The plant that is referred to as Radium weed is actually Euphorbia Peplus, which is an amazing weed used to kill certain types of skin lesions. How truly wonderful that Nature provides the cure for lesions that we doctors agonise over so much!
It takes time, knowledge and a considerable amount of money to translate natural herbs and minerals into marketable products available to the public and not merely those who happen to live in the district of the herb etc.
Women, usually old, wrinkled women, used to be the local ‘libraries’ of folklore and it was to them one went for a cure or a potion.
Before the middle classes were created by the industrial revolution, society was composed of field workers and aristocrats or landed gentry. The former worked the farms, including animals and crops, or travelled from market town to town selling items that are today found in $2 stores. They certainly had no time to be foraging in woods for herbs or digging up minerals when food had to be provided, for one’s own family as well as the gentry.
The aristocrats were not going anywhere their soft leather shoes could not take them so it fell to the women of the forests to collect, store and dispense as well as remember the old cures and potions, handed down from generation to generation.
Sometimes there were cures called ‘charms’ for specific things. These were usually a form of words and/or rituals for things like mental states, dizziness, anxiety and a whole raft of symptoms that continue to puzzle us today when they do not match the accepted patterns of modern medicine.
My grandmother had a charm for burns which she kept secret until her deathbed when she passed it on to my father. He kept it until his deathbed when he passed it on to my sister. ‘ ‘ It might have been handy if he had thought to pass it on to me. As a doctor I might have had considerable use for it, but maybe he was trying to save me from being burnt at the stake! Or the modern equivalent, the Medical Board.
After all my years in medicine, I recognise the power of the mind in getting people better. By that I mean my mind and their mind, and the interaction between the two. With the development of the scientific method we have discarded the useful rituals that are now labelled as either placebos or outright quackery.
When patients come with symptoms, the underlying message is often simply ‘I am afraid of this, please take it and my fear away’. If a doctor can truly engage with the patient, step into his or her fear with them, and lead them to a safer place mentally, the battle is already won. From that point on the choice of cure becomes much easier.
Sure, penicillin has saved multitudes of lives, and without antibiotics…. What? You think everyone with big infections died? All of them? No! What is utterly remarkable is that many did not. We have rationalised this so that it fits the scientific theory of medicine, but there is more going on than we know even today.
The interface of mind and medicine is an amazing field where logic has to give way to intuition, where evidence has to give way to anecdote, where despair melts before the natural possibilities!! There have been and will continue to be huge developments in the power of mind body healing and I predict that it will ultimately shake modern medicine to it’s foundations!