Show Notes: Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic with Elaine Breslaw

Lotiions, Potions, Pills and Magice with Elaine Breslaw on Fieldstone CommonHere are some items that were mentioned during the 20 June 2013 Fieldstone Common interview with Elaine G. Breslaw about her book Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America.

The podcast of the interview is now available.

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Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic, published by New York University Press, is available for purchase from and other booksellers.

You can learn more about Elaine Breslaw at her website.

Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic takes a detailed look at the state of health care in early America starting with Native Americans just prior to the arrival of Europeans. During the discussion we explore the effectiveness of health care in America as well what kinds of treatments were used before the age of modern medicine. We also take a look at non-traditional practitioners such as midwives, Native American Shamans and African Obeahs.

New York University Press, the publisher of Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic, donated two copies of the book which were provided as giveaways during the live show to listeners in Connecticut and Michigan. A big thank you to the New York University Press for their generosity!

Houstory - Makers of the Heirloom Registry and the Home History Book

You can read the full story of the cookbook (as mentioned during the show) — and see pictures of Gommy in her Lopez garden and even a link to one of her recipes — on the Heirloom Registry’s blog.

Fieldstone Common’s sponsor is Houstory, makers of the Home History Book and the Heirloom Registry. Fieldstone Common listeners can take 15 % off their Heirloom Registry order by visiting the Heirloom Registry at, and entering FIELDSTONE – in all caps – at checkout.

Fieldstone Common greatly appreciates the support of Houstory as a sponsor. Show your support for Fieldstone Common by visiting our sponsor’s site.

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Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic with Elaine Breslaw

LIVE: THURSDAY, 20 June 2013 at 1:00pm EDT

Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic with Elaine Breslaw on Fieldstone CommonThis week on Fieldstone Common, Marian Pierre-Louis interviews Elaine Breslaw, author of Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America.

Health in early America was generally good. The food was plentiful, the air and water were clean, and people tended to enjoy strong constitutions as a result of this environment. Practitioners of traditional forms of health care enjoyed high social status, and the cures they offered—from purging to mere palliatives—carried a powerful authority. Consequently, most American doctors felt little need to keep up with Europe’s medical advances relying heavily on their traditional depletion methods. However, in the years following the American Revolution as poverty increased and America’s water and air became more polluted, people grew sicker. Traditional medicine became increasingly ineffective. Instead, Americans sought out both older and newer forms of alternative medicine and people who embraced these methods: midwives, folk healers, Native American shamans, African obeahs and the new botanical and water cure advocates.

In this overview of health and healing in early America, Elaine G. Breslaw describes the evolution of public health crises and solutions. Breslaw examines “ethnic borrowings” (of both disease and treatment) of early American medicine and the tension between trained doctors and the lay public. While orthodox medicine never fully lost its authority, Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic argues that their ascendance over other healers didn’t begin until the early twentieth century, as germ theory finally migrated from Europe to the UnitElaine Breslaw on Fieldstone Commoned States and American medical education achieved professional standing.

Elaine G. Breslaw retired as Professor of History from Morgan State University in Baltimore after 29 years and has taught on an adjunct basis at Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is the author of Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies (NYU Press, 1995), Witches of the Atlantic World: An Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook (NYU Press, 2000), and Dr. Alexander Hamilton and Provincial America: Expanding the Orbit of Scottish Culture.