When the Union blockade squeezed the South’s access to medicines, the Southern scientists turned to folk remedies. Modern researchers are turning to their findings, too, to test the efficacy of some of these remedies in our antibiotic-resistant era.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), Union forces suffocated the South with a blockade, dramatically limiting the amount of goods available to the Confederacy—including its access to conventional medicines. With soaring infection rates among wounded soldiers, Confederate Surgeon General Samuel Moore commissioned Francis Porcher, a botanist and surgeon from South Carolina, to compile a book of medicinal plants found in the Southern states. Porcher was asked to include folk remedies used by white Southerners, as well as those used by enslaved Africans and indigenous peoples.