Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Buckeye remedies for piles

Old folk remedies for hemorrhoids


The advertisement at right is from a turn-of-the-century newspaper. Dr. Tabler's Buckeye Pile Cure was a commercial version of an apparently well-known home remedy. Using Google's book search, I found several descriptions of homemade buckeye salves in books of old folk medicine.

The Old Herb Doctor, His Secrets and Treatments contains two typical folk recipes for buckeye ointments. The ointments were used for the treatment of piles (more often called hemorrhoids today). One lady wrote that an effective ointment could be made by soaking thin slices of the buckeye kernel for 24 hours in warm lard. Someone else suggested frying thinly-sliced buckeye kernels in any sort of fresh grease and saving the grease to use as a remedy for piles. This was how his grandmother had prepared a highly successful ointment.

The following recipe for a buckeye medicine to be taken internally comes from an 1874 medical book that was still being reprinted in 1913. This remedy was said by the author to be very successful in the treatment of hemorrhoids.
Take of the recent nuts, fully ripened, four ounces; bruise them thoroughly, and cover with alcohol 76 one pint; let it stand for two weeks ; strain and filter. Of this tincture add from one to two drachms to four ounces of water — the dose being one teaspoonful.

Source: Specific Diagnosis: A Study of Disease with Special Reference to the Administration of Remedies by John M. Scudder, M.D. p. 59

Buckeye was considered so effective against piles that merely carrying a buckeye in your pocket would ward them off. Here is a typical endorsement of the practice:
Cure for the Piles.—Carrying the common buckeye in the pantaloons' pocket, will cure the piles or any other inflammation about the anus. I can not give a reason for it, but it is nevertheless certain—try it.

Source: 1843 American Agriculturist

I'm just reporting these remedies, not recommending them. If you want to try one of them, please just put a buckeye in your pocket. I'm quite familiar with people carrying buckeyes to prevent rheumatism. I guess there's no way to know all the maladies a buckeye in the pocket might prevent. That probably explains why some people carry them simply for good luck.

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The common buckeye of Kentucky and much of the eastern U.S. is Aesculus glabra, the Ohio buckeye. 

2 comments -- please add yours:

Laurrie said...

I don't have an Ohio buckeye, but my newly planted young bottlebrush buckeyes (A. parviflora) actually produced big old buckeyes last year. I planted them... should have kept one for my pocket! Love your blog, I come here all the time for my "tree fix"

Genevieve said...

Thanks for reading, Laurrie, and congratulations on your bottlebrush buckeyes. The Floridata website says that "Bottlebrush buckeye is one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs in North America."

Be sure to caution your kids against ever eating the buckeyes or any other part of the tree. Numerous websites agree that buckeyes in general are poisonous to humans and livestock.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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