In Their Own Words…

How to Cure Scurvy According to the “Negro” Physician and Recorded by Du Pratz

The scurvy is no less to be dreaded than the yaws; nevertheless you may get the better of it, by adhering exactly to the following prescription: take some scurvy-grass, if you have any plants of it, some ground-ivy, called by some St. John’s wort, water-cresses from a spring or brook, and for want of that, wild cresses; take these three herbs, or the two last, if you have no scurvy-grass; pound them, and mix them with citron-juice, to make of them a soft paste, which the patient must keep upon both his gums till they be clean, at all times but when he is eating. In the mean while he must be suffered to drink nothing but an infusion of the herbs above named. You pound two handfuls of them, roots and all, after washing off any earth that may be upon the roots or leaves; to these you join a fresh citron, cut into slices. Having pounded all together, you then steep them in an earthen pan in a pint of pure water of the measure of Paris; after that you add about the size of a walnut of powdered and purified saltpetre [i.e. potassium nitrate], and to make it a little relishing to the negro, you add some powder sugar. After the water has stood one night, you squeeze out the herbs pretty strongly. The whole is performed cold, or without fire. Such is the dose for a bottle of water Paris measure; but as the patient ought to drink two pints a day, you may make several pints at a time in the above proportion (Du Pratz 1774 [Tregle 2004]).

NPS Ethnography Program