Pioneer  Medicines

At the time of the pioneers, even minor illnesses could cause death. One reason was because they did not know about germs. Many times they shared dishes and bedding.

There were very few doctors on the frontier. Many times the pioneers had to make their own medicine. They used herbs, which are plants, roots, and bark. They learned about the herbs from the Indians.

Below are some illness, pioneer cures, and why the cure sometimes did help.

Illness Cure Benefit
arthritic pain alfalfa good for pituitary gland
congestion bayberry bark prevents hemorrhages
allergies bee pollen energy food
sluggish liver beet root cleans liver and spleen
tape worms black walnut hulls good for nerves
impurities from blood burdock root soothes kidney
colic in babies catnip herb soothes nerves
rheumatism celery seeds
diarrhea comfrey leaves
bladder and kidney problems dandelion root (raw) prevents anemia (high iron content)
gas, gout, colic fennel seed takes away appetite
asthma, whooping cough, heart problems garlic stimulates digestive system
low blood pressure ginseng energy
(restores) heart muscle wall  hawthorn berries heart disease
sore throat horehound
kidney stones horsetail youthful skin
(expels) gallstones parsley prevents growth
of cancer cells
infection red clover blood purifier,
prevents cancer
hemorrhaging sage prevents scurvy
(high vitamin C content)
nervous tension
wild lettuce cleans ulcers
general pain  willow bark

Pioneer Games, Toys, and Songs

The pioneers had fun on the trail and even when they worked. Children played games like skipping rope, chasing hoops, tag, and other games.  Some of their games were like the string games we still play today.  The children did not have many toys and most all of them were homemade.  Their mothers taught them to make apple dolls and corn husk dolls.  Fathers taught their children how to carve things from wood, such as a whimmydiddle, buzz saw, or mountain bolo.

After a long day on the trail they would gather around the campfire and listen to the fiddlers, sing songs, and dance. Some of their songs included “Cindy”, “Buffalo Gals”, and “My Darling Clementine.”


(source – written by nine and ten year old students at Floresville Elementary School in south Texas)