Old Ways of the Dark Corner: Most common herbs that were grown, kept handy by Dark Corner families

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 11, 2019

Having no patent medicines available on the frontier, grandparents and sometimes single people steeped in various uses of natural plants were adept at using a variety of herbs, spices, cultivated plants and ubiquitous weeds to bring healing to themselves and other human beings and animals.

While there are upwards of 100 known herbs that have been used throughout the United States since its inception, we will cover 12 in today’s column that were considered absolute staples for families in Dark Corner.

The leaves, flowers and fruit — and sometimes the bark or portions of the stalk and roots — of these herbal plants were highly prized for their importance in the creation of natural medicines.

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God-fearing immigrants who came to settle this great country had absolute faith in the healing powers of these herbal wonders, which were foretold in the Scriptures as far back as the creation of the land given to the 12 tribes of Israel.

The river leading from the south side of the great temple, as told in Ezekiel 47, would have trees of all kinds growing on both sides “whose fruit will serve for food and leaves for healing.”

Black Walnut — A favorite nut for delicious recipes but other parts of the tree offered a variety of uses: elimination of warts, treatment of poison ivy, fighting infections, and ridding the body of parasites.

Cayenne — One of the most versatile herbs, it was used for easing the pain of arthritis and rheumatism, controlling internal and external bleeding, an anti-flu drink, treating sore throats, as a digestive aid, and for warming cold feet when sprinkled inside shoes on cold mornings.

Chamomile — Good for digestive problems and better bile flow from the liver, effective blood cleansing, treating anxiety, and one of the best soothing teas for overcoming insomnia.

Cinnamon — An effective fighter against viruses and bacteria, removed gases from stomach and intestines, aided in checking diarrhea, and helped in controlling nausea and vomiting.

Comfrey — Probably used for more different purposes than any other herb, it was effective for diseases of the lungs, tumors and ulcers, dysentery, stomach conditions, arthritis, gall bladder and liver conditions, external body sores and ulcers, cuts and wounds, swollen breasts, headaches, kidney stones, anemia, bloody urine, and female debility.

Dandelion — Though modern-day landscapers consider it a nocuous weed, this herb was brought to America as a staple food and herb by early European immigrants. It was effective in liver functioning, curing gout, as a tonic for the pancreas and other internal organs, and helpful for PMS, menopause and increasing ovarian hormones.

Garlic — While it is not truly an herb, most natural medicine makers consider it as one. It was very effective in drawing out pain from joints by being wrapped in gauze or made into a paste and spread on the pained area. Also, it increased perspiration, served as a diuretic, was used as an anti-flu remedy, and as a relief for earaches and toothaches.

Ginger — Was very helpful for circulatory problems, nausea, motion sickness and vomiting, aided in digestion, and was most effective for fighting colds in a hot “toddy” of water, ginger, moonshine and honey at bedtime, to induce sweating.

Marigold — Most effective in flushing poisons from the body, it was also used for direct application to varicose veins, chronic body ulcers and other ailments.

Peppermint — Another herb that had a wide variety of medicinal uses, from stomach ache to rheumatism, lumbago or neuralgia to colds and flu. Rich in vitamin A and C, it was also preventative as a food as well.

Sage — Used extensively in food preparation, its medicinal uses included the calming of stomach upset, nervous disorders, or anxiety, in addition to treating inflammation and bringing down a fever.

Thyme — Most used to help eliminate phlegm, overcome shortness of breath or other lung problems, and treat whooping cough or fever. Also, used externally to treat eczema, psoriasis or other skin infections and burns.

While these common herbs were employed for internal and external treatments, most were also important because of their aromatic values.