Medical Supplies

“From Tobacco to Castor Oil”: The Medicine Chest of Colonial and Early National Virginia

Men and women brought forcibly from Africa, Native Americans, and European settlers had their own folk remedies for most ailments, in addition to those treatments which a “physician” might prescribe. Until well into the nineteenth-century, medical practitioners in Virginia drew on an exceedingly wide range of ingredients to formulate their curative regimens. In the prescription below, found in William Cabell’s papers and dated September 20, 1739, one gets a sense of the ingenuity of these early physicians. Cabell, or his colleague, suggests a concoction involving six tobacco leaves, six eggs, hard cider, brimstone, soap, molasses, salt, and “Benton’s Powder” as a cure for the “Sloppy Staggers.”

wm cabell prescription