I am not one to venture enthusiastically into the kitchen. So when I read the instructions for making a salve, I worried that it looked a bit too much like cooking. And what would I do without a double boiler? Could this possibly end well?
I often teach the history of herbal contraceptives in my courses, but I had never heard that common garden sage was on the list of potential pregnancy dangers. Sage is another reminder of the long history of induced abortion in women's health care.
When I teach the history of medicine, I ask students to think about how everyday people — people much like themselves, but in more Puritanical garb — responded to symptoms such as runny noses, sore throats, sprained ankles, and relentless diarrhea. We turn to Nicholas Culpeper for the answers.
When Martha Ballard's niece was ill in 1794, she made her a syrup that contained plantain. Two hundred and twenty-three years later, I learned that this useful herb was growing wild in my backyard.
Wildcrafting is the methodology of those who gather medicinal plants from the wild. Surprisingly, its basic tenets are not all that different from the methods and ethics of the historian.