Civil War: Confederate Soldier’s Way To Relieve Asthma

As a writer of historical novels, I love to run across remedies used in past centuries. A wonderful book, Confederate Receipt Book, contains a few cures from the Civil War era.

A recipe to relieve asthma called for stramonium leaves (also known as Jamestown weed) to be gathered before the frost and dried in the shade.

The dried leaves were then saturated in a “pretty strong solution of saltpetre.” There is no indication given as to how much saltpeter (a white powder with a salty taste) makes a strong solution. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, saltpetre is used in the preservation of meat as well as in the production of explosives and fertilizers.

The Confederate soldiers then smoked the saturated leaves. Inhaling the vapors helped loosen lung congestion. The soldiers cautioned that the fumes could strangle the patient if “taken too freely.”

It is not stated whether the soldiers rolled the leaves into a cigarette or inhaled them over a fire.

I wanted to know if stramonium was still being used to treat asthma these days.

This plant is considered poisonous if improperly prepared. In modern times, the juice is taken from the plant before seeds and flowers sprout. Then the juice goes through a process of dilution process. This removes the poisonous part.

It is used today to treat a variety of complaints, including asthma. It relieves chest tightness and a wheezy cough.

The home remedy sites stress that the plant is poisonous and must be prepared properly.

The soldiers also gave specific instructions about stramonium, such as drying the leaves in the shade and gathering them before the frost. They seemed to realize that the plant must be handled carefully to work best.

I don’t suggest following the soldiers’ recipe. There are too many warnings about the poisonous plant. As always, consult physicians before using this medicinally.

I use these old cures only in my historical writing. I have not followed this recipe or tried the cure. I’m not recommending it. This is merely meant to be fun and educational.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Homeopathy: Stramonium, Thorn Apple/Devil’s-apple,” Herbs2000.com, 2017/03/11  http://www.herbs2000.com/homeopathy/stramonium.htm.

“Saltpetre,” Cambridge University Press, 2017/03/11 http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/saltpetre.

“Stramonium/Stram,” Home Remedy Central, 2017/03/11  http://www.homeremedycentral.com/en/homeopathic-remedies/homeopathy/stramonium.html.

 

Civil War: Confederate Remedy for Chills

As a writer of historical novels, I love to run across remedies used in past centuries. A wonderful book, Confederate Receipt Book, contains a few cures from the Civil War era.

A common cure for chills was horehound, spelled hoarhound in the book. The soldiers believed that horehound, boiled in water and drunk as tea, was a “certain cure.”

People are usually running a fever when chilling. This leads me to believe that Confederate soldiers used the tea to reduce fever.

Is the herb still used medicinally today? Did the soldiers boil the leaves to make tea? The roots? The recipe does not say so I began researching.

Horehound is a bitter herb from the mint family. According to Mountain Rose Herbs, the part of the plant that is above the ground is dried and cut for use in teas and tinctures.

An article from Drugs.com supports this. Home remedies use the flower tops and leaves in bitter tonics to relieve the common cold.

The FDA ruled in 1989 that it didn’t find horehound, among others, to be useful in cough and cold medicines so products containing these ingredients had to be removed from the market.

Ricola, a cough suppressant made outside the United States, contains the herb and is sold in the US.

In modern times, horehound may be found in candies, liqueurs, and cough drops.

The articles I read suggest that more research is required to evaluate the safety of horehound and is not recommended for pregnant and nursing women. Physicians should be consulted before using this medicinally.

I love to find these old cures so that I can use them in my writing. Those who volunteer as Civil War reenactors may also enjoy this information. I have not tried this tea as a cure for cold or fever and I’m not recommending it. This is merely meant to be fun and educational.

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Horehound,” Drugs.com, 2017/03/11 https://www.drugs.com/npc/horehound.html.

“Horehound,” Mountain Rose Herbs, 2017/03/11 https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/horehound/profile.

“Horehound Herb,” Naturalremedies.org, 2017/03/11 http://www.naturalremedies.org/horehound/.

 

 

 

Apple Pie Recipe Without Apples used by Confederate Soldiers

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Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

I found an intriguing recipe called “Apple Pie Without Apples” in an 1863 book, Confederate Receipt Book. I had to make this one.

The main ingredient is crackers. Civil War soldiers ate hard tack, which John D. Billings describes in his book, Hard Tack and Coffee, as “a plain flour-and-water biscuit.”

Billings, a Civil War soldier, had two of these crackers while writing his book that published in 1887. (It doesn’t say if the hard tack was baked during the war.) When measured, he found they were 3 1/8 inches by 2 7/8 inches and almost ½ inch thick.

This apple pie recipe uses crackers. The soldiers would have used hard tack because that was available.

blog-127Place crackers in a small bowl. (Not having hard tack on hand, I thought Triscuits might be an acceptable substitute.  I used 20 of these crackers. Regular crackers would also be fine.) Soak these in water until soft. For our modern crackers, this takes about five minutes. I can’t imagine how long soldiers soaked the hard tack.

Empty excess water. Mash the softened crackers.

Add 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg to the crackers. Mix together.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray. Spoon mixture into ramekins until about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

My husband tried it first. “It’s strange. It doesn’t taste like apple pie.”

I had to agree. This recipe does not taste like apple pie. I didn’t really care for it.

Soldiers probably didn’t have cinnamon too often in camp but this spice would definitely enhance the flavor. In the next batch I added a teaspoon of cinnamon along with the nutmeg.

Both my husband and I agreed that cinnamon improved the “appleless” pie. Though it was a strange and unfamiliar dessert, I’m happy I tried it. It would make a fun dish at Civil War reenactments.

For the Confederate soldier starving for his mother’s apple pie, eating this dessert probably gave him a nostalgic taste of home.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

Billings, John D. Hardtack & Coffee, University of Nebraska Press, 1993.