Mother Earth Living

Slave medicine

Herbal lessons from American history

Richard Toler, age 100, remembered that slaveowners cared for their slaves in the same way they cared for their livestock. So, when slaves fell ill, they often treated themselves using remedies made from boneset, sage, and other herbs.
Slaves wore bags filled with garlic and other herbs around their necks to ward off disease. Pictured here: Ben Horry, 89, a retired boatman from South Carolina.
Slaves routinely took herbal tonics by the teaspoonful, and gave castor oil to their children to cleanse them of impurities. Pictured here: Charity Anderson, 101, a former slave in Alabama.
Slaves used mustard plasters to help cure pneumonia. Pictured here: Tempe Herndon Durham, 103, of North Carolina.
Many traditional healers held the slaves’ knowledge of herbal medicine in high esteem. Pictured here: Emma Crockett, 80, of Alabama.

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