This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Mount Pearl Junior High and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
A vague meaning of the word medicine is the art of preserving and restoring life. Throughout this century medicine has changed quite a lot. In the past, the medicine used to treat a disease was sometimes worse than the disease itself. Doctors were very hard to come by, so people often had to treat the diseases themselves.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. James Langor:
"Well, in some of these smaller communities, especially the one that my family settled from at first, medical care was almost non-existent.There would be perhaps somebody in the community who would have some knowledge of first aid and things like that; very little training, certainly. Doctors would only be available to come in emergencies and sometimes it would take several days, especially during harsh weather conditions. In the wintertime they would have to be brought in by boat of course, or by horse and slide, something like that. If there was an emergency or an accident and you couldn't get somebody out of the community to a doctor--a doctor might be twenty-five miles away and you would have, of course, to get there the best way you could at the time of the year. So medical care was often difficult to obtain. Sometimes people died because they weren't able to get to a doctor soon enough or weren't able to get to a doctor quickly enough."
"In terms of children and mothers having babies and things like that, usually there was somebody in the community who would take responsibility for acting as a midwife. The midwife would attend to pregnant women and if they were having their baby they would assist and the babies were often delivered in people's homes, so you didn't go to a hospital to have your babies in those days."
In small communities, there were no doctors so people found their own ways to cope with illnesses using assorted things they found around their home. Here are some we found:
- Boils - make a poultice on brown paper of soap, flour, and molasses.
- Cough - drink the extract of wild cherry and the spirits of turpentine.
- Headaches - walk around backwards, in a circle.
- Hemorrhoids - apply pine tar to the affected part.
- Hernia - pass the sufferer through a split green witch hazel tree.
- Hiccups - momentarily distract the attention of the sufferer.
- Incretions - burnt ash of tobacco.
- Ingrown Nails - apply hot tallow of a candle to the affected part.
- Nightmare - call the person's name backwards.
- Pain in the Side - put a pebble under the tongue.
- Sore Eyes - gather and bottle May snow.
- Stomach Trouble - boil ground juniper.
- Stopping Blood - apply cobwebs or turpentine of a Fir tree.
- Toothache - leave vinegar in the mouth.