Tag Archives: remedies

Roaches & garlic

Whiskey and turpentine? Sounds a bit like the homemade cough syrup my mother used to fix for me when I was young. While we’re on the subject of strange prescriptions, here’s an excerpt from a 1930s pamphlet in the Delta and Providence Farm Papers (finding aid), titled, “Why a Doctor is Needed on the Delta Cooperative Farm:”

A baby was born on the Farm. A member of the farm who was a registered mid-wife in the state of Mississippi was in charge of the case. The Mother developed an infection, due, probably, to none too clean instruments. The mid-wife mixed a concoction of roaches and garlic and applied it to the infection.

Was this remedy effective? The pamphlet doesn’t say, though I’m happy to report that the Delta Cooperative Farm was soon joined by physician David R. Minter.

The Turpentine Remedy

The turpentine, as given to patient, G.P. Milton, who died the following day (January 8, 1865)

The turpentine treatment, as given to patient, G.P. Milton, who died the following day (January 8, 1865). From collection #612-z, Southern Historical Collection.

You never know what you’re going to find in our collections. Today, while looking for something totally unrelated, I happened upon a folder with an intriguing title: “Prescription and Diet Book, circa 1800s.” I thought I might have stumbled on some sort of early new age work. So, I started thumbing through.

What I found was that it was a record book, apparently from a Civil War hospital near Greensboro, North Carolina, that listed daily treatments that were given to wounded soldiers and others convalescing during the war.

In this record book are listings for some run of the mill treatments and remedies that were ordered on patients of the hospital such as, “light diet,” “light dressing applied to wound,” or “beef soup.” But then I started seeing some more, shall we say, experimental treatments listed. The regimen given to one particular patient named G. P. Milton was especially striking (see image shown here).

Sunday’s entry: “Rx…Whiskey and Turpentine every 3 hours”

Monday’s entry: “Died Jan. 8, 1865″

I guess turpentine isn’t always good for what ails you. Anyone know if this was once a common treatment? And if so, for which ailment was it usually prescribed? Was it ever successful?

[The item described comes from collection #612-z from the Southern Historical Collection.]