Friday, June 24, 2016

1813: Asthma remedy of Peter Smith, Root and Herb Doctor

Father and Doctor Peter Smith (1753-1818) was the son of a physician, he was born in Whales, and he was educated as a physician at Princeton, mainly under the direction of his father.  He was a Puritan, and he was among the many who settled in the territory of the Ohio Valley.  He preached the word of God, and he also healed with his botanic remedies. (3, page 354)

He referred to himself as "Peter Smith, the Indian Herb Doctor" mainly because he preferred to heal with herbs and roots.  In this way, he became well known among the Ohio Valley as "Peter Smith, the Indian Herb Doctor. (3, page 354)

He was not your typical root and herb doctor (botanic physician), one who was looking for a quick way to fame and money.  Near the end of his life he published a book that was filled with botanic remedies and was similar to Samuel Thomson's book "New Guide to Health; or Botanic Family Physician."  (3, page 354).

Father (Dr.) Smith's book was published in 1813, and titled "The Indian Doctor's Dispensatory: Being Father Smith's Advice Respecting Disease and Their Cure" (2, page 136)

It is known as the first materia medica published in the west. (3, page 354)

Among the medical recipes in this book Peter Smith provides us with his botanic remedy for asthma:
Take Sena, pulverized; sulpher, and spermaceti, of each one ounce, two ounces cream of tartar, half an ounce anniseed, pulverised; rub them together in a mortar: take a teaspoon in molasses, going to bed, two or three nights at a time, I have found enough for to relieve me. It is a moderate purge, and a little debilitating. (1, page 82)
Also good for asthma is Chalybeate Oxymel:
Take two ounces of Columbo root, one drachm of Virginia Snake Root, twenty ten penny nails, and one quart of good Vinegar, put them together in an iron pot; simmer it a little over a fire; then let it stand forty eight hours; then boil it down to a pint; strain and wring out the liquor, and return it into the pot;then add one pound of sugar and a gill of spirits; simmer it down on coals to the consistence of molasses, and bottle it up for use.
The common uses for a grown person may be a teaspoon, morning, noon, and night, when the stomach is empty, about ten minutes before meals; but begin with less, and increase the dose, as you find the stomach can bear it.
The intention of the medicin is to recruit the blood, and strengthen the system.  It may be taken a week, and then miss a week; and then take it again, and so at intervals renew the course, more or less, until the patient is quite well and strong.  (1, page 60-61)
So, would you try one of Dr. Smith's remedies?  If you lived in the American west during this era, chances are you might have.

  1. Smith, Peter, "The Indian Doctor's Dispensatiry: Being Father Smith's Advice Respecting Disease and Their Cure 1812," print 1901, Reprint 2005, Kessinger Publishing's Rare Reprints, see pages 60, 61, 82, and the introductory "Biography of Dr. Peter Smith."
  2. Rothstein, William G., "American Physicians in the Nineteenth Century: From Sects to Science," 1992, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press
  3. Prince, Benjamin F, editor, "A Standard History of Springfield and Clark County, Ohio," volume I, 1922, Chicago and New York, The American Historical Society, 
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