Some ‘quite effective’ US Civil War ‘folk’ medicines could lead to modern treatments

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With conventional medicines in short supply during the Civil War, the Confederacy turned to plant-based alternatives in desperation. New research suggests some of these remedies were actually quite good at fighting off infections—a finding that could lead to effective new drugs.

Three plant-based topical remedies listed in a Confederate Civil War field guide have antiseptic qualities, according to new research published [May 22] in Scientific Reports. The antibacterial compounds were derived from white oak, tulip poplar, and devil’s walking stick.

The active ingredients of the remedies are still not known, but the finding suggests these plant-based medicines may have actually saved some lives during the war, and perhaps even preventing the amputation of infected limbs.

Related article:  Podcast: Don't treat that fever—Dr. Paul Offit on why many of medicine's most popular practices are 'overkill'

“This new scientific research confirms that folk medicine used in the Civil War actually did fight bacteria and prevent infection,” Joan E. Cashin, a historian at the Ohio State University and author of War Stuff: The Struggle For Human And Environmental Resources In The American Civil War, wrote in an email to Gizmodo. “These staggering results prove yet again that truth—and history—is stranger than fiction,” said Cashin.

Read full, original post: Medicinal Plants Used During the U.S. Civil War Are Surprisingly Good at Fighting Bacteria

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