JACKSONPORT, Ark. (AP) - With many community doctors, and their medical supplies, pressed into military service, along with river embargoes cutting off replenishments, Civil War era women of the South were often hard-pressed to provide care for their families at home.
As a result they turned to sources utilized for centuries by European ancestors and Native Americans alike - they used plants and herbs found nearby.
Jacksonport State Park Interpreter Vicki Schoeneweis told The Batesville Daily Guard (https://bit.ly/23ZohqN ) that she regularly uses home-grown herbs and plants, made into compounds and teas, for many common ailments with remarkable success.
A lot of this success is credited with a 200-page, 1859-era medical book given to her by a descendent of Mary Elizabeth Moore-Carrigan who lived in Arkansas during the Civil War.
“She came to Arkansas from North Carolina in 1855 and lived in Hempstead County with her husband, Alfred Holt Carrigan,” Schoeneweis said. “There was much grief and suffering because so many of her family members were being killed in battle, so she used a homemade mood enhancer from rose petals, a fore-runner of modern day antidepressants.”
The tea is still used today for its calming effect, according to Schoeneweis.
“When used for medicinal purposes, highly scented rose petals are required,” she said. “Hybrids and a lot of other types won’t work.”
Another herbal tea remedy from that era, and still used in today’s society for many minor ailments, is tincture of passionflower.
“It’s used to treat exhaustion, muscle cramps, tension headaches and lowers the heart rate and blood pressure,” she said. “It also has a calming affect that helps you to sleep.”
Medicinal flowers and herbs used during the Civil War era and beyond grow wild across Arkansas, according to Schoeneweis.
“Back in the 19th century people thought many diseases came from bad air, so they used assafoetida bags to ward off illness,” Schoeneweis said. “It came in a powder form and was placed in a small muslin bag with a string on it that went around the neck. You may know it as an ‘assafidity bag.’ In fact you may have worn one when you were a kid.”
Assafoetida has the odor of rotten eggs and minced garlic and can be used for cooking, according to Schoeneweis.
“Can you imagine wearing that to school around your friends all day?” she asked. “Lots of people along rivers died of malaria because they didn’t have quinine medicine.”
“Confederate money was worth little at that time, so Mary (Carrigan) took a wagon load of watermelons to town and sold it for $400 (Confederate), but the quinine cost $560.”
“Mary learned to make her own quinine from magnolia tree bark, as well as a few others, and was able to protect her family from malaria,” Schoeneweis said.
As park interpreter at Jacksonport, Schoeneweis said she sometimes dresses in period clothing and displays her “medicine kit” while presenting her medicinal herb/flower program for visitors.
Information from: Batesville Guard, https://www.guardonline.com/
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