Several recipes in Bristow’s recipe book were given to him by “Catnip.”  Whether Catnip was a man or woman we cannot be certain.  But judging from the character of the formulas and the relationship Bristow had with Catnip, Catnip was probably a self-romanticized herbalist, or a local individual who favored trapping or spent a little of his own time trapping during his younger years.  It is even possible that Catnip was once a trapper and scout or the like for the the local Fort Vancouver, like William Dain, another of Bristow’s associates.  And since he/she is now in his/her older years, behaving according to his/she own traditions with the professional history and such, he/she is simply trying to get a name out there. 

Well, the odds are in favor of Catnip is a a man a little older than Bristow, maybe about 60 to 70 years when these recipes were pencilled into John’s book, and most likely Catnip was a retired trapper with a little bit of training and reading in Eclectic medicine as defined by Wooster Beach.   The evidence for Catnip’s knowledge in Eclectics appears in the names and contents of his recipes.  The first recipe Catnip gave to Bristow for a “Discuitant Wash”.  This term “discuitant” is a misspelling for “discutient”, but no matter.  Some medical books for the time misspelled this term in this fashion, which may in factdiscount it from being a true misspelling back then due to the nature of medical terminology during this time for the profession.  This observation is important because this mispelling of the term is associated with Dr. Wooster Beach, the founder of Eclectic Medicine ca. 1825 (popular by 1840).  This misspelling appears in a quote of Wooster Beach himself making the mistake, with “discuitant” appearing in an1853 hardly read medical classic for the time  A treatise on the generative organs By John Stevens.  It appears as part of the following lengthy discourse on the tratment of gonorrhea (p. 71):

Treatment of Stricture — When there is obstruction of urine or it is discharged in a small stream it shows that a stricture must exist in the urinary canal to cure this inject a solution of sal soda two or three times a day and introduce a bougie moistened with the brown and discuitant ointments daily commence with a small one and gradually increase the size continue it for fifteen minutes at a time. W Beach MD


The use of a discutient is for the dispersal of an unhealthy material–a disease causing agent or agent associaed with a disease that is considered foreign matter.  The use of this method, instead of simply cutting open the body and purging the abscess or bleb of its fluids, does have some reasoning more in favor of the sanative nature of Thomsonianism, and less like the philosophy of conquer and defeat by way of performing regular medicine or surgery.  The symbolism being expressed here as the physician is to let the condition take its course, by not interrupting its normal processes, only reguiding them.  This part of the philosophy of “Discuitants” is very Thomsonian and religion-based.

Another use of the term discuitant refers to the development of cancer.  Now it is important to know that cancer in the 19th century was not at all perceived like we interpret a diagnosis of “cancer” today.  Conditions that were fairly basic and non-carcinomic in nature such as a sore, abscess, and canker were treated as a cancer or referred to by “cancer” by many 19th century physicians.  Subsequently, their ability to heal this condition with a simple herbal formula made these formulas seem to be a “miracle cure” in ‘read-backs” (versus look backs) of this literature by modern day researchers.  A century or two later, this form of remedy becomes very attractice to modern herbalists, but it is not the cancer remedy we picture today when we engage in these “read-backs” of past writers and physicians. 

Whenver one engaged in a review of past claims in medicine, knowing the philosophy and knowledge of the writer is everything.  If you do not interpret past writings in this manner, you are responsible for the “boy cries wolf” kind of error that is out there in the medical world.  Just because a person claims there is a “wolf” out there in need of being treated means that the problem is due to this “wolf”, or “cancer.”   Measles and small pox are not variations of the exact same disease, nor is diphtheria, a rougher more centralized, soamtic form of disease due to the same “cause” for “small pox”, but only striking just the lungs, chest and throat.  But this is what the medical theory stated from 1720 to 1750, and is what some doctors still believed in for many diseases.  The ability to inoculate against disease was taken to be applicable to all other symptoms of disease, an argument that Samuel Hahnemann used to argue the initiation of his practice of homoepathy between 1807 and 1815–the two mecahnisms of prevention and treatment appear identical, but are very different according to modern day philosophy, or science.        

Bringing all of this back to Catnip’s time and his mid to late 19th century trapper ideology and philosophy, the condition and philosophy for its cause adhere to by Catnip time are quite off with regard to the “cancer” being treated back then, versus the “cancers” of today.  Catnip’s discuitant remedy could have been for cancer, or any other subdermal growth in need of treatment.  To disperse such a condition, usually a poultice or fomentation was used.  Once you dispersed the canker or abscess, this meant that the swelling went down.  This way you didn’t have to intervene with God’s will by cutting the canker, sore, swelling, or tumor open with a scalpel to force it on this much healthier route to recovery.  Catnip was what they call a sanative healer, one who believed in allows God’s natural laws take their course in disease, a philosophy very much matching that of John Kennedy Bristow.

Catnip’s second recipe for “Comp. tinc. Lobelia 3rd Preparation” is a formula straight out of the Thomsonian tradition.   Thomson defined this formula as:  “Add a heaping teaspoonful of powdered lobelia herb to a cupful of the capsicum and bayberry tea, give at one dose, or, infuse five teaspoonfuls of lobelia in a cup and a half of hot water and take in three doses even if each dose vomits”.  (source: Drugs and Medicines of North America, 1884-1887, by John Uri Lloyd and Curtis G. Lloyd, web accessed at

One thing about Oregon Territory and State is that even though it was located far on the horizon, there were trade routes developed by sea that enabled a significant amount of commerce to take place in Northwest Territory.  With the establishment of Oregon as a State around 1850, this probably opened the doors more for trade and commerce.  Some evidence we have demonstrating this was taking place in Oregon, in particular in John Bristow’s back door city and town, is a short news item that appeared in the Physiomedical Journal for Spring of 1852.  In this quip, Simeon D. Earle is recommending to readers back east that they consider a journey westward.  Simeon Earle ultimately ended up in California.  But for a while, as noted in this the lists of individual circulating the Physiomedical Recorder (the third title for the Journal published in Cincinnatti by Botanic Physician and Thomsonian branch off Alva Curtis), he was the distributor of Thomsonian medicines and the journal Physiomedical Recorder for the State of Oregon.  This means that if Catnip was not trained in Thomson’s formulas, and knew nothing about these until around 1850/2 due to his life as a trapper, that once Simeon Earle’s business took hold, the opportunity for learning about and adopting Thomson’s philosophy and formulas were there.  Like a true eclectic, Catnip also gave some of Thomsonianism the benefits of his attention.

Catnip’s third recipe for John Bristow was “Cure for the Clap”.  Clap is the common name applied to Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease with burning upon urination and purulence discharge as its primary symptoms.  The understanding of sexually transmitted diseases was pretty well-established by this time in medical history; although the exact bacterial causes were not know, the events that caused the disease to be spread were very much known.  (Besides, what more might we expect to learn from a possible trapper or mountain man?).  The source or cause for the clap was usually defineable, although inferentially and indirectly at times in many of the writings.  Catnip’s treatment of the guilty parties for their clap was as follows:

“Take on[e] Bitter Apple, 2 oz. Podophyllium Peltatunm (sic), [put in] best Gin  1 qt. [wait, then use as a] Dose,  One Table spoonfull, 3 Times pr day[,]  20 minutes into Eating.”

 The Bitter Apple and Podophyllum are very strong laxatives.  The point of this recipe was to purge the body of whatever was causing the disease, a treatment very sanative and very Thomsonian in nature.

Catnip’s final recipe for Dr. Bristow was a Styptic Composition containing myricin, gum camphor, and capsicum, and a little ammonium carbonicum.   Ammonium carbonicum is simply smelling salts, a derivative of the more traditional medicine from the century before–spirit of hartshorn.    The gum camphor and capsicum have features and uses that probably don’t need much discussion.  The myricin however is a very new product.

 Identifying myricin requires a careful review of science documents with regard to the period of time they were produced.  The contemporary meaning for myricin is that it is an oil that can be extracted from beehive wax.  This compound would be based on the fatty acid myricic acid.  Before this much was known about the chemical science of bees wax, around 1845-1850, a new insutry had just been established in the irregular medicine world–in particular for the Eclectic school of medicine.  One of their founders, King, was a chemist who like to dabble about with herbal formulas.   One day he mistakenly left a recipe on the stove too long and it turned to this black, shiny goo in a boiling pot.  When he tried to make use of this substance as a drug he found it worked just as effectively before, more effectively in fact since it was more concentrated.  This led to the initiation of the “resin” industry, in which certain herbal concoctions were boiled down to be made much stronger on a per unit of measurement basis.  This also eliminated the problems people had with shipping bottled tinctures and extracts–the breakage of the bottles.  Now, much smaller less breakable glass containers could be used.  Between 1849 and 1852, W. B. Keith started up a full blown herbal business devoted almost completely to this specific line of products.  Meanwhile, King continued to experiment with the formulation of herbal medicine formulas as to what he called “resins”  (now better off called resinoids, due to the chemistry of true plant resins).  This gave Eclectic Medicine as a field a major advantage over nearly all of its competitors, including the allopathic or regular profession.  (About this same time Parke & Co. began developing and manufacturing a similar line of products for the regular medical field, which had a long period of stop and go with regard to acceptance, popularization, and maintaining a certain distinction for the alternative medical sect products also very popular.)  [See Endnote on Myricin, a resinoid made with one of the Myrica species.]

So Catnip knew about the newest line of herbal medicine concentrated products.  This makes him appear to be a not so much wilderness bound retired trapper anymore. He was well read in the medical literature.  An inquiring reader into medicine, with the wants and needs of being a trapper in his later life.  Perhaps this is who Catnip really was. 

Searching for the Real Catnip

Over the years of trying to identify Catnip,   I have found no one by the (nick)name of Catnip in the local history texts to date.   I have only engaged in a rather superficial review of the local newspapers, turning to indices whenever possible to try to discover who Catnip was in the local birth and marriage records and church documents.  The sources researched with the goal of making an identification include:

  1. the indices of two local newspapers–Oregonian and Oregon Statesman,
  2. land records indices,
  3. the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) biographical, topical, photograph    collection and donation land claim card files,
  4. OHS Quarterly indices,
  5. obituary listings and card files, and
  6. Lane County Pleasant Hill cemetery records.  

With just a few recipes provided for us by Catnip, we can still pretty much identify some significant features of his personality.  Most of the old-timers residing in Lane County for the time had strong religious commitments.  So too did Catnip.  Catnip’s religion is somewhat obtuse to those trying to recognize it by simply reviewing his recipes.  You have to read between the line so to speak to get the real story about Catnip. 

We would figure Catnip to be possible a devoted natural theologian and sanative healer.  Putting this another way, he was a trapper or mountainman who adhered to a little bit Native American philosophy and spirituality, but mostly to his own take on this aspect of life.  But it is also slightly possible that Catnip was in part behaving obediently to certain Native American traditions, as much as he was behaving obediently to the teachings of the local church goers.   The recipe that eludes to the latter is Catnip’s Lobelia Third Preparation.  [Again, see Henrietta’s Herbal site at]

Thomsonianism is based on a few simple principles that were highly attractive to church goers.  This was one of Samuel Thomson’s major advantages over the regular physicians, who were for the most part agnostic, atheistic and/or silent about their religious beliefs.  Thomsonian publishers openly allowed for religious zealots to send letters to the editor, which would be published, claiming that God has in part helped them to find their inner peace and truths needed to heal their body of whatever afflicts them, using Thomson’s formula.  This part of Thomson’s philosophy was so attractive to his most avid followers in religious communities that the association of Thomson’s methods with natural medicines, bestowing upon us this form of medicine a part of God’s creation, was very acceptible to the Southern Baptists of the Willamette Valley region.  This belief as it related to the Creator could not be argued as well by regular physicians, whose remedies seem to be more symptomatic and even dangerous than the old-fashioned herbal medicines Thomsonians relied upon so heavily.

So Catnip may have been an Indian Doctor by name and by appearances, but he was also a devoted church goer at his age and strongly promoted a medicine that only God could recognize as being a true sign of one’s faith. 




The last recipe noted in Bristow’s vade mecum on Catnip suggests he/she had knowledge of and favored the use of traditional Thomsonian formulas.  Catnip might have also been older than Dr. Bristow and therefore more familiar with the traditional Thomsonian protocols and their alterations.   

      Still, Catnip’s recipe and inferences of diseases contains terminology more fitting of a later period in the nineteenth century, ca. 1850s to early 1870s, a period when Diphtheria became a major problem.   

      The Oils produced from Sassafras and Oregano may be either essential oils, purchased from the eastern United States or imported from a European country where essential oil industries were better developed, or, more likely, they were the oleo-resin type of concentrated extracts produced by boiling down an herbal remedy.  Beginning 1846, these were marketed by midwestern and east coast companies: Merrell & Co. and W. Keith & Co.  This use of the term “oil of…” became a standard for eclectic medicine about 1855.  Its use here thus suggests an approximate age for this formulae. 

      “Podophylline” probably refers to the same kind of medicine, a resin from Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) that was first detailed in writing by a pharmacist about 1824,  and re-discovered and popularized Eclectic physician Dr. John King in 1846.  It was the first marketed concentrated extract, made available by Merrell & Co. in 1847/8. 

      Important to note here: in some cases, the addition of the ‘e’ to the end of the name stood for the nature of the final extract.  An ‘e’ at the end could have stood for the solid crystalline form of the extract.

      Another resinous product derived from herbs and noted by Catnip is “Myricin,” produced from concentrated extracts of Bayberry (Myrica cerifera) leaves.  Soon after King’s discovery of Podophyllin, production of this concentrated extract was next in line.  Throughout Bristow’s vade mecum and patient ledger, these resinoid-concentrated extracts are noted.  Their presence in the text help to date the ledger and vademecum, but fail to draw any further conclusions as the the identity of Catnip, who was evidently one of Bristow’s favorite physiomedical doctors, Indian Root Doctors, or lay Thomsonians.  

      Catnip’s acceptance of mineral remedies, in spite of his Thomsonian-history is apparent.  The Iodide of Potassium became a popular Eclectic medicine in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  Articles for this mineral remedy are published in Eclectic Medical Journal as early as mid 1850s.  “Carb. Amonia” or Carbamate (sp?) Ammonium later became the product Dr. Lister showed to be bacteriostatic.  This would often be another remedy of discontent amongst some classically-trained eclectic doctors.




      Most of the other ingredients which appeared in Catnip’s recipes are standard Thomsonian-based products, including:

Solvents for preparing medicines:

  • best Gin
  • Best Brandy or pure Spirits

The Thomsonian indicators:

  • “Lobelia seed (the best)”
  • Capsicum
  • Gum Myrrh
  • Gum Camphor      

The Physio-Medical and Thomsonian additions:

  • Bitter Apple
  • Blue Cohosh
  • Cyppripedium (sic)
  • Sculcap

Of Eclectic Origin:

  • Ext. Colocynt[h]  Oil of…

Of Uncertain origins:

  • Peppermint [oil]          (essential oil, France?)
  • Podoph[yllum] Peltatum                                 (plant or oleoresin?)

Added notes:

“aa” (def.): ana [Latin, abbrev., Official pharmacal] for   “of each”, pertaining to previously stated medicaments.


Discuitant Wash

Take Oil sassafras &

Oil Oreganum equal parts

Alcohol.  sufficient quantity

to dissolve the oils.  then

add to the above as much

Iodine as will readily

dissolve with 3 times

the amount of Iodide of Potassium




Discuitant: causes a tumor, exudate or other abnormal tissue to disappear.  In this case, the coating that forms in the throat in purportedly removed with this medicine.

This remedy is most likely a Diphtheria remedy, offered to Beistow after the diphtheria ravaged the county of Lane and afflicted Bristow’s sister.

This is the least Thomsonian of Catnip’s recipes noted in Bristow’s vade mecum.  The Oil of Oreganum and Sassafras are probably essential oils, not the Sulphate Ether-based extractions invented by Eclectic Dr. John King.  Iodine and Iodide of Potassium are mineral drugs very uncommon to Thomsonian thinking.  This suggests Catnip may have good reason to trust it, perhaps from experience, or his thinking after witnessing the effects of cases of Diphtheria and their treatment.

Comp. tinc. Lobelia 3rd Preparation

      Rx  Lobelia seed (the best)   8 – oz.

            Sculcap           ”           1 – ”

            Blue Cohosh ”           1 – ”

            Cyppripedium      ”           1 – ”

            Capsicum          ”        1/2 – ”

      Best Brandy or pure Spirits   1 qrt. n.

      Digest 10 days                      Catnip



“Comp. tinc. Lobelia 3rd Preparation” (transcribed): “Composition Tincture of Lobelia, Third Preparation.”

Composition Tincture of Lobelia refers to a derivative of one of Samuel Thomson’s three original formulas for the use of Lobelia as a medicine. 

The following are native to America, in particular, the region where Bristow resided. 

Lobelia seed (the best)

Sculcap           ”          

Blue Cohosh ”          

Cyppripedium      ”          

The remaining herb, Capsicum, is native to Mexico, but is an essential part of Thomsonianism and so is expected in Thomsonianism and Neo-Thomsonianism.

Composition Lobelia preparations outlasted Samuel Thomson. 

The other herbs are also Thomsonian, who called Cypripedium–“Valerian.”

The 10 days extraction process may be a leftover from the numerological belief in ten which led to its use in performing extractions of all sorts in alchemy.  Alchemsists felt 10 days was needed to complete the extraction.

Cure for clap

      Take on[e] Bitter Apple

      2 oz. Podophyllium Peltatunm

      best Gin  1 qt.   Dose

      One Table spoonfull

      3 Times pr day  20 minutes

      into Eating




Clap: a Venereal Disease of Gonorrhea-type.

Chief Therapeutic effect of remedy:  both the Bitter Apple and Podophyllum peltatum are strong laxatives.

Both are also Thomsonian.

Not the resemblance of the simplicity of this recipe to other recipes by Catnip.  He is indeed more simplistic in thinking of his materia medica and conjuring up recipes than Bristow was by now.

Styptic Compt.

      Rx    Myricin

            Carb. Amonia

            Gum Camphor

            Capsicum    aa

            dose from 5 to 10 grs




Recipe Title: Styptic Composition?

Styptic:  seals and reduces swelling or stops bleeding, in theory, by causing a shrinkage of blood vessels. 

Myricin, Camphor and Capsicum are traditional Thomsonian ingredients.

The Carbonate Ammonium would be the true styptic powder.

Cathartic Pills

      Rx Podophylline    [   ]  i

         Capsicum        ”   ”

         Podoph. Peltatum  ”  iii

         Ext. Colocynt      iii

         Gum Myrrh                  i    

            or 20 drops Peppermint Mix




This recipe chiefly relies upon the two herbal laxatives Catnip loves to give–Podophyllum peltatum and Capsicum. 

Again, this is a laxative formula being used to cure various diseases.  It gives a full cleansing of the body perhaps?  The Myrrh facilitates a body’s response by heating the body in their way of thinking. 

Both Gum Myrrh and Capsicum are strong indicators of Thomsonianism training.

Note the double use of Podophyllin as a plant and as a resin–this suggests the traditional physio-medical thinkers did not fully trust chemical concoctions since some of the spiritualistic aspect of the herb itself was lost.

Podophylline is an extract of Podophyllin, invented ca. 1833 and later popularized ca. 1846 by Eclectic Dr. John King of Ohio.  Knowledge of Podophylline did not reach the market until a year later locally, when a local pharmacist began manufacturing and selling it.  Nationally, it became known about 1849/50 when several articles were published in the Eclectic Medical Journal.

See notes pertaining to the history of pharmacal companies, written from readings in J.U. Lloyd’s The Eclectic Alkaloids, Resins, Resinoids, Oleo-Resins, and Concentrated Principles, a treatise dating ca. 1910.  [avail. at National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon (NCNM)]


Catnip’s Materia Medica

  • Alcohol                               Diphtheria–Discuitant Wash
  • Bitter Apple                                          Cure for clap
  • Blue Cohosh                               Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation
  • Best Brandy or pure Spirits               Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation
  • Capsicum                                              Styptic Compt.
  • Capsicum                                              Cathartic Pills
  • Capsicum                                        Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation
  • Carb. Amonia                                          Styptic Compt.
  • Cyppripedium                                    Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation
  • Ext. Colocynt                                         Cathartic Pills
  • Gum Camphor                                     Styptic Compt.
  • best Gin                                              Cure for clap
  • Gum Myrrh                                      Cathartic Pills
  • Iodide of Potassium                   Diphtheria–Discuitant Wash
  • Iodine                                Diphtheria–Discuitant Wash
  • Lobelia seed (the best)                   Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation
  • Myricin                                        Styptic Compt.
  • Oil Oreganum                          Diphtheria–Discuitant Wash
  • Oil sassafras                         Diphtheria–Discuitant Wash
  • Peppermint Mix                                  Cathartic Pills
  • Podophyllium Peltatunm                          Cure for clap
  • Podophylline                                    Cathartic Pills
  • Podoph. Peltatum                          Cathartic Pills
  • Sculcap                                         Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation
  • Best Brandy or pure Spirits               Comp. tinc. Lobelia                                               3rd Preparation



Myricin and other resinoids.

Background on the concentrate extract or resinoid business appears at Henrietta’s Herbal site at  This information was extracted by Henrietta’s Herbal site from The Lloyd Libary Bulletin # 12: The Eclectic Alkaloids, 1910, was written by J. U. & C. G. Lloyd.

The following manufacturers made these substances about the time Catnip wrote up his recipe:

F. D. Hill & Co., Cincinnati, 1852. “From a continued series of experiments, we have no hesitancy in saying that by the improvements made in the mode of preparing the following list of Concentrated Medicines, we can offer these preparations to the public, containing all the medical virtues possible to be obtained from the different native substances, and of a finer quality than ever before manufactured.”  Products included Podophyllin, Leptandrin, Macrotin, Myricin, Sanguinarin, Hydrastin. “This article, (Hydrastin), introduced by us (in 1851), is one of the finest extant among Botanic Medicines. In fact, it is the QUININE OF AMERICA.” To this list was added, in 1856, Caulophyllin, Cornin, Geranin, and Prunin.

American Chemical Institute, B. Keith & Co., 1854. “The object of this Institute is to prepare the active principles of indigenous and foreign medical Plants.” “One great and principal objection to the use of many vegetable remedies has been that it required such large doses of the article in a crude state, to accomplish the desired effect, that the bulk alone would defeat the entire purpose for which the remedy was administered.” Then follows a list of thirty-one “Concentrations,” the special claim being that they were in the form of powders.

Union Drug Store, Vine and Pearl Sts., (W. S. Merrell & Co.), Cincinnati, 1854. “The Resinoid and other Active Principles of our native plants are of a quality unsurpassed, if not unequaled, by others who have engaged in their manufacture.”

Wm. H. Baker & Co., St. Louis, 1854.New Concentrated Medicines.” “Their uses, doses, etc., together with a manual on Resinoids, will be mailed free to those who desire it.”

T. C. Thorpe, later H.M. Merrell, and still later, Lloyd Brothers.   Cincinnati, (Court and Plum Streets), 1854. “Manufactures and keeps constantly on hand all the Concentrated Agents peculiar to the Eclectic Practice.”

Dr. I. Wilson, Cincinnati, 1854, “dealer in Essential Oils, Gums, Extracts, and CONCENTRATED PREPARATIONS.”

Tilden & Co., New York, 1856. “Concentrated Preparations, Resinoids, or Oleo-Resins. We add to our own list some of the most important articles of this class of preparations, and shall extend the number as fast as we are able to do so, to embrace all that may be deemed of importance to the practitioners.”  Products line:  Asclepin, Cimicifugin, or Macrotin, Cypripedin, Geranin, Hydrastin, Leptandrin, Podophyllin, Sanguinarin, Senecin, Scutellarin, Stillingin, Xanthoxylin, [In 1859, this list had increased to forty-eight items.—L.]

Geo. M. Dixon, Cincinnati, 1856. “We beg leave to call the special attention of the medical profession to our extensive and complete assortment of CONCENTRATED MEDICINES, which are warranted to be as represented, pure and fresh.”

H. H. Hill & Co., (successors to F. D. Hill & Co.), Cincinnati, 1862. “This house was one of the first to introduce the NEW CONCENTRATED REMEDIES. We offer a full assortment of our own articles.”

T. L. A. Greve, Cincinnati, 1862. “I keep on hand a full supply of ‘CONCENTRATED MEDICINES’ “