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Medicines of the 1800's


of the 1800s.King of the “standards” was turpentine, a product of the pine forests. On every mantel board, be it ramshackle cabin or pillared mansion, turpentine occupied a place of medicinal leadership. It was the universal medicine. Long before Louis Pasteur established his germ theory, southerners were combating infections with turpentine and pine resin. Everything from a cut finger to worms, backache, kidney trouble, sore throat, rheumatism, croup, pneumonia, toothache, and earache was treated with this cheap native antiseptic. Children with colds gagged at heaping spoons of sugar dampened down with it. Turpentine had three important medicinal requisites: It smelled and tasted bad, and burned like the woods on fire. Southern kidneys paid a heavy price for its frequent use.

There were scores of other medicines, such as Epsom salts, saltpeter, copperas, sulphur, and bluestone, which were looked upon as staple goods. Salts were bought in large quantities and sold in smaller amounts for nominal prices. But, like turpentine, these medicines were regarded as being mild and necessary to rural well-being.

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