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Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs:…

Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs: Frontier Medicine in the American… (original 2004; edition 2013)

by Wayne Bethard

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4614366,645 (2.97)21
Title:Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs: Frontier Medicine in the American West
Authors:Wayne Bethard
Info:Roberts Rinehart (2013), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read in 2014, nonfiction, research, history

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Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs: Frontier Medicine in the American West by Wayne Bethard (2004)

  1. 00
    The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (waltzmn)
    waltzmn: Wayne Bethard's book covers all aspects of medicine, but there is a good deal about poison and poisonings and simple medical incompetence. Deborah Blum's book covers many of the same subjects in a different time and place, and is well-written and enjoyable. Indeed, the medical appendices in Bethard's book could well help to understand Blum's.… (more)

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I am taking medicine from a traveling Doc. His name is Brownfield. He was in Denison about 5 weeks and had a concert every night and sold lots of medicine. Henry & Laura were here on a visit at the time and Charley & Henry took me to the hotel to see the Doc. He took me through examination from the sole of my feet to my head. He said I was in a bad condition. He reckoned I knew it. I told him I did. He said it would take 2 months to help me. I use an inhaler 3 or 4 times a day and take medicine 3 times a day and a bottle of lineament to rub on. If he helps me it will be a miracle.

My 3rd-great-grandmother wrote this in a letter to her daughter in November, 1888. She died a month later. I've been fascinated by this account since I first read it. Who was this doctor? What kind of medicine did he sell? Did it cause more harm than good? While pharmacist Wayne Bethard's book didn't answer these questions, it did help me put my ancestor's experience into better context, particularly since most of the examples in the book were from Texas, where my ggg-grandmother spent the last decade of her life.

The first section of the book describes the many ways that drugs were administered, both orally and topically. The last section of the book is an alphabetical listing of drugs commonly used in the frontier and pioneer eras. The middle section consists of stories selected to illustrate various treatments. Some of the stories seem only marginally related to the book's focus. It seems like a collection of tall tales. The author embellished stories about historical figures, making it difficult to sort fact from fancy.

Although some of the home remedies are still in use, this book should not be used for dosing guidelines. There are enough spelling, grammar, and missing/extra word errors in this book to make me question the accuracy of the measurements. ( )
  cbl_tn | Aug 19, 2016 |
I read this for the sake of writing research. I found it to be somewhat useful yet disappointing. This book really seeks to fill a big void: medicine practices in the American pioneer. It's easy to find books on modern medicines and poisons, but there's a lot less on the period of the famed snake oil salesmen and curative mineral springs. The book's strongest section is the "Folk Medica Materia," where it alphabetically lists medicines and herbs (including things like dirt and cow manure, as they were utilized as well). It makes for fascinating reading. The color section in the middle is great and I love the use of period newspaper ads throughout.

However, a big chunk of the book is unfocused. Bethard has the voice of a storyteller--which is fine--but he goes off on tangents that are far too modern to be useful. Many of the remedies mentioned in the first section are not elaborated on in the Medica Materia or the index. If I didn't jot down notes as I read, I would have to skim the full book to find the data again. Overall it felt like the book needed stronger editing. It's not overflowing with typos but I did notice that "moot" was spelled "mute" twice.

Another major point is that the book is not marketed quite right. Its subtitle is "Frontier Medicine in the American West." In truth, it's mostly about Texas. The local history and plants mentioned also emphasize Texas. Bethard is speaking of his home, and he's obviously knowledgeable about it, but I was left frustrated. I bought the book because I wanted information on the full west, especially California. It didn't deliver.

I will keep this on my shelf because it does have some useful data, but I'll continue to look for a more complete resource. ( )
  ladycato | Jan 15, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While reading "Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs" by Wayne Bethard, I got a good feel for what it must have been like in the old days of the American West; even Bethard's sometimes "down-home" language enhanced that. Sure, sometimes I rolled my eyes at his jokes (such as his double-meaning for "cowpoke") but the book might have been too dry otherwise. The various photos of medicine, advertisements, and equipment were interesting.

I learned some things that were new to me -- such as borate deposits being mined in Death Valley (starting in 1872), using twenty-mule team wagons to haul out the product -- thus the best-know brand name for Borax. It was used for medicinal purposes, not just laundry.

Don't expect this book to be a high-brow reference book; instead expect to learn some things while being entertained in the process (in spite of it being overall rough around the edges). ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Jul 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A history of western frontier medicine that includes the uses of multiple chemicals, plants and herbs. It also covers their methods of preparation and administration. The section titled Frontier and Pioneer Drugs: A Folk Materica Medica is an alphabetical listing of the medical properties of plants that would be a good reference for anyone interested in herbal medicine. As a nurse I was particularly interested in the way medications were formed into tablets and suppositories during frontier times. Also, I like when a book teaches me something I probably wouldn't have learned anywhere else. For instance, the process of making turpentine.
The book is good but a little disorganized and the use of hokey old-boy humor is distracting. ( )
  VioletBramble | Jun 17, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Fun and interesting resource for the writer of history or researcher. Very good information about the types of "medicines" used in the West. Every serious researcher needs this book on his/her reference shelf. ( )
  GigiHunter | Jun 5, 2013 |
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-Foreword [by Henry Chappell]
A few novels ago, I decided to get rid of several minor characters.
No, when I grew up I didn't walk barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, ten miles to town, or carry my lunch to school in a lard bucket.
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Gives an account of early-day medicines and medical practitioners during the past two to three centuries in America.

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