Hands of the Healer

The extended title of The Cherokee Physician serves as an apt summary of its contents. The book was the result of a remarkable collaboration between James Mahoney, an Irish American and native Tennesseean, and Richard Foreman, whose parental ancestry was Scottish and Cherokee. Typical of its time, the book dispenses moral advice as cheerfully as medical advice. Needless to say, much of its advice flies in the face of modern medical practice and should not be applied. Foreman and Mahoney warn against sitting by an open window and offer conjecture, now disproven, about the pathologies of illnesses such as yellow fever and undulant fever (“milk sickness”). On the other hand, some of its cures have come into vogue or else find modern scientific endorsement, with examples from the text including the anti-inflammatory properties of red pepper and the usefulness of the European plantain.

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