William Byrd, 1674-1744 and Edmund Ruffin, 1794-1865
The Westover Manuscripts: Containing the History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina; A Journey to the Land of Eden, A.D. 1733; and A Progress to the Mines. Written from 1728 to 1736, and Now First Published.
Petersburg, VA: Printed by Edmund and Julius C. Ruffin, 1841.
Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) 
Though practice will soon make a man of tolerable vigor an able footman,
yet, as a help to bear fatigue, I used to chew a root of ginseng as I
walked along. This kept up my spirits, and made me trip away as nimbly
in my half jack-boots as younger men could in their shoes…. The
Emperor of China sends ten thousand men every year on purpose to gather
it…. Providence has planted it very thin in every country. Nor,
indeed, is mankind worthy of so great a blessing, since health and
long life are commonly abused to ill purposes. This noble plant grows
likewise at the Cape of Good Hope. It grows also on the northern
continent of America, near the mountains, but as sparingly as truth and
public spirit.

Its virtues are, that it gives an uncommon warmth and vigor to the
blood, and frisks the spirits beyond any other cordial. It cheers the
heart even of a man that has a bad wife, and makes him look down with
great composure on the crosses of the world. It promotes insensible
perspiration, dissolves all phlegmatic and viscous humors that are apt
to obstruct the narrow channels of the nerves. It helps the memory, and
would quicken even Helvetian dullness. ‘Tis friendly to the lungs, much
more than scolding itself. It comforts the stomach and strengthens the
bowels, preventing all colics and fluxes. In one word, it will make a
man live a great while, and very well while he does live; and, what
is more, it will even make old age amiable, by rendering it lively,
cheerful, and good-humored….

Snakeroot (Asarum canadense)

I found near our camp some plants of that kind of Rattlesnake
root, called star-grass. The leaves shoot out circularly, and grow
horizontally and near the ground. The root is in shape not unlike the
rattle of that serpent, and is a strong antidote against the bite of it.
It is very bitter, and where it meets with any poison, works by violent
sweats, but where it meets with none, has no sensible operation but
that of putting the spirits into a great hurry, and so of promoting

The rattlesnake has an utter antipathy to this plant, insomuch that if
you smear your hands with the juice of it, you may handle the viper
safely. Thus much I can say on my own experience, that once in July,
when these snakes are in their greatest vigor, I besmeared a dog’s nose
with the powder of this root, and made him trample on a large snake
several times, which, however, was so far from biting him, that it
perfectly sickened at the dog’s approach, and turned his head from him
with the utmost aversion.

In our march one of the men killed a small rattlesnake, which had no
more than two rattles. Those vipers remain in vigor generally till
towards the end of September, or sometimes later, if the weather
continues a little warm. On this consideration we had provided three
several sorts of rattlesnake root, made up into proper doses, and ready
for immediate use, in case any one of the men or their horses had been

In the low grounds the Carolina gentlemen shewed us another plant, which
they said was used in their country to cure the bite of the rattlesnake.
It put forth several leaves, in figure like a heart, and was clouded so
like the common Assarabacca, that I conceived it to be of that family.

[Footnote 4: A native of Virginia:–was sent to England for his
education, where he became intimate with the wits of Queen Anne’s time.
On his return to Virginia, he became a prominent official. He has left
very pleasing accounts of his explorations.]