausea and continuous vomiting, frequent bland
enemas, viz, from roots of marshmallow (altheae),
leaves of mallow, barley seeds, seeds of oats, rice
with nitrate cooked in milk with kitchen sugar,
injected three or four times a day and retained in
the body to the extent that is comfortably pos-
sible, are in the highest degree conducive to
nourishing the body while ailments taken through
the mouth are being rejected through continuous
"The bowel should be cautiously bound, for
otherwise nature, from weakness, will not be able
to hold out to the end of the disease. For checking
the bowel, therefore, I think it best to experiment
with mixture (B); and if it does not have the
desired effect, then only must anodynes be em-
ployed, and they must first be injected in enema
(C) since it takes effect very swiftly; and if these
also should fail to bind the bowel, then I would
prescribe a bolus (D) by drinking additionally a
spirituous draught composed of aromatics, this to
be repeated for as long as may be necessary while
at the same time the use of mixture (A) must be
discontinued,* I have heard that the doctor whom
I have recently mentioned quite successfully em-
ployed 'Sachar. Saturn.' in small doses, which is
probable, inasmuch as it is very astringent and
I believe that it is very useful in checking
diarrhoea. I should therefore use boluses (E) if
the bowel could not otherwise be bound. The
patient very often suffers from continuous vomit-
ing for the checking of which I have seen nothing
better than mixture (F) if only he take nourish-
ment in small amount but often, lest the stomach
". .If there should be fear of prostration of
strength [resulting] from an excessive flow [of
blood], then a styptic, e. g., cold water, vinegar,
spirit of vitriol diluted with water, or (G) must
be employed to check it. .."
*The remedies prescribed by Dr. Moultrie were basically (A)
Barley and potassium nitrate, (B) Gambir and "crabs eyes" in
wine. (C) Mallow, camomile, and juniper as an emollient and
carminative mixture, (D) Theriac, a shotgun panacea of the time
containing opium, (E) Acetate of lead, an astringent, (F)
Wormwood, a substance used for intermittent fever before
cinchona was known, G) Alum, lead acetate, and (H) vitriol,
ascending in quality as astringents.
"If in this stage of the disease any signs
indicate the presence of gangrene, it is all over;
for I have noted that nothing does any good.
Peruvian bark may possibly be administered, but
I have never seen anyone get well after the spread
"The bark is indeed very efficacious for stifling
gangrenes and arresting their spread if annoying
vomiting does not ensue, but it is hard to keep
down without nausea. I would use perhaps
decoction (H) as an extract, since the size of the
dose is rather small and therefore more easily
retained in the stomach. .. ."
"To conclude; Let me advise foreigners in-
tending to depart for these hot regions to protect
themselves with the utmost care against the heat
of the sun and the cool night air. Let their food
be light and cooling, especially acid inasmuch as
the acrimony of the fluids is thereby regulated-
let them avoid as far as possible all alkalescents
and spirituous substances, which inflame the
juices of the body and make them more alkalescent
and therefore more susceptible not only to this but
also to other diseases peculiar to these regions.
Finally, let them avoid excessive exertion and
always keep the perspiration free flowing, for in
this way are expelled the very alkalescent and
sharp particles which, if detained, might through
acrimony engender diseases.
"Thus, as I hope. they will escape this most
loathsome disease, which, with their particular
advantage in mind, I have attempted to touch
upon, ad nauseam perhaps, yet to the best of
Thus Moultrie described from first hand ex-
perience a disease which was to be for many
years of major concern in America and elsewhere.
His observations are clear, his treatrrent conserva-
tive in the light of his times. His thesis might be
considered as a valuable summary of the knowl-
edge of the time, and a useful manual of practical
1. Tosent, I. W n'rine : A Histnrv, of Ve lr'ne in Soiutl
Carolina 1670-1825-p. 268. Columbia. The South Carolina
Medical Association, 1964.
2 Eleanor W. Townsend: John Mooltrie. Jr M D) 1729-1798
Ann Med. Hist. 3rd Series 11:98:109.
3. U'eher das gelhe fleher. mit zusaten unl, ;nmertungen-von
Karl Paulus (Bamberg and Wurzburg 1805).
4 Traite de la fievre jaune. Trad. par M. Aulagnier (Paris
5. Rene LaRoche: Yellow fever. 2 vols. hilala., Blanchard
and Lea 1855).
For the translation of Moultrie's tlesis, the author is
indebted to Mr. Maurice McLaughlin of the Porter-Gaud School
)Dr. Waring, 80 Barre Street, Charleston, S.C.
J. Florida M.A./August, 1967
MICHAEL and BARROW: OLD TIME REMEDIES
Nevertheless, the haunting fact remains that the
herb doctor did at times employ many plants
whose physiologic actions, though obscure, were
real, even potent, and which are not infrequently
still employed. An even more challenging thought
is that perhaps many useful herbs go unrecognized
waiting for fate, serendipity, or less likely, science,
to intervene and discover the long held secret.
Lacking the so-called therapeutic sophistica-
tion of today, the pioneers, both lay and medical,,
resorted to empiricism. Treatment was directed
toward symptoms. In spite of our decisions at
such practices, it is prudent to recall, indeed with
a sobering mien, several examples of folk remedies
which have evolved to play a dominant role in
medical practice even today.
William Withering, a student of botany, learn-
ed in 1775 of a family secret guarded "by an old
woman in Shropshire" with which dropsy could be
"cured." That this family was not the sole posses-
sor of the powers of the fox glove was apparent
for Withering knew it to be an old wives' remedy
in Yorkshire. In fact, he came across "a travelling
Yorkshire tradesman who was vomiting, his vision
indistinct and his pulse forty to the minute be-
cause his wife made him drink a too concentrated
brew of fox gloves leaves." Although the old
woman of Shropshire brewed her potion out of 20
different herbs, Withering wrote: "It was not very
difficult for one conversant in these subjects to
perceive that the active herb could be none other
than the fox glove."
Quinine is another remedy which probably
did as much as any single medical discovery to
alter the course of history. Its derivation from
cinchona bark and discovery by Indians are well
Still another equally fascinating tale is the dis-
covery of Rauwolfia serpentina by two Dutchmen
in 1887. This medication was widely used in
India in ancient times but reached modern phar-
macognosy only recently. Finally, the introduction
of the bark of the willow tree (salix) for treatment
of rheumatism by the Rev. Edward Stone in 1763
ultimately led to the purification of salicylic acid
and later the production of aspirin.1
Even though the modern pharmacists' shelves
contain a bewildering number of drugs of which
an astounding proportion have been introduced
within recent decades, folk medicine is not dead.
It is still practiced throughout the world, the
United States and the state of Florida.
It is difficult to pinpoint any remedies or modes
of treatment originating in Florida. Many were
brought by early settlers from territories to the
north and some were undoubtedly learned from
the Indians. Perhaps some originated here when
it was necessary to turn to sources at hand-the
flora of a region-to relieve suffering.
During the Civil War, Francis P. Porcher pre-
pared a "Brief Note of Easily Procurable Medi-
cinal Plants to be collected by soldiers in any part
of the Southern States."2 With one man detailed
from each company and regiment, a fresh supply
of these herbs was made available for use of the
Surgeon "at less trouble and expense than if it
was produced by the Medical Purveyors."
A few quotes and recommendations regarding
several of these merit note:
Wild jalop-If this can be found it can be used
as a laxative in place of rhubarb or jalop, or
wherever a purgative is required. Every planter
in the Southern States can produce the opium,
mustard and flax seed that is needed for home
Blackberry Root-A decoction will check profuse
diarrheas of any kind. The root of the Chinqua-
pin is also astringent.
Thoroughwort, Bone-set- . drank hot during
the cold stage of fever, and cold as tonic and
antiperiodic, is thought by many physicians to
be even superior to the Dogwood, Willow or
Poplar as a substitute for quinine. It is quite suf-
ficient in the management of many of the malar-
ial fevers that will prevail among troops during
the warm months.
Sassafras . whenever a soldier suffered from
measles, pneumonia, bronchitis or cold, his com-
panion or nurse was directed to procure the roots
and leaves of Sassafras and make a tea.
In describing Gentian and other tonics, Porcher
admonished, "It is not intended that a blind or
exclusive reliance should be placed upon them-
but they are recommended to supply a great and
Thus, even though the prescriber cast some
doubt as to the efficacies, it takes no stretch of the
imagination to visualize the returning Johnny Reb
recounting the tales of cures he witnessed and im-
planting into his culture additional old time
It seems that the search for cures for disease
in the environmental flora has been the chief fac-
tor dictating what was used. Indeed, the Rev. Mr.
Stone used the Willow bark for rheumatism which
J. Florida M.A./August, 1967
MICHAEL and BARROW: OLD TIME REMEDIES
was seen most often in persons living in low wet
areas because he thought that "God in His mercy
had certainly placed in these areas some antidotes
for the pain." This approach is not too dissimilar
to that which is presently used in seeking new
drugs, particularly antibiotics.
Records of many of the folk remedies used in
pioneer days in Florida are available and as will
be seen later many of the remedies still are in use.
A Civil War "receipt to cure the dropsy" was re-
cently found.: It contained eight simples (a single
remedy) consisting of a mixture of Jallop (a pur-
gative), Gambouge (a cathartic and diuretic), Sol
Nitre (a diuretic and diaphoretic), Socret of Al-
lows (a purgative) and medical Coperas (a pur-
gative) to be taken along with a second concoction
consisting of Sweet Spirits of Nitre (a diaphore-
tic),, Buech (a diaphoretic and diuretic) and Bal-
sam Copeovia (a cathartic and diuretic). It is no
wonder the "dropsy" might improve with all the
cathartics, diuretics and diaphoretics purported
to be in these preparations. The recipe ends with
the comment, "If the pulse is very high, give about
25 drops of the tincture of Digutallice every day
to regulate them."
Spider web pills and rusty nail tinctures had
their place in most homes of the last century along
with numerous plants gathered by persons taught
by word of mouth through several operations.4
Bone-set tea was good for fevers-Jimson weed
for itch, asthma and rheumatism. Sage of Sassa-
fras tea was good for "breaking out" measles,
mint brought "warmth to the stomach," a tincture
of rusty nails helped to bring the color back to
pale faces and various remedies improved vitality
and aided in the prevention of aging. Thus one
homespun poet said:
May friendship and truth
Be with you in youth
And catnip and sage
Cheer up your old age.
Folk Medicine Practiced Today
Folk practices are more apt to be noted nowa-
days among the farm folk and among those of a
lower socioeconomic stratum. The recent upsurge
of publications such as "Folk Medicine in Ver-
mont," "Green Medicine" and "Herbal" have
heralded renewed interest in this area once thought
to be so important. The reason for this awakened
interest is not clear; perhaps historians have
whetted interest, perhaps the romance of the dream
of seeing herb seekers in foreign jungles and on
distant prairies has been enticing or perhaps there
is again the desire to get somewhat away from the
synthetics and back down to earth and its prod-
ucts. Whatever the reasons, the interest is real.
Recently a social worker at the University of
Florida, Alice H. Murphree, obtained a list of
some 40 herbs used today in a rural area.5 In the
process of obtaining a base line survey of health
resources in Lafayette County, located in north-
west Florida, she had the unique opportunity of
interviewing at length some 70 households, many
of which contained "old timers." Since no hos-
pital is located in this county, the scientific and
medical care consists of regular attendance of a
public health nurse along with a public health
physician manning a clinic once weekly. Thus resi-
dents are either forced to travel outside this coun-
ty or to resort to other means ol medical care such
as utilizing old fashioned remedies of their par-
ents and grandparents today: frequently, reliance
is placed upon the latter.
As an aside and because of parenthetical inter-
est, Mrs. Murphree frequently asked her inter-
viewees about old time remedies of folk medicine
and perhaps surprisingly noted that all residents
knew about these remedies and most had or were
having personal experience with them. Not only
were the common names and uses of a wide vari-
ety of local herbs obtained but on a return visit
she acquired from the residents samples of these
medicinal plants and later had them identified at
the Herbarium at the University of Florida. All
of these herbs were from the local environment.
Most were "sworn by" by more than one person
and most had been used in recent years; frequent-
ly the specific ingredients and correct dosages were
limited to some of the oldest informers.
We have taken the names of these plants and
arranged them in alphabetical order according to
their scientific name, listed their uses according
to the Lafayette County residents in one column
and the usefulness as described in several bulle-
tins, pharmacopoeias, herbals and botanical texts
in another (table 1). Virtually all the families
interviewed had little access to herbals and other
publications on the medicinal plants; furthermore,
they invariably volunteered that the knowledge
was passed to them by word of mouth for several
generations. Of the 40 plants, 22 show a surpris-
ing correlation between modern folk usage and the
Volume 54/Number 8
MICHAEL and BARROW: OLD TIME REMEDIES
purported usage according to various so-called
scientific publications containing information
about them. Eighteen others, including Milkweed
(Asclepias humis grata) for warts; several grasses
and vegetables for fevers, infections and rheuma-
tisms; Sting nettle (Cnidostulis stomulosus) tea as
a sexual stimulant; Rabbit tobacco (Eriogomum
tomentosum) for asthma; Life everlasting (Gna-
thalium purpureum) an "indian snakebite reme-
dy" and the common prickly pear used as poul-
tices for cuts, sores and bruises, had no counter-
part in material available to us.
A pamphlet prepared by Johnson in 1960 de-
scribes important medicinal plants in Florida con-
taining 53 "major" plants among them such as
Discoria (an acid resin that increases flow of
urine), Cajeput, Storax exudatee of the sweet gum
tree used in various products for treatment of
colds) and Ginseng (used as a stimulant because
of its glucosidal content).6 This was written in
response to "the continued interest of Floridians
in gathering or collecting medicinal plants for pos-
sible profit" and outlines methods of collection,
culture, gathering and drying of these wild species.
This limited survey of folk remedies makes no
pretense at completeness. It is hoped it will whet
the readers' appetites to inquire more about such
remedies from their patients both out of interest
and perhaps as an aid or indeed as a contributing
factor to their illness.
Other Folk Customs of Today
Besides remedies there is a variety of other
beliefs and customs practiced today. We wish to
point out a few of these so-called "old wives'
tales" that can still be encountered. A tour of the
wards of a hospital which has patients from the
lower socioeconomic level and those of a rather
primitive culture often will uncover some rather
startling and humorous customs. We have ob-
served many of these ourselves and are indebted
to several other observers for passing some on
When the home remedy she had used failed
to relieve symptoms of a 40 year old Negro woman
with jaundice of three weeks duration, she sought
hospitalization. This potion which she learned
from "a neighbor lady" was made by placing nine
large rusty nails, all of the same size, in a pint
of whiskey. After standing over night, the remedy
was ready for use. It was to be taken in doses of
one teaspoonful three times a day, although the
informant admitted that often the dose was larger.
The type of whiskey made no apparent difference;
however, "shine" was to be preferred.
Although most areas of Florida are devoid of
clay, eating of this earth is still practiced by a
large segment of the population. Where this began
and what it was to do are difficult to pin down.
Perhaps this form of pica supplied some magic
missing elements. It is not, however, without
harm, for clay eating interferes with iron absorp-
tion and can contribute to iron deficiency anemia.
In children, dirt is frequently fed for the rather
startling reason of "treating the worms."
Starch eating is also a not uncommon practice.
To the children, it is fed for indigestion and to
adults for an easier and less complicated pregnan-
cy. Often the user becomes "addicted" to the
practice and continues to ingest several boxes a
day. It is interesting that it does not seem to
result in obesity. Closely allied to this custom is
the practice now seen principally in the more rural
areas of placing a sharp axe under the bed to cut
the pains of labor.
The ritualistic nature of many of the remedies
is typified by the following recommended treat-
ment for asthma. Eleven red ants are placed in a
can nailed above the door to the dwelling. Eleven
days later the victim returns and says the Twenty-
Third Psalm. Undoubtedly the anxiety of the
protracted wait results in an excessive endogenous
production of adrenal steroids.
The twisted copper wire around the joint for
the relief of arthritic symptoms is still a rather
commonplace phenomenon in certain cultural
groups. Many a physician has been startled the
first time he observes a filthy string braided in a
mysterious fashion around the waist. Adding to
the unaesthetic qualities is the generous applica-
tion of kerosene to the amulet. One would assume
this to be suitable for abdominal ills only, yet such
is not the case; it is good for a variety of symp-
toms, signs and syndromes. The origin of this
custom is hidden somewhere in the distant past,
yet it takes little imagination to see the similarity
to certain tribal voodoos of Africa.
An isolated observation at the Duval Medical
Center several years ago was fascinating but frus-
trating to pursue. A 25 year old Negro man was
being managed in the outpatient department for
diabetes. Attempts at control were fruitless; he
J. Florida M.A./August, 1967
Table 1.-Florida Folk Medicines With Some Possible Scientific Bases
2. Virginia snake plant
5. Jerusalem Oak
6. Gopher Grass
7. Dog Fennel
8. Low Bush Myrtle
11. Poke Plant
12. Wild Cherry
13. Black Root
14. Red or Post Oak
15. Trumpet Plant
18. Queen's Delight
19. Deer Tongue
22. Prickly Ash
Usefulness According to Residents of Lafayette County
"Roasted onion juice in ear ache"
"Tea to purify or build up the blood"
"Wilted leaves draw out poison"
"Root in whiskey for dropsy"
"Roots boiled and candy syrup given each spring"
"Tea stops fever and for gout"
"Tea from roots will sweat off fever"
"Tea good to maintain labor"
"Tea for colic or hives"
"Sap stops bleeding; resin for boils"
"Root tea good for ground itch"
"Boiled gum syrup good for cough"
"Tea from roots cause abortion"
"Tea from bark good for colitis or ulcer"
"Tea from root for indigestion or diarrhea"
"Tea from roots; poultice for erysipilis"
"Tea from roots builds up the blood and in measles"
"Tea from root to purify the blood"
"Pillow of leaves for asthma"
"Tea from leaves good for feet swelling"
"Tea from dried plant a good blood tonic"
"Root tea clears V. D."
Usefulness According to Publications**
Roasted onion juice antiseptic; useful in ear ache
A tonic, stimulant tonic, antitumor activity
Breaks open carbuncles
Contains glucoside cephalanthine
Contains an antihelminthic, chenopodium oil
A fever grass
Contains a bitter principle, eupatorin, which is a diaphoretic
A stimulant and astringent producing coughing and sneezing
Contains tannin and a volatile oil useful in colic
Controls passive hemorrhages and is antiseptic
A poultice used by Indians, contains a toxic alkaloid, stimulates plasma cell production
Contains amygdalin which yields hydrocyanic acid, a sedative for coughs
Used by Indians as a drastic purgative
Contains tannic acid and is astringent, good for diarrhea
Used by Indians for dyspepsia
Used by Indians for wounds and topically for skin conditions
Used by Indians for syphilis and for febrile diseases
Contains a volatile oil, sylvacrol, which purifies blood and cures syphilis and purges
Contains Coumarin, a flavoring, a demulcent and diaphoretic
Contains volatile oils and mucilage, a good demulcent
Contains Vinblastine and Vincristine used in Hodgkin's
Contains alkaloids and phenolic compounds including berberine; useful for syphilis
*Scientific name (numbers refer to numbers listed under "Common Name")
7. Euputorium compositifoiium
8. Myrica ceritera
9. Nepetia cataria
10. Pinus elliottii
11. Phytolacca americum
12. Prunus serotina
13. Pterocauion unduiatum
14. Quercus falcuta or margaretta
15. Sarracenia minor
16. Rhus copallina
17. Sassafras albidum
18. Stillingia sylvatica
19. Triiisa odoratissima
20. Verbascum thrapsus
21. Vinca major
22. Xanthoxlan clara-hercules
**(6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)
MICHAEL and BARROW: OLD TIME REMEDIES
had no infections and to the best belief of the
attending physician he was following instructions
scrupulously. For some two months, however, his
diabetes was out of control until he arrived at the
clinic one day with a normal fasting sugar and
maintained seemingly good control for several
weeks thereafter. To supplement his insulin injec-
tions, he thrice daily ingested a tea brewed from
Spanish moss. Attempts to induce hypoglycemic
effect in rats with an infusion of moss produced
equivocal results, although it is quite possible that
the technique of manufacture in the laboratory did
not meet the rigorous standards of the patient's
grandmother who supplied him with his tea. Inter-
estingly enough, we have been able to find little
mention of folk remedies using Spanish moss.
A ward supervisor of a pediatric service in a
busy county hospital has supplied us with customs
that are still seen in patients admitted to her floor.
The asafetida bag worn around the neck to ward
off infections, particularly colds, is still seen. A
tea brewed out of eggshells will flush poisons out
of the kidney. Turpentine with sugar and kerosene
taken orally are good for colds and respiratory in-
fections. A small crisis occurred a few months ago
when a child was to be taken to surgery. Around
his neck was a snail shell attached firmly to a
string. The mother objected strenuously to hav-
ing this object removed for this would surely ward
off bad omens. It is not certain whether the sur-
geon himself or the operation was the evil spirit.
An interesting feature that one of our inform-
ants passed on to us was that within the past dec-
ade she sees these old time remedies and cus-
toms used much less than in the past. It is her
belief that this change is taking place because the
younger mothers are more educated; they take
their children to physicians more frequently rather
than listen to the old wives' tales. Nevertheless,
these old customs do persist.
Still observed is the string tied around the
ankles carefully threaded through a shiny dime.
This is good not only for all ills but it serves as
a preventive measure for disease in general. An-
other nonmedicinal, though perhaps preventive,
use of string is that tied in nine knots around the
waist of the woman who thinks her husband is
wandering. This will allegedly deter such pere-
grinations. These, the rabbit's foot or the buck-
eye carried in the left pocket, do not truly belong
in the class of herbals or old time remedies, but
are best considered good luck charms or preven-
One could conjecture that some of our so-called
modern preventive such as the bacterial cold vac-
cine are not much different from the dime worn
around the ankle since this was heartily endorsed
on faith without proof.
A practical nurse told us of the application of
poinsettia leaves to the head to cure headache;
although she told this as an old time remedy she
quickly asserted, "It does work." What one does
in the winter when there are no such leaves in the
northern part of Florida could not be ascertained.
A dried tooth worn on a string around the
baby's neck helps with his teething. During preg-
nancy, the mother eats magnesia in cake form
to give the baby good strong bones. The taking
of a teaspoon of nutmeg a day helps to keep the
complexion clear. The recent knowledge of this
being an hallucinogenic agent makes one wonder
of the result of such use.
Most of these remedies are superstitions based
largely on word of mouth efficacy and utilizing
materials usually found in the community. The
traditional sulphur and molasses in the springtime
and sassafras tea are others of the "ancient" rem-
edies that are still in use. It is fascinating to learn
that recently introduced materials can be rapidly
adopted into the folklore. For example, in certain
families if disposable paper diapers are used for
the infants, these are to be discarded and not
burned since burning the diapers "will cause the
baby to develop a diaper rash."
Spider webs have been used in the form of pills
for various ills and locally applied to aid with
wound healing. Only recently in one of our mod-
ern community hospitals an obstetrician who was
discharging a patient whom he had delivered in-
formed her that he had circumcised the baby. He
admonished her to use only vaseline. "No spider
webs and no soot," he reminded her.
There is little question but that folk medicine
is a dying art, perhaps rightfully so. But who can
say that tomorrow Virginia snake root, Button-
wood, Spanish moss, Bush myrtle, Queen's delight
or prickly ash will not be found on purification or
slight alteration to contain some specific and po-
tent compound? Vincristine from periwinkle has
come about in recent months. What lies in the
J. Florida M.A./August, 1967
MICHAEL and BARROW: OLD TIME REMEDIES
future for other old remedies with such awe-in-
It cannot be denied, however, that folk reme-
dies have yielded potent therapeutic weapons
when one remembers the instances of digitalis and
other drugs cited earlier in this presentation. That
most of the remedies of the past and most of the
present are without scientific foundation is prob-
able. That there are traces of some compounds in
many of the folk remedies which have appropriate
pharmaceutical effects is also known. Before one
closes his mind to all folk remedies and looks on
them with derision, therefore, he must reckon with
the fact that some indeed may be efficacious.
But just as many of these old drugs have
become looked upon as useless., so many of our
present so-called specific medications may well be
looked upon as useless placebos by the physicians
of years to come. The wholesale removal of organs
to alleviate focii of infection," the widespread
administration of thyroid extract for treatment of
all kinds of obesity, the routine removal of tonsils
to help the child with his growth, the application
of mustard plasters for pleurisy, the lavage of the
renal pelvis with potassium permanganate for pye-
lonephritis, the changing dietary fads in manage-
ment of cirrhosis of the liver, the use of bile salts
to dissolve gallstones and .barium chloride for
Stokes-Adams attacks, the radiation of the thymus
in young children to prevent "status thymicolym-
phaticus" are but a few examples of once well
accepted forms of treatment no longer in use which
have completed their cycle. Santayana laconically
stated, "He who does not know history is con-
demned to repeat it." Such a frame of mind would
help us to be more critical of some of our so-called
therapeutic triumphs as well as to keep an open
mind regarding new approaches as we look back
with a sobering thought to folklore medicine of
the past and examine that of the present.
I. D)hos, Rene: Mirage' of Health. New York. Iarper ;n I
2. Porcher, Francis Peyre: Resou ces of the Southert Fields
and Forests, Charleston, Walker. Evans and Cogswell.
3. Barrow, M. V. : A Civil War Perid "Home Remedy" for
the Treatment of "Dropsy," Bull. Hist. Med. 40:376-378
4. Cash. LeMoyne, in Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville.
November 27, 1950.
5 Murphrce, .\lice 11.: Folk Medicine in Florida: Remedies
IU'sing P'lants. Florida A\nthrol oogi t 18:175. 19t5.
Johnson. C. H : Important Mtdicmal Plaits If Florida.
Tallahassee, Bull. no. 14, Department of Agriculture. State
If Floridla. 19(60.
7 ehncr, E., and Lehner. J.: Folliole and i d sev s of Food
and Medicinal Plants. New Yor ,. "udor lPnubi Co.. 1062.
8. Krutch, J. VW H erhal, New York, G. P. utnam's Sons.
SLloyd, J U.: Phl]tarmacopcial V ge able lDrug Cincinnati.
O(hit. Caxton Press, 1929.
I) Jhnson. I.: A Manual of medicall Itotanv in North
\merilca. New York. \V. m. too,1 ald ('o. 1SS4
11. (rieve, M.: A Modern Ilerial. Neww York. Iatrconrt Brace
and Co., 1931
12. Kreig, M. I : Greien Me.licine: Th, Search for P'lants that
Ileal. Chicao. Rand McNalty nd Co, 190s4
13. Kraemer. H.: A T'rextlook of Bttany and IPliarni.acognosy,
Philadelphia, J. 1. Lippincott a:id -o., 1907.
14 Allport. N L.: The Chenrstrv ind Phiarmacy of V ectalle
Drug. Brooklyn. New York. Chemical Pub ( o.. nc 1944
15 West, (.: Poisonous Plantts ar, ind the llTne, (Gainesville.
Blnl. no. 175A. Agricultural Etenaion Service., university
of Florida. 1964.
16. Barker, E. E.; Farnes, P., ard LaMarche, P. II.:
Haematological Effects of Pokeword, Lancet 1:437. 1967.
17. West. E., and Emmel. M W. Plants that Poison Farm
Animals. Gainesville, Bull. no 5 IA., agriculturall Ex-
teision Service, Iniversity of Flo-ida. 1960
) Dr. Michael, 2000 Jefferson Street, Jacksonville
Draft Dodger-Circa 1875
The drafted man obeys his summons to appear before the board of enrollment unwillingly; he
shrewdly revolves in his mind all the probable avenues of escape; and, after a day's work of exami-
nation, the surgeon is led to exclaim with Falstaff, "Lord! how this world is given to lying!" The
drafted man wears a truss for an imaginary hernia; he complains of pain in the side and haemop-
tysis in a chest where the respiratory murmur is as distinct as the rustling of :he leaves of autumn
in a windy day. He has kidney disease, but his complexion is ruddy and his muscles are as hard and
elastic as those of a gymnast. He is deaf, or was so last week or last year, and is fearful of a relapse.
His poor liver (if he but knew the technical names, it would be fatty, cirrhosed or hepatized) is dis-
eased, and yet he supports a large family by his daily toil. He has rheumatism in every joint; has
weak eyes, dyspepsia, asthma; and even confesses himself a degraded onanist from his youth up,
in order to evade the peremptory mandate. To substantiate these claims by corroborative evidence,
he produces long and wearisome affidavits from his good natured family physician and his sympath-
izing friends. He stands before you forswearing his strength, his virility, his manhood, and, with a
countenance more expressive of fear than that of many a gallows-sentenced krave, he endeavors to
evade the just service which fealty and loyalty demand of him in his country's cause.
Submitted by Joseph 11. Davis, M.D, Dade County Medical Examiner, from "Baxter, J. 11, Statistics. Medical and Anthropolog-
ical, of the .Provost-Marshal-General's Bureau, Derived from Records of the Examination for the Mihtarv Service in the Armies
of the United States During the Iate War of the Rebellion, of Over a Million Recruits. Drafted Men. Substitutes. and Enrolled
Men," Volume I, Page 257, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1875.
Volume 54/Number 8
STOVER: MENTAL HEALTH
work toward having at least a minimum. This
goal has not been accomplished yet in all Florida
counties, but progress has been made. There are,
for example, at present more than 1,000 beds in
general hospitals for the care and treatment of
the mentally ill. Following the passage of laws
in the Congress appropriating money to be match-
ed by the state and counties for clinics, Florida
began to establish child guidance clinics, which
now number more than 25. These facilities have
preceded and have brought about a realization on
the part of the public that more complete com-
munity facilities should be available, and that
all those possible should be cared for and treated
in their community rather than sent to a state
hospital. Thus, at the present time, in various
stages of building and planning, eight community
mental health centers are approved in the state.
Only a few years back, there were few psychia-
trists in Florida and no provision was made for
the training of psychiatrists and members of ancil-
lary professions in the state until the 1950's.
Florida State University had a School of Social
Work and the universities throughout the state
had departments of psychology but few physi-
cians in the discipline of psychiatry practiced
within the boundaries of Florida. The first Florida
medical school was not established until the
1950's, and until the building of the institute at
Jackson Memorial Hospital, no training for psy-
chiatrists was available within the state.
It is a paradox that often the legislature has
appropriated money requested by state mental
institutions to provide for sufficient, or at least
additional, staff positions only to have that money
return to the General Fund of the state when these
positions could not be filled, rather than remain
with the institutions to be used for other needs
such as better food, housing or rehabilitation, be-
cause the present law, unchanged since Florida's
beginning, states that appropriated money must
be used only during the time for which it was ap-
propriated and only for that purpose for which
it was budgeted.
On January 1, 1885, State Comptroller Wil-
liam R. Barnes in his report to the legislature
said, "It will be seen that the number of these
unfortunates to be cared for by the State is in-
creasing rapidly . .These extraordinary expendi-
tures, exceeding the appropriation by $10,000,
were necessary to the comfort and safe-keeping
of the patients, and the deficiency asked for, for
the purpose of meeting them, will doubtless be
cheerfully supplied by the representatives of the
people." These "extraordinary expenditures" as
far as could be ascertained, were for repairs to
delapidated buildings so that patients would not
be harmed. A review of the facts would not indi-
cate that any sum of money was "cheerfully sup-
plied." The requests to the legislature for the
most part were for more and more building and
the absolute minimum for food, clothing, housing
and so forth. A review of some of the expendi-
tures in the superintendent's reports is a guide to
this. In 1938-39, for the expenditures at the Flor-
ida State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee, the
superintendent lists 34.5c for food., 21% for
capital expenditures, 17.9% for housing expense
and 11.6% for medical expense. This 11.6% we
must assume was for physical and mental treat-
ment of the patients and for physical treatment
of the staff. The 1939-40 report shows 40.2% for
food, 23.3% for housing and 14.3% for medical
expense. For the most part, a search of the super-
intendent's reports will show that a small percent-
age of funds was spent to help the patient be
cured of his mental disease. This leads one to
wonder if the underlying reason for a state mental
hospital, until recent years at least, has been that
of an isolated place to put people with mental
illness where society does not have to worry about
them, rather than being, in any real sense, a hos-
pital for the care and treatment of the mentally
My thanks go to Miss Lewella Ashburn Jones; the staff
in the office of the Secretary of State, Tom Adams; the
superintendents of the hospitals; Dr. W. D. R,,gers, Director,
Division of Mental Health, State of Florida; Mr. John Redstrom,
PI'hlir Relations Director. Florida Association for Mental Health.
and all others who gave of their time and knowledge in helping
in the research for the writing of this history.
)Mrs. Stover, 6145 S.W. 92nd Street, Miami
J. Florida M.A./August, 1967
Fee Bill of 1792
Medical Society of South Carolina
For a vomit or a purge, each ............. .............. 1 6
For mixtures, decoctions or infusions in phials, each .......... 0 5 0
For powders according to their number and qualities each,
from 1 to .......................................... 1 6
For pills by the dose ....................................... o 1 0
For boluses, draughts, and other active medicines
taken at once, each ................................. 0 3 0
For Blistering plasters according to size, each from 2 4 to .... 0 4 8
For electuaries by the gallipot ............................ 0 7 6
For a visit in the city in the day ............................ 0 5 0
For a requested visit after it is dark ......................... 0 10 0
For rising out of bed and visiting according to the
weather and other circumstances, from 1. to ............ 2 0 0
For medical advice or opinions given by letter or otherwise,
according to the difficulty of the case, from one guinea
to three guineas
For consultations ........................... .............. 3 5 5
For dressing sores according to circumstances, from 1. to ....... 0 3 6
For extracting a tooth from a white person ................... 0 9 4
For extracting a tooth from a slave .......................... 0 4 8
For bleeding a white person ............................ .0 9 4
For bleeding a slave ....................................... 0 4 8
For cutting an issue, inserting a seton, or opening an abscess, each 0 15 0
For reducing dislocation of the small joints, from 10 to ...... 1 ( 0
For reducing dislocations of the large joints, from 40 to ........ 5 0 0
For setting fractured bones, from 20. to ..................... 5 0 0
For cutting for the fistula in ano ............................ 5 0 0
For amputating a finger or toe ........... .................. 1 0 0
For amputating the large limbs, from 5 to ................. 7 0 0
For the operation of the trepan ............................ 10 0 0
For all other operations in surgery, in a relative proportion
to the preceding.
Volume 54/Number 8