Medicine in the 18th Century

There is so much more to Culloden Battlefield than just the history of the Jacobites and we love the fact that we get to also look at conservation, archaeology, geology and the ecology of the land. One topic which has seen a growing interest lately at the centre is that of the plants and flowers which are found on the battlefield (possibly due to their prominence in the Outlander series) and their uses in the 17th Century.

Hence we thought we’d take this opportunity to talk a little bit about some of the plants found on the battlefield and their important uses in terms of both medicine and everday use.

Firstly, the plant Comfrey. The roots of this plant are not too dissimilar to a parsnip and would be available all year round. The roots were beaten to a pulp and mixed with presumably wool and used to knit bones in a similar way to a plaster cast. They were also boiled in wine to help bruises or ulcers.

comfrey
Comfrey Root

Borage was used to expel pensiveness and melancholy. It would have been used only in fresh form and the juice, which apparently smells like cucumber, was made into a syrup in order to open and cleanse wounds. The roots and leaves were also used for fever and it is said they were good at defending the heart from poisons.

borage
Borage

Yarrow leaves were packed into the wound to help stop the bleeding and indeed its Gaelic names include ‘Lus chasgadh ne fada’ or ‘the plant which staunches bleeding. A poultice made from Yarrow and Toadflax could also be used to help induce sleep and ease pain.

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Yarrow Leaves

Creeping Jenny or Moneywort was used to stay any bleeding. The leaves were available most of the year and encouraged the quick healing of wounds.

creeping jenny
Creeping Jenny

Bugle was made into a syrup which was carried year round by many people as a general tonic. During battle it was apparently very effective at treating stab wounds and after battle gangrene could be cured by laying bruised leaves on the wound and the washing the area with the juice of the plant.

bugle
Bugle

These are just a few examples of plants that would have been used during the time of Culloden and focuses mainly on those that would have been helpful in a battle environment. However, many more plants were used for more general ailments such as honeysuckle for sore throats, nettles for easing shortness of breath, dandelion for helping sleep in those with fever and juniper for strengthening the brain.

I hope you enjoyed this post. As always please comment, like, tweet, follow and share any of your medical tips with us here at Culloden.

All the best. K & D

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