Old home remedies knowledge of African slaves 

Page Content
  1. Introduction to old home remedies used by slaves
  2. Distrust of white doctors
  3. Influences from native americans and white people
  4. Remedies used by slaves
  5. More home remedies
Old home remedies

Introduction to old home remedies used by slaves


Many of today's old home remedies owe a lot to African slaves; slaves were displaced people with no wealth and no rights.

Health matters were often a source of contention between slaves and their owners. Slave owners demanded to be told when a slave had sickness.

The reason for this is that the owners wanted to ensure they could exercise their own control over a slave's body.

In a some instances the slave owner would provide the same level of health care as he did for his family and himself.

Some owners would treat slaves themselves or have the overseer or plantation mistress treat slaves using various old home remedies.

Distrust of white doctors


Most of the slaves distrusted white doctors and rightly so. Slaves were often experimented on, for instance

  • Dr Marion Sims considered the daddy of gynecological surgery perfected the method for gynecological surgery on the slaves. He turned the women into drug addicts so he that he could immobilize and sedate them post operatively.
  • Hundreds of slaves in 1800 including 200 of Thomas Jefferson's slaves were given smallpox in order to test how safe the new vaccine was.
  • Dr Thomas Hamilton put slaves in an oven which was open pit, their heads were above ground. This was done in order to test what medication permitted someone to withstand a high temperature.
  • The black slaves preferred to be treated by other blacks or treat themselves. They would often conceal their illnesses even if it meant they would be punished if the slave-owner found out.

Influences from native americans and white people


old home remediesAspects of the slave's medical knowledge came from Native Americans and white people.

Americans Indians and Africans often shared their experiences of slavery.

They shared remedies, myths and legends, lived together in the communal quarters, worked together and produced combined recipes for food, they also intermarried.

African Americans and whites lived together on plantations, their children played together and Black female slaves would often look after the white children.

Remedies used by slaves


Here are some of the old home remedies used by black slaves.

  • Sage (slavia spp.) was used by the slaves as a mouthwash and a sore throat remedy it was also used as a colic remedy for infants.
  • Boneset (eurapatorium perfoliatum) is used for colds.
  • Pennyroyal(Mentha pulegium, hedeoma pulegioides) was used for headaches, reduce fever, relieving pain from toothaches and fighting colds.
  • Dogwood and cherry trees (cornus spp and Prunus serotina) were used for a variety of purposes, dogwood bark and cherry were simmered to create a remedy for fever and chills, dogwood bark was used to make tea to treat malaria.
  • Mustard and wholewheat flour were mixed together with water to make a plaster.
  • Gum turpertine from pine and fir trees were used to treat bronchitis, toothaches and other illnesses.
  • Quinine was used to treat malaria and nighttime muscle cramps.
  • Echinacea was used to make tea to treat cramps. Additionally it was used to treat stomach pain and mixed with whiskey or camphor and bloodroot for joint pain.
  • Elder was used for bladder infections and fevers. Infants wore elder leaves around their neck to prevent teething.
  • Flaxseed was used for mild ailments, like mild indigestion.

In volume XIV of South Carolina narratives, catnip, garlic, tansy and burdock is used by a slave for an unspecified illness. The quote is shown below

"Missus Martha sho' did look after de slaves good when they was sick. Us had medicine made from herbs, leaves and roots; some of them was cat-nip, garlic root, tansy, and roots of burdock.

De roots of burdock soaked in whiskey was mighty good medicine. We dipped asafetida in turpentine and hung it 'round our necks to keep off disease."

More home remedies


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