Friday, December 30, 2016

1870: Briante's Indian methods of healing asthma and bronchitis

On the title page of his book "The Old Root and Herb Doctor" published in 1870, John Goodale Briante said that he lived "for many years with the St. Francis Tribe of Indians, at Green Bay; also for several years with the Pottawattamies and other tribes. "otanic

He said his book contained "directions for preparing and using their most valuable remedies, as used by him (Briante), in his extensive practice throughout the Eastern and Middle States." (1, page 136-7)(2, title page)

In the preface of his book, he said:
The Remedies given may be relied upon, and are the result of a long and careful study of the system followed by the natives of this country, whose singular success in the treatment of disease is well known;and are the same used by the Doctor, during a successful practice of thirty years.
If the directions here laid down are carefully followed it will, in many cases, save the expense and trouble of calling upon the family physician and prove of the greatest value at times when his attendance cannot be procured.
Did he really learn from the Indians?

We may never know.

It is possible, however, that many of the remedies he described were actually Indian remedies.  Yet it is also possible they were simply made up remedies, or remedies borrowed or stolen from Aborigines of some other nation.

Most Indian remedies were simple, containing only one or two roots or herbs. Most remedies containing more than this were probably just made up remedies. 

Regardless, he profited by selling his products, and his book, during the later course of the 19th century, providing hope for millions of people seeking the all mighty cure for the ailments that plagued them, while at the same time avoiding the costly trip to a medical doctor's office.

He did this near the end of the hey day of Indian, or botanic medicine, before there were laws regulating it.

The following are his remedies for asthma and bronchitis:

1.  Asthma:
Take one half ounce Elecampane root (good for diseases of the chest), pulverized, one half ounce of Flos Sulphur, four scruples of Belladonna leaves, pulverized, one Drachm of Senega root; Mix them well and divide into ninety powders, one of which is to be taken three times a day. (1, page 27, 91)
2.  Asthma:
  • DROPS FOR ASTHMA. Take two ounces Syrup of Orange Pee, on-e half ounce Wine of Ipecac, one half drachm Tr. Stramonium, one drachm Tr. Opium. In severe attacks, give one tea-spoonful every hour. (1, page 53)
  • Indian Turnip, or Dragon Root,  Poplar Bark and Owen's Root (2, page 90-91).
2. Bronchitis:
Take Blue or White Vervain, steep and give a wine-glass full three times a day. Rub the neck and stomach with "Specie of Oil." (See Receipt.)
All of the ingredients could easily be found in their natural environment and prepared by anyone.

  1. Vogel, Virgil, "American Indian Medicine," 1970, London, Oklahoma University Press
  2. Briante, John Goodale, "The Old Root and Herb Doctor, or the Indian Method of Healing," 1870, New Hampshire, Granite Book Company
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