Carter’s Materia Medica



One of the things I don’t mention much is that sometimes some herbs are indicators of the medical faith being practiced.  I used to teach a class as part of my course of medical-pharmacal history in which I gave a list of specific herbs that have associations with specific medical faiths during the early to mid-1800s.  This single herb relationship wasn’t steadfast, but it was a place to start if you were trying to understand the philosophy of a past relative you were researching or the makings of a “doctor” in one of those communities where doctors were scarce.

I often used the following herbs as indicators on where to start when trying to work out the psychology of the physician:

  • Opium  = allopathy usually, sometimes eclectic
  • Lobelia or “No. 1” = Thomsonian and Thomsonian-like sects
  • Gelsemium sempervirens = Thomsonian and Thomsonian-like sects, esp. Eclectics or Reformed and Physomedics
  • Polemonium = Indian Doctoring, in particular around the mid-Atlantic states

Polemonium reptans

When researching past doctors, it is very important to determine if your doctor is sanative or non-sanative.  Sanative physicians are those doctors who believe in allowing nature, to take its natural course in the disease.  In the most traditional sense, being sanative means that you are allowing Nature through “God” to make the decision here.  The goal of the sanative physician is to assist the disease along its preconceived pathway to death or recovery, without preventing any “Higher Powers” influence associated with this process.

This term sanative has not always held the same meaning however.   For a while in the late 1800s, there was its similar Sanitative, and the two were sometimes confused with one another in the medical writings.  Even the regular physicians were guilty of using this technique to convert sanative thinkers into supporters during the 1870s, only a few years into the discovery of the possibility that a bacterium could be responsible for diseases much like the already well-known animalcules.  (The discovery of the bacterium is not anything as amazing as history portrays it to be; that conception is a result of the work of late 19th and early 20th century allopathic promoted like Morris Fishbein and the popular medical magazine the published to counteract “quackery”, Hygeia).

Back in the 1800s, inoculation for example was less likely to be considered an intervention that was against God’s Will than the same procedure is interpreted today.  In modern times, there are still extremists out there who take a different opinion on inoculation, or more precisely immunization.  They interpret such a practice as something against God’s Will–it’s okay to catch the chicken pox, it is not okay to be vaccinated for it.    In the past, if a procedure worked to stop the natural course of a disease underway, it was taboo to intervene according to some religious leaders.  For this reason the sanative doctor realized that he had to make you sweat, make you puke, make you have your diarrhea spell, all of this with the goal of cleansing your body of any disease-causing entities, substances or agents, otherwise he was not treating you the best way he could according to Old Testament doctrines.

Two fairly unrelated “Coltsfoot” medical plants

Knowledge about the uses for plants is of course an indicator of where the person was trained in medicine.  A person practicing medicine, using herbs not at all local to the region he is in, suggests he was either trained by the book or lived in another region when he learned his medical skills.  Some regions have very plants species specific to their area to be considered medicinal, with similars located elsewhere–a different species and even gender, but with a similar use.  Examples of this include the Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaulis) in New York which is a totally different Genus species in the midwest (C. candidum or hirsutum, or even some non-Cypripedium species).   Simialr histories might exist as well for the two coltsfoots out there–the introduced Tussilago farfara of the east coast and the Petasites species of the west coast, the two having very different leaf appearances in the field, with the latter being toxic to the liver, and the former not so hepatotoxic. (Note: The origianl and true Coltsfoot, as suggested by Jane Colden’s work (which see elsewhere on this blog), was actually Asarum canadense, ca. 1750, but somehow this common name was applied to Tussilago by 1770 and decades later to Petasites.)

The same was true for Lobelia.  Different regions have different Lobelia species to use for their medicines.

This use of the plants that are local versus plants that are not is a very interesting philosophy.  It has some of its roots in colonial life, and was promoted around 1785-1795 due to the high cost of imported medicines following the war.  This philosophy became much more heavily promoted once the local substitutes were known.  It is probably safe to say the first North American substitute for an import was Dogwood (Cornus florida), heavily promoted for use as a Cinchona substitute during the Revolutionary War.  Soon after the war, Carolina Pink (Spigelia marylandica) became very popular, as a substitute for imported Ipecac.  Another possible local Ipecac substitute for some regions was Euphorbia ipecacuanha.  There were of course ‘substitutes’ or ‘counterfeits’ instead of ‘similars’ like those just mentioned out there as well.  For example, the high purgative cucumber plants could be found in many different places for use as substitutes for Columbo Root; the species did not really matter that much.

Euphorbia ipecacuanha

The most indicative plant here is Polemonium reptans (Carter calls this Bear’s Foot).  As of yet, I have not uncovered any direct evidence for my logic in the interpretation of this plant by Carter or other Kentuckians as a Bible herb, but due to its very close association with Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium caerulium, this plant’s distribution limits its acceptance and use as a natural remedy.  Those into Bible herbology would interpret this plant as being put there for your use, by God, in an area where it is mostly likely going to be needed.  Carter possibly lived in or adjacent to a Bible-thumping community in Kentucky, next to if not within Appalachia.  [This same argument has been used to define another Indian Doctor/Trapper’s philosophy regarding the Overland experience–William Dain; Dain is reviewed elsewhere as a Scout for Tetherow’s team, responsible readying for them for their trail adventure in 1845. Dain labels his drawing of Polemonium reptans as Greek Valerian, a common name for the European Jacob’s Ladder.]

In the lists below of Introduced, Home-grown or European herbs, a number of these herbs have local equivalents, similars, substitutes, or replacements.     One particularly intersting example is Jatropha columbo root, which has the American equivalent Frasera caroliniensis about to become popular.   Some of Carter’s names may have actually been for these new American versions of the famous remedies.  Timing is everything in determining if someone like Carter meant the European tradition or the new American substitute.

Many of these herbs are reviewed elsewhere in reference to other physicians using them.  A few will be covered here.  At the very end is a copy of several herbs lists that I pulled from my other page on Carter.


Polemonium reptans

Spigelia marilandica


Sanicula marilandica

Sanicula canadensis (S. americana)

Smilax rotundifolia

Glecoma hederacea

Vernonia nova-boracensis

Lonicera caprifolium

 Aralia spinosa

Liriodendron tulipifera

Gentiana quinquefolia (Ague weed)

Polypodium virginianum (Rock Polypody)


American Root Drugs [18 TOTAL]

  • dried pulverised Indian turnip  [Arisaema triphyllum, Jack in the Pulpit]
  • elecampane root [Inula elecampane]
  • green comphrey? [Symphytum officinale]
  • angelica root [Probably the European introduced species]
  • spikenard root  [Aralia sp., perhaps A. spinosa due to more southern location]
  • roots and tops of ground ivy [Glecoma hederacea]
  • bark of the roots of yellow poplar  [Liriodendron tulipifera]
  • burdock roots [Arctium lappa.  This plant was introduced to North America.]
  • briar roots [Smilax sp.; i.e. S. rotundifolia in Kentucky]
  • dogwood root [Cornus florida]
  • black snake root  [Caulophyllum sp., or Cimicifuga racemosa, or Sanicula marylandica]
  • woodbine root [Lonicera caprifolium L., “Oodbine” is Scottish; Woodbine is a Shakspearean name]
  • pokeroot [European?] [Phytolacca americana]
  • elder roots [Sambucus sp.]
  • Carolina pinkroot  [Spigelia marilandica L.]
  • foot and leg-baths in a strong ooze of iron weed roots [Vernonia nova-boracensis (L.) Willd.]
  • jentian roots [probably Gentiana sp.]
  • pine roots [Pinus spp.]
  • pechoon [puccoon] roots  [Sanguinaria canadensis]

American Bark Drugs  [6 TOTAL]

  • bark of the roots of yellow poplar [Liriodendron tulipifera]
  • wild cherry
  • sassafras inner bark [Sassafras albidum]
  • white ash [Fraxinus americana L. or F. nigra Marsh]
  • slippery elm [Ulmus fulva]
  • powdered birch bark [Betula lenta]

American Herb Drugs  [17 TOTAL

  • ground ivy [Glecoma hederacea]
  • peck of pollepody? [Fern: Polypodium spp.?  Rock , i.e. P. virginianum ]
  • green comphrey?  [Symphytum sp.]
  • life-everlasting [Anaphallis sp.]
  • heart leaves [probably Asarum canadense.  Several other herbs bear heart-shaped leaves however, including some species of Ranunculus, an acrid blistering agent]
  • dewberry [Rubus sp., R. trivialis and R. hispidus are common mid-atlantic and southern species]
  • sage tea [Salvia or Artemisia]
  • goldenrod [Solidago sp.]
  • flowers of pinks [Caryophyllum sp.?  The root of Carolina Pink (Spigelia) was the most popular “Pink” for the time, for which see above.]
  • Jamestown Weed leaves [Datura stramonium]
  • pine tops [Pinus?, not Ground Pine?]
  • red pepper [Capsicum sp.]
  • alicumpane/elecampane
  • nettles [Urtica sp.]
  • tobacco
  • bear’s foot [Polemonium reptans L.]
  • scurvy grass [Cochlearia officinalis?]

Other American  [3 TOTAL]

  • spicewood (Lindera benzoin is the traditional species, but it is more northern in distribution; this Kentucky species is probably Lindera melissaefolia Blume, now called L. melissifolia (Walter) Blume.
  • wormseed [Erysimum or Chenopodium is possible–see below; both are introduced]
  • pine beans [Pole bean?  Perhaps pine nuts or pinola, from central Texan Pinus species]

Central American Drugs  [3 TOTAL]

  •  red pepper
  • sasapharilla (sic) [Aralia sp.]  There is an American version of this available–Aralia nudicaulis.
  • jalap [either traditional Convolvulus/Ipomoea jalapa or local equivalent]

Colonial Plant Drugs  [26 TOTAL]

  • peck of pollepody
  • peck of cinquefril (cinquefoil) [Potentilla sp.]
  • peck of white plantain  [Goodyera pubescens has white-veined leaves; florets are white for Plantago minor]
  • pulverised Columbo [Jatropha calumba?]
  • sage tea
  • camomile flowers [Matricaria sp. or local look-alike]
  • best mustard seed
  • Tanzy leaves [Tanacetum sp.]
  • parsley roots [Petroselenium]
  • ointment of camomile flowers
  • slippery elm [Ulmus fulva]
  • Alloes [Aloa sp.]
  • dosage of horseradish roots
  • tar [pine or petrolatum?]
  • jalap [Convolvulus jalapa?]
  • jentian roots [prob. Indian Root Drug] [Gentiana sp.]
  • manna [gum] [Fraxinus sp.]
  • garlic [Allium]
  • wormwood [Artemisia]
  • castor oil [Ricinus]
  • orange peelings
  • hoarhound [Marrubian vulgare]
  • fennel seed
  • asafoetida [pills]  [Ferula asafoetida]
  • wormwood beer [absinthe]
  • gall
  • opium [Papaver somniferum]


This next part is an analysis of Carter’s materia medica.  I performed most of this work in 1993/4, about the same time I was researching William Dain, the Thomsonian-Botanic Physician-Indian Doctor who assisted Solomon Tetherow’s team as they prepared to make their way to California and Fort Sumter in 1845/6.  A member of that team was Elijah Bristow.  Then of older age and retired so to speak, he was in search of lands to claim in Oregon Territory for his family.  Elijah’s son John Kennedy Bristow and Elijah’s immediate family remained behind in western Illinois when he began his trip to the Far West.  His wife, Susannah came to Oregon about two years later, 1848, a year after Elijah laid claim to a part of Oregon known as Pleasant Hill, near Eugene, Oregon.  During this time, John Kennedy learned Thomsonianism in Illinois, which took him two years to complete the training for unofficially as an “apprentice” to a Thomsonian physician schooled in Cincinatti in 1849, Edmund G. Browning.  Edmund moved to Oregon with John K., and after settling down in Oregon became a minister.   John K. removed there in 1853, following the death of his wife and many family members due to cholera in summer of 1852.  In Oregon, John K. remained a doctor and took on the skills more like that of a Thomsonian turned Eclectic physician.

This history helps set the stage for how I analyzed Carter’s Materia Medica the way that I did.  The various philosophies that existed between 1830 and 1850 in the Midwest had some geographical basis to their development and distribution.   There was only one regular medical school in Illinois then, the Benjamin Rush College located up in Chicago area.  In 1842, a church opened a school in central Illinois, too far south for John K. to attend.  John K.’s Uncle on his mother’s side was Michael Gabbert, one of the initiators of a school in Memphis area devoted first to regular medicine, but then converted to Botanic and/or Eclectic medical practice teachings for a few months.  John K’s family were devoted bible thumpers, so the most logical step was to learn medicine written to satisfy the religious followers.  Thomsonianism fit that bill due to its underlying strong background with religious groups, by then since about 1818.  The midwestern version of this taught at Alva Curtis’s school in Cincinatti and around was botanic physician, a little more local in its philosophy and adherence to religious philosophy and medical requirements and the local natural philosophy take on God and Nature.  His teacher Dr. Browning apparently did not attend Curtis’s school, but one of three others set up in that vicinity devoted to the same medical philosophy.  It took 3 months to teach Edmund Browning to treat patients, and almost two years for Doctor-to-be John K. Bristow,

This work, which now follows, was focused on interpreting his recipes for their materia medica and the philosophy implied by the choices made for herbs and their mixtures.  The research question I then posed is

“Was Carter more like an Indian Doctor, Thomsonian, or Botanic Physician, or was he a practitioner of his own making?’

This analysis is based on information taken from writings which appeared in The Midwest Pioneer…, by Madge E. Pickard and R. Carlyle Buley, pp. 47-74.


Writings included the following:

  • “Directions for Gardening”
  • “Of Signs from the Pulse”
  • “Of the Bad Effects of Mercurials”
  • “The Morbid Effects of Poisons on Air”
  • “Of Signs from the Urine and other Excretions”
  • “Of the Crisis”
  • “Remedy for Weak Nerves, Rheumatism, &c.”
  • “A Caution to those who drink Mineral Water”
  • “Of the Urine”
  • “Indian Lexicon”
  • “The Best of Wives” [Poem]
  • “Gutta Serena”

Moralizing with displays of “nefarious characters.”

Carter’s compendium of cures gave us 63 Receipts, including those named:

  •  “For the Yellow Jaundice”
  • “Internal Dropsy of the Brain”
  • “For the Fever and Ague”
  • “For Convulsive Fits, Palsys, Appoplexys (sic), &c.”
  • “For the Hysterics”
  • “On the Hypocondriacs (sic)”
  • “For Old Running Sore LEgs”
  • “For the Consumption”
  • “For the Stomache Ache, &c, &c.”

His fever and ague remedy had a mixture of calomel [unusual], saltpeter, Jesuit Bark, pulverized colombo, elixir of vitriol, spirits of nitre, and a pill of steel dust.  This is also a recipe published by his son-in-law Dr. S.H. Selman, who wrote The Indian Guide to Health or a Valuable Vegetable Medical Prescription for the Cure of All Disorders Incident to this Climate.  (Columbus, Indiana, 1836)


  • yellow poplar
  • yellow sarsaparilla root
  • coppper kettle
  • wild cherry
  • running briar

I.  Rheumatism. 

[p. 63, Pickard and Buley.]

Possible Rheumatism theory, based on cause:

 “[Rheumatism] proceeds from the congress and mutual effervency of salts, which are of a different origin and nature, viz. of the si [sea] salt arising from the blood, and of the acid salt coming from the nervous liquor, the subjects of both of which salts are superfluous dregs, deposed from the aforesaid humours, forced into certain teogescencies [turgencencies?], and discharges sometimes on one part, and then on another of the system; wherefore that the disease may be cured, let both the turgescercies [turgencencies?] of the humours be appeased, and their superfluous dregs be purged forth, and let the salts degenerated both ways, be reduced to a state of valatility. [volatility]”

Dreg (def.): residues; sediment of liquids.

Related Remedies (descriptions appear on the following pages of his work):

  1. Poultice.
  2. Ointment (to follow the poultice after a few days)
  3. Accompanying Drink

Note: See next entry on same disorder.

1. Poultice Rx:  

  • slippery elm
  • pokeroot
  • Jamestown weed leaves
  • woodbine root
  • rye meal

Possible theory regarding Carter’s plant selections:

  • rye meal [Domestic origins] served as a starchy base for a poultice preparation.
  • Slippery elm.  (Ulmus fulva Michx.)  Mucilaginous.  A basic ingredient for poultice, perhaps with Sanative Healing methods in mind.  Indian bark medicine.
  • Pokeroot (Phytolacca americana). Indian root medicine. “Doctrine of signature plant” (red to purple stem and berry? large white swollen root?)  [s. US species.]
  • Jamestown weed leaves (Datura stramonium).  This is a plant commonly used in the Mid-Atlantic states where it most often grew, and thus created havoc on the farm as a livestock poison.  The stench of this plant’s leaves may have had something to do with its use to treat an inflamed joint, perhaps by its use as a Sanative remedy and/or doctrine of signature plant for the swollen joint, which can also bear a smelly exudate when the normal treatment (issues) was performed.  Taken internally, Jamestown Weed reduces inflammation and swelling of nasal and lung passages.  Perhaps it was assumed this plant to do the same with the swollen rheumatic joint.
  • Woodbine Root – probably the common field ridden Convolvulus or Ipomoea, see below.

Conclusion: This is probably an Indian Root medicine.

Possible identifications:

  • Convolvulus spp., esp.
    •       C. sepium L. [Great Bindweed; Great Bear-bind] (e.    US south to North Carolina).
    •       C. spithamacus L. [Dwarf Morning Glory; Upright       Bindweed] (e. US).

Gelsemium sempervirens (L.) Ait. [Yellow Jasmine; Carolina Wild Woodbine] (Virginia south to Florida and Texas).   Much later a very popular drug for Physiomedics.

Less likely (all of these were pulled from Lyon’s Plant Names . . . ):

  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planch  [Virginia Creeper, Five-fingered Ivy; Wild Woodbine.]  (e. US)
  • Lonicera sempervirens L  [Honeysuckle vine; Trumpet Honeysuckle] (e. US)  Most common.
  • L. ciliata Muhl. is in ne US.
  • L. dioica L. (Yellow Honeysuckle) is northern US.
  • L. flava Sims. is of the southern US.
  • L. douglassii Hook.
  • L. hirsuta Eaton
  • Clematis virginiana L. [Virgin’s Bower] (Canada to Georgia, and Kansas)


Very Native American in terms of history.  No introduced species, one domestic field crop (Rye); the lack of introduced weeds in a any botanic recipe is hard to find for a lot of the botanical books published prior to the 1820s.  Between the 20s and the 40s, Indian herbal medicines became topics of publication for even the regular doctors.

This is a poultice made using a one European plant by then grown in fields on farms (Rye) and an American inner bark (Elm) for its base.  Indian Root Medicines serve as its “active ingredients.”

The Jamestown plant (Jimsonweed) is a signature for a possible mid-Atlantic remedies, suggesting this doctor may have been from the Kentucky-Virginia area.  I based this on the assumption that Jimsonweed was not yet widely distributed in the U.S.

2. Ointment (to follow the poultice after a few days)


  • tanzy leaves
  • red pepper
  • tobacco
  • pine roots
  • elder roots
  • neats foot oil
  • salt peter
  • laudanum
  • pint of red fishing worms
  • rum
  • tanzy leaves  are from Tanacetum vulgare L.  (n. hemipheric; possibly North American), but there are numerous plants with “Tansy” nicknames, and in the midwest, others were possible.
  • red pepper  Capsicum spp.
    • C. fastigiatum Bl. is best known of the spicy and hot Cayenne Peppers native to South America.  Perhaps not only the flavor, but also the DOS (the red color) pointed to the potential use of this for heating the body
    • C. annuum is the edible green pepper
    • C. grossum Willd, and C. cordiforme Mill. are the     edible red peppers.
  •  tobacco  Nicotiana rustica L.  or  N. tabacum L
    • N. tabacum L originated as a tropical plant, but early on came to be known as Virginia Tobacco due to it cultivation there.
  •  pine roots  Pinus spp.
    • Various possible species, but esp. P. taeda L. [Loblolly Pine], which was pretty much restricted to states between Delaware and Florida during Carter’s professional lifetime.
  • Other possible pines from the states along the Atlantic Coast:
    • P. palustris Mill.      [Southern Yellow Pine],
    • P. ponderosa Dougl. [Western Yellow Pine],
    • P. rigida Mill.   [Pitch Pine],
    • P. strobus L.           [White Pine]
  •  elder roots  Sambucus canadensis L.
    • Probably S. canadensis L. [American or Sweet Elder] is the most likely Elder referred to by Carter.  (Canada to Florida, west to Arizona)
    • Other Elders:
      • S. pubens Michx. [Red-berry Elder]  (New England to Georgia) “Poisonous.”
      • S. glauca Nutt. [California Elder].
      • S. ebulus L. [Dwarf Elder] and S. nigra L. [Black Elder] (Eurasian.)
  • neats foot oil  [Domestic]
  • salt peter [poss. Allopathic; natural product?]
  • laudanum  [Allopathic]
  • pint of red fishing worms [Domestic? Colonial?]
  • rum  West India Rum?


  • This recipe is half Indian Doctoring (with 2 root medicines; 2 leaves, 1 fruit) and half allopathic-domestic. (laudanum and mineral remedies)
  • The “pint of red fishing worms” perhaps has as its Doctrine of Signature (DOS) the color red; the same DOS may be argued for Cayenne.
  • The Cayenne makes this an external heating formula. This heating perhaps dissolves the “dregs,” enabling them to be purged, and the salts to be volatilized.
  • Since this is a follow-up formula to the first, the laudanum reduces the pain following the possible failure of the first treatment.

3. Accompanying Drink


  • Dogwood root
  • sasapharilla root
  • whiskey

Dogwood root

  • Species:
    • Cornus amomum Mill.     [Swamp Dogwood; Red Osier]
    • C. florida L.                 [Flowering or Florida Dogwood]
    • C. stolonifera Michx    [Red Osier]

 (all in e. US; C. stolonifera is especially Kentuckian.)

These Cornus species are often a part of Kinnikinick (Native Ceremonial/Ritual Tobacco blend).

sasapharilla root


  • Smilax medica Sch. & Cham.    [Mexican Sarsaparilla] From Mexico; the most commonly species used; could be grown locally.
  • Other foreign species include:
    • S. officinalis Humb. & Kunth. [Jamaican Sarsaparilla]
    • S. papyracea Duham.           [Brazilian Sarsaparilla]
    • (The true Sarsaparilla is from Mexico, Central and South America, West Indies)
  • Aralia nudicaulis is the False Sarsaparilla of the Atlantic States.
  •  whiskey is perhaps Irish-Kentuckian in origin.


A Kentuckian version (with whiskey and perhaps Cornus stolonifera) of an Indian Root recipe.

The Smilax connects this history with the impact of the discovery of Native American herbs in Central America as well, beginning with Columbus in Jamaica, and the Conquistadors of New Spain.

The Smilax makes this a tonic.  The Cornus (any DOS?) is perhaps included to deal with the fever and/or sweating that ensues from an infection setting in.



“For the gout rheumatisms, cramps, infirmities of the sinews, joints, &c.”

                                      [p. 63, Pickard and Buley.]

Massage with Dog Oil.

“Take a young fat dog and kill him, scald and clean him as you would a pig, then extract his guts through a hole previously made in his side, and substitute in the place thereof, two handfulls of nettles, two ounces of brimstone, one dozen hen eggs, four ounces of turpentine, a handful of tanzy, a pint of red fishing worms, and about three-fourths of a pound of tobacco, cut up fine; mix all those ingredients well together before deposited in the dog’s belly, and then sew up the whole, then roast him well before a hot fire, save the oil, annoint the joints, and weak parts before the fire as hot as you can bear it, being careful not to wet or expose yourself to damp or night air, or even heating yourself, or in fact you should not expose yourself in any way.”


Roast well over a hot fire “a young fat dog” stuffed with:

    • nettles [Urtica spp.]
    • brimstone
    • one dozen hen eggs
    • turpentine
    • tanzy [Tanacetum vulgare]
    • red fishing worms
    • tobacco, cut up fine


Materia Medica

“a young fat dog”

Source: Canis?  Misreading of “Hog?”  The Cree and Neighbors to the north of the US border commonly raised, depended upon and used dogs for food and other products.  This could be an offshoot of this local folklorish behavior and history.

Turpentine–part of the base for a liniment or rub, in this case mixed with dog oil or melted fat.  This is an Indian remedy, with a strong Colonial and European history as well.

Nettles–causes a reddening of the skin following contact.  Could this be a DOS for “heating” the area afflicted by the various pains?  Indian herb remedy.

Tansy–uncertain purpose.  Indian herb remedy.

Tobacco–In pharmacal thinking, Nicotiana’s nicotine effect on the local tissues perhaps.  [reddening of skin?]  Indian herb remedy.

Red Fishing Worms–see earlier recipe for note on this.  DOS implied.

Methodology for treatment displayed the following:

  1. There is a stressing of the color red and of the heating process in this formula.  Relate this to the description of the way to treat the disease and prevent further afflictions:
  2. “roast him [the dog] well before a hot fire, save the oil, annoint the joints, and weak parts before the fire as hot as you can bear it, being careful not to wet or expose yourself to damp or night air, or even heating yourself, or in fact you should not expose yourself in any way.” [p. 63-4]

This treatment stresses the idea of heating the joints and “weak parts.”  He felt avoiding damp or cold also deal with this disease.  Carter implies that heating oneself too much will make the condition worse.  This recipe and its method of use makes it the source for what Carter felt was the much-needed body’s healing power–heat.

III. Consumption, Phthisic and Cold Plague Remedy

“RECEIPT THE 41st”  [Quote taken from Pickard & Buley, p. 60-1]

“Fill a twenty-five gallon still with elecampane roots and water, distill it and preserve the proceeds, then fill the still with spikenard roots and water, and still it in the same way, and in like manner preserve this, then fill the still with horehound, and treat it likewise, then run off two stills full of ground ivy in the same way, after which clean the still, and put back all the liquid that has been extracted from all those herbs and roots above mentioned, and add five gallons of good whiskey, run it off as you would in making whiskey and save it as long as there appears to be any strength in it.  Then put in a cag, and to every gallon add half a gallon of honey, a table spoonful of refined nitre, a table spoonful of dried pulverised Indian turnip, and a pint of middling strong lie made of the ashes of dry cow dung.”

“Then get a peck of pollypody, a peck of cinquefoil, and a peck of white plantain; put these into a pot and boil them well in water, strain it, add three gallons of cider to it, boil it down to three gallons, and to every gallon of this add a quart of the above sirop.  This medicine may either be taken in a little wine or new milk.  We give from half a tablespoonful, to a wine glass full, three times per day, during which time the patient must not eat any thing high seasoned, strong nor sweet, and he should be very careful that he does not take cold or even heat his blood.  It is best to commence with small doses at first, and increase the dose as the patient’s strength increases.  This medicine is not at all dangerous unless you give too much for the patient’s strength.  If this medicine causes the patient to sweat, produces a soreness in the breast, or increases the cough, you may know that it is too strong, and consequently it must be weakened with honey until those symptoms abate.  This is good to break any fever, and is excellent in the last stages of the consumption, phthisic, and the cold plague.  If the cough is very hard add to every dose a tea spoonful of sweet or linseed oil.

“The herbs and roots that you are herein directed to distill, will not produce as well in the heat of summer, as they will in the spring or fall, so by these directions, you may know how to regulate it so as to get all the strength and should not run it too far.”


Colonial medicines are implied in the following, due to the namesakes mostly:

  • “a peck of pollypody, a peck of cinquefoil, and a peck of white plantain”

See also evidence for Indian Root Drugs by the use of the following:

  • elecampane roots [Inula helenium]
  • spikenard roots [Aralia racemosa; A. nudicaulis]
  • dried pulverised Indian turnip  (Arisaema triphyllum)

Indian Herbal medicines are as follows:

  • ground ivy   [Glechoma hederacea]
  • horehound  [Marrubian vulgare]

Allopathic Mineral remedies/ingredients are:

  •       refined nitre
  •       middling strong lie made of the ashes of dry cow dung

Other domestic ingredients:

  •       sweet or linseed oil
  •       cider
  •       good whiskey
  •       honey
  •       a little wine or new milk

The above is a combined Indian root doctor, domestic, allopathic remedy, with most of the philosophy for use implying Indian Root Doctoring traditions.


Very “Folksy”

“Fill a twenty gallon kettle with sliced elecampane roots, and boil them well in water, pour off the sirop anbd fill the kettle with water again, and boil the same roots the second time, pour off the sirop as before, then clean your kettle and strain all your sirop through a flannel cloth, into it, and boil down to about eight gallons and a half, then strain it into your barrel.  Then get green comphry slice fine and fill a ten gallon pot with it, and boil it down in the same way, until you have about six gallons of sirop, then strain it and add it to the same barrel.  Then fill a twenty gallon pot full of life-everlasting, boil it well in the same way, down to two gallons, and add that to the barrel after you strain it well.  Then boil thirty gallons of spikenard roots in the same way, down to six gallons of sirop, strain it and add it to the barrel.  Then boil ten gallons of the roots and tops of ground ivy well, strain the sirop in a tub.  The boil five gallons of white plantain leaves well, and strain the sirop in the tub with the other.  Then boil the same quantity of heart leaves–in he same way, and strain the sirop in the same tub.  The put the whole contents of the tub in a vessel and boil it down to two gallons and add it to the barrel.  Then fill a ten gallon pot full of the bark of the roots of yellow poplar, and boil it down and strain it, and then reduce it to two gallons, and strain it in the barrel.  Then fill a five gallon pot with mullen roots and boil and strain it as the rest were done and then strain it in the barrel, when it is reduced to half a gallon.  This makes in all twenty-eight gallons, to which you add five gallons and a half of good clean honey, a quart of good Madiera wine, a pound of pulverised colombo, a pint of the elixer of vitriol, and ten gallons of good apple cider (after boiling it down to five.)  Then let it work well and settle, and of it is too sharp or strong for the patient, you may add more honey.  There will be agreeable to this arrangement about forty gallons, about thirty of which is pure medicine.”

Carter recommends this for “pulminary complaints, coughs, &c.” to which “a tea spoonful of linseed oil, sweet oil or dog’s oil should be added to each dose.”  Sweet butter is added to make it more tolerable by the patient.  He considered this recipe “wonderfully efficacious in all cases of consumptions, phthisics, hooping cough, measles, a cough proceeding from the last stages of a fever, and a cough proceeding from the dropsey.   The patient should not make use of any salted hog meat, sweet milk, cider nor spirits, but may be permitted to use fresh shoat, beef, chickens, squirrels, mutton, panado, rice, buttermilk, and a little water and wine.”

The focus is on Indian Medicines, or herbs popular to mid-western Indian Root doctors or Botanic Physicians, i.e.

1.  Indian Root Drugs

  • sliced elecampane roots [Inula helenium]
  • green comphry slice fine [Symphytum officinale]
  • life-everlasting [Gnaphalium obtusifolium L.]
  • spikenard roots [Aralia racemosa; A. nudicaulis]
  • the roots and tops of ground ivy  [Glechoma hederacea]
  • the bark of the roots of yellow poplar    [Liriodendron tulipifera]
  • mullen roots [Verbascum thapsus]

2.  Indian Bark Drugs

  • the bark of the roots of yellow poplar       [Liriodendron tulipifera]

3. Indian Herb Drugs

  • the roots and tops of ground ivy  [Glechoma hederacea]
  • white plantain leaves [Plantago majus]
  • “heart leaves”   [Asarum micranthum (Schuttlw.) Small, or A. virginicum L.; A. canadense L. is a more northern   species.]

4.  European Drugs

  • pulverised colombo [Jatropha palmata]

5.  Allopathic Mineral Remedies

  • elixer of vitriol


  • Other/Domestic materials
  •  good clean honey
  • good Madiera wine
  • good apple cider
  • linseed oil, sweet oil or dog’s oil
  • Sweet butter

V.  “RECIPE THE 23rd.”

DROPSY [p. 64]

For Fever and Ague [p. 62-3]


a mixture of

  •  calomel
  • salt peter
  • Jesuit bark
  • pulverized Columbo
  • Elixir of Vitriol
  • Spirits of Niter
  • a pill of Steel Dust

“At the same time blister plasters should be applied to the patient’s wrists and ankles and an opened young pullet to the souls of the feet.” [This part quoted from authors’ description, p. 62-3]


Blistering is very allopathic.  But botanic physicians did apply some of that philosophy to their paradigm and theory.  This use of a blistering remedy has some relation to the older humoral theories of 1700-1780/90 and solidist theories of ca. 1780-1820.

Materia Medica

  • Calomel (Mercury), Salt Peter, Elixir of Vitriol, Spt Nitre and Steel Dust (pill or “pulv” (powder)?) are all example of mineral remedies [regular doctors], each of which has a long Colonial history attached to it.
  • Jesuit Bark  (Peruvian Bark. Cinchona).  Colonial herbal medicine of the New World.
  • Colombo, pulv. Jatropha palmata (Lam.) Miers and/or J. columba (Roxb.) Miers.  (East African).  Root medicine.

Methodology for preparation/use:

  • This is a root-bark formula, yet, in terms of selection of materia medica, little or none of this formula is Northern Native American.  The Cinchona, although South American, was in this case used and named in a manner that is more in accordance with European philosophy.
  • There are some hints of four humours: Red–Steel Dust (Jesuit Bark?); Yellow–Jesuit Bark; White–Salt Peter, Black–Colombo.

VI.  Epilepsy (“Fits” and “Ordinary fits”)


Note the theory for epilepsy here, he claimed it was caused “by worms in children”

The Carolina Pinkroot stewed in water and sweetened with honey is his recipe.  The herbal medicine is the first American herbal medicine to become highly popular immediately after the revolutionary war.  Also notice, it is a Mid-Atlantic plant, suggesting again a Carolinas-Kentucky heritage for Carter.

The philosophy he adheres to is noted in the following:

“best to add to each dose about one-eighth of an ounce of manna; the importance of which addition, will appear when it is remarked, that the pink root is poisonous, and if given in too large quantities, kills the child to whom it is given.”

So poisons are not necessarily prohibited from use.  About 1805-1820, Poisons was a way that people selected their uses for herbal remedies.  If an herb was not strong enough to have an effect, then the physician switched to mineral remedies, because most minerals were very effective at purging, causing a sweat and causing one to vomit.  This also relates somewhat to the theory for diseases at the time.  In the natural setting, natural poisons were considered a cause, and since poisons and viruses were the same in the mind of most doctors prior to 1840, this made poison a popular theory for otherwise inexplicable diseases.  The non-poison induced diseases were becoming animalcular in nature, or miasmatic in origins according to some.  The poison theory was often left to explain diseases that could not be explained using either of these theories.


  • Other past worm remedies were:  Alloes, Jesuit Bark, bear’s foot, table salt, wormwood, garlic, wormseed, made into an effective bitters.
  • Calomel was a mineral remedy often used alone or combined with Jalap.
  • Gunpowder taken on an empty stomach is interesting
  • The use of red onions beaten fine and bound to the navel is an intersting effect; notice the emphasis on the color red again, for the ingredients like iron rust in hard cider or steel filings added to honey.

Ordinary Fits

Ordinary fits seen “about every full and change of the moon.”

According to Carter, Sarah Silvey would die away “about every full and change of the moon.”

His remedies for Sarah were:

  • Jalap and Chicken Soup while abstaining from cold water, milk and hog meat
  • then tonic of Colombo roots, orange peelings, jentian roots, camomile flowers, and beaver castor, stewed in Madiera Wine.
  • After ten days, give foot-baths and leg-baths using “a stronge ooze of iron weed roots,” tanzy, hoarhound, and spicewood.
  • As “spasms” then reduced in frequency: give calomel and aloes, followed by castor oil, powdered birch bark, fennel seed, and pechoon (puccoon) roots, all in hard cider.
  •  He also recommended you rub the abdomen with camomile flowers melted into unsalted butter.
  • Once the fits are gone, treat the ensuing colic with a pill made from asafoetida, aloes, rhubarb and spirits (pill fetid).


  • Jalap
  • Chicken Soup
  •  abstain from cold water, milk and hog meat


  • This is a cleansing (Jalap) procedure, along with a middle-flavored to bland menu of heated food.  It is then stewed in Madiera Wine.

 The following herbal uses apply to such a theory:

    • Colombo roots           (laxative)
    • Orange Peelings  (carminative)
    • jentian roots           (bitter tonic)
    • camomile flowers  (bitter/sedative/aromatic?)
    • beaver castor           (female body energy)


These are all European-Colonial medicines, with the possible exception of “jentian,” which could refer to the American Gentian equivalents then being discovered.  (i.e. Frasera sp.)  Due to the lack of Indian Root medicines in this formula, it appears to be totally colonial medicine-derived, and is perhaps a repeat of such as formula, as the specific use of Castoreum for certain spiritually-based body ailments was once popular for.

The beaver castor is Beaver Castoreum or a musk extracted from the animal.  During Colonial times, this medicine had high value placed on its healing potential when dealing with women with menstrual problems.  Perhaps the association of Sarah’s seizures with the lunar cycle is what Dr. Carter to add this to his formula.



After ten days, give foot-baths and leg-baths using “a stronge ooze of iron weed roots,” tanzy, hoarhound, and spicewood.

Give foot-baths and leg baths for ten days with Iron Weed Roots, possibly implies and Indian Root Drug

The plant is probably:

  • Verbena hastata L. [Blue Vervain] (Canada to central U.S.)

But could also be (in descending order):

  • Vernonia noveboracensis (L.) Willd.  [New York Ironweed; Common Ironweed]  (Eastern US)
  • Centaurea cyanus L.  (naturalized in U.S.)
  • C. nigra L.  (naturalized in U.S.)
    • Both Centaurea are also called Bachelor’s Buttons
  • Tanzy             Indian Herb Drug         Tanacetum vulgare L.
  • Hoarhound
  • Spicewood

As spasms reduce in frequency: give calomel and aloes, followed by castor oil, powdered birch bark, fennel seed, and pechoon (puccoon) roots, all in hard cider.

  • Calomel
  • Aloes
  • Castor Oil
  • powdered birch bark (probably using Sweet Birch (?); this option has Wintergreen Oil)
  • Fennel Seed       (carminative; heating)
  • Puccoon Root            Indian Root Drug
  •  Sanguinaria canadensis L. [Bloodroot]
  •  Hydrastis canadensis L. [Golden Seal] (less likely)


  • There is one European herb (Fennel) to which two Indian root drugs and one Indian herb drug is added.
  • This is a combination of a traditional Colonial herb and American herbs.
  • The identity of Pechoon (Puccoon) as Goldenseal is less likely due to DOS.  Being Bloodroot (DOS=red in color) Sanguinaria fits the need for Sarah’s potential problem, which Carter may have felt was associated with Menses.
  • Verbena hastata is blue-flowering.  Blue is equated with white in some DOS, which in Gelenic humours often represents the nervous system.  Therefore use of this may be implying a relation to treating the nervous system.


Next, rub the abdomen with:


  • Camomile flowers
  •  Unsalted Butter


There are wild chamomile like plants as well as the imported Chamomiles.


Once the fits are gone, treat the ensuing colic with a pill made from asafoetida, aloes, rhubarb and spirits (pill fetid). 


This is a classic scaring of energy/spirits out of the body.  The use of Pill fetid to treat such illnesses considered to be of vital force, nerve or energy origins were treated in such ways.  The vital powers concept was also attached to natural sources of electricity and related “powers” such as terrestrial magnetism, a falling comet, and the like.  The more metaphysical the philosophy, the more likely these beliefs were a part of the healing rituals.

We see more of this in the next medical problems and its recipe.

VII.  Ennui or Hypo[chondria]; Hysterics

With symptoms such as feelings of dullness, fear, indefinite pains, and lack of desire to attend to work responsibility, the patient feels “disposed to be retired.”   The disease was seen whenever the person gets a sense of release from the cause–responsibility–including through such activities as “hard drink, colds, fevers, drospies, gouts, night air, loss of sleep, incessant studying, loss of friends, and scolding companions.”   These people gave reasons that in modern day thinking seem delusional and imaginative.  Carter felt that these manifestations were “very hard to exterminate, when it has once taken good hold, it becomes agitated, and is in a measure second nature.”  The Hysterics was a similar manifestation, but it afflicted only the female sex.

To treat the hypo, Dr. Carter recommended the following:

  • Blood-letting
  • Foot-Baths
  • Injections
  • Calomel and Aloes.
  • Stomach Blisters
  • “frictions nearly all over the skin”
  • Camomile Tea
  • wine, bark and steel
  • riding on horseback
  • cheerful company
  • interesting engagements
  • A fetid pill made from asafoetida, russian castor and opium.
  • vitriolic ether


  • Gold filings in honey
  • Bear’s Gall in rum as a bitter
  • wheat flour in water
  • chew orange peels and swallow the spittle

VIII.  For Farmers, to Prepare for the Growing Season

  • March–“letting of blood or taking of physick”
  • May–rise early in the morning, “let every garden, field and hedge, produce food and medicine.”  For breakfast: give sage tea and butter, clarify whey, mix in sage and scurvy grass, as well as wormwood beer.
  • June and July Full Moons–the time for gathering herbs.

IX.  The following material medica list was derived from his notes:

  • ground ivy
  • dried pulverised Indian turnip
  • middling of a strong lie [lye] made from the ashes of       dry cow dung
  • peck of pollepody
  • peck of cinquefril
  • peck of white plantain
  • new milk
  • elecampane root
  • green comphrey
  • angelica root
  • life-everlasting
  • spikenard root
  • rrots and tops of ground ivy
  • heart leaves
  • bark of the roots of yellow poplar
  • mullen roots
  • Madeira Wine
  • pulverised Columbo
  • dewberry
  • briar roots
  • burdock roots
  • wild cherry
  • sassafras inner bark
  • white ash
  • essence of peppermint
  • beat mustard seed
  • writs, ankle, foot plasters of mustard
  • steam from whiskey and vinegar
  • sage tea
  • dog oil
  • burnt mussle shells
  • oyster shell lime
  • stone-coal dust
  • saltpeter
  • tar
  • glauber salts
  • rye whiskey
  • camomile flowers
  • goldenrod
  • flowers of pinks
  • pine beans
  • double tansy
  • sweet oil
  • dogwood root
  • rue
  • pine tops
  • black snake root
  • rusty iron
  • apple cider
  • Jamestown Weed leaves
  • Tanzy leaves
  • red pepper
  • tobacco
  • laudanum (unusual)
  • neats foot oil
  • rum
  • woodbine root
  • rye
  • red fishing worms
  • sasapharilla (sic)
  • pokeroot
  • slippery elm
  • elder roots
  • brimstone
  • nettles
  • a dozen hen eggs
  • turpentine
  • dog’s belly
  • burnt egg shelss
  • alicumpane
  • ointment of camomile flowers
  • dosage of horseradish roots
  • refined niter
  • fresh butter
  • parsley roots
  • hard cider
  • jalap
  • cream of tartar
  • Carolina pinkroot
  • manna
  • Alloes
  • bear’s foot
  • table salt
  • wormwood
  • garlic
  • wormseed
  • Calomel
  • gun powder
  • red onions beat fine
  • honey
  • jentian roots
  • chicken soup
  • beaver castor
  • hoarhound
  • madiera wine
  • orange peelings
  • foot and leg-baths in a strong ooze of iron weed roots
  • spicewood
  • casotr oil
  • powdered birch bark
  • fennel seed
  • pechoon roots
  • unslated butter
  • asafoetida
  • rhubarb
  • spirits
  • blood-letting
  • injections
  • foot baths
  • stomach blisters
  • frictions of the skin
  • riding on horseback
  • vitriolic ether
  • bear’s gall
  • hog meat
  • milk
  • cold water