Greetings Museum of Health Care Friends! In light of ongoing efforts to limit the transmission of COVID-19, this activity has been modified from the original version for offsite, home use. (Normally, this activity is completed as part of the “Early Canadian Societies” education program offered at the Museum of Health Care at Kingston.)
Students will analyze the interactions between European and Indigenous peoples prior to 1713 and the resulting consequences in relation to medicine and the spread of disease. Students will then demonstrate the contributions made by Indigenous peoples to current medical practices by learning to create a poultice; a paste made of anti-inflammatory ingredients held in place with a cloth as an early 18th century medical apprentice.
300 years ago healing and medicine were very different from today, although some of the elements previously used can be found in modern medicines. Often natural ingredients were used to relieve illnesses such as cuts, stomach pain, coughs and fevers. In this activity children will create their own poultice from simple ingredients found around the home.
Pre-Activity: Welcome to medical school in the 1700’s!
Congratulations on getting into medical school! In Upper Canada two hundred years ago, medical schools didn’t exist yet. Instead, if you wanted to become a doctor you were known as an apprentice, and had learn the skills of the trade by working for your town doctor. Students would start with small chores like gathering plants for the doctor to make medicines before taking on more important jobs, like making the medicines themselves and helping the doctor with operations.
Indigenous people’s knowledge and history of using the plants and herbs from their area to make medicines were used by doctors two hundred years ago to treat many different sicknesses, like cuts, stomach pain, coughs and fevers.
Activity: make an 18th century Poultice
After months of working for your doctor, it’s finally your turn to take care of a patient all by yourself! Today, your doctor is trusting you to make your first remedy for a patient called a Poultice. Before Band-Aids were invented, doctors would use them to hold a paste of herbs and plants to heal cuts, pains, and itchiness onto the skin. Follow the steps below to make your very own two-hundred-year-old Poultice.
Supplies you will need
- 1 Cup
- 1 Wooden or big spoon
- A couple teaspoons of milk (or water)
- 1 Slice of bread
- 1 Cloth OR 2 sheets of paper towel (1 extra)
How to make a Poultice
1) Ask a parent or guardian if you will get an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients you need. If you have an allergy, use anything you have at home that’s safe for you (eg. water can replace milk).
2) Put your cup, spoon, bread, milk and cloth on a flat surface.
3) Break the bread into small chunks and put them into the cup.
4) Pour a tiny bit of milk into the cup. Mix everything in your cup together with your spoon until it gets thick.
5) Pick a place on your arm or leg where you would like to put your Poultice.
6) Use your spoon to scoop up a little bit of your mix. Carefully paint the mix onto your arm or leg until it stays on that spot.
7) Carefully paint more onto your arm or leg until the spot gets to the size of a cracker.
8) Cover the mix on your arm or leg with your cloth or paper towel. Press the cloth flat down on the mixture.
9) Wrap the 2 loose ends of your cloth or towel around your arm or leg. Tie the ends in a knot. Ask someone to help tie the knot if you can’t reach!
10) Leave the Poultice on for 10 minutes.
11) Untie the Poultice and wash the mixture off your skin with soap and water.
Need some inspiration! Here are some historical examples!
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About the Authour
(Public Programs Assistant, Summer 2020)
Meaghan recently completed an undergraduate degree in history at Queen’s University, with plans to return to Queen’s in the fall to begin her Bachelor’s of Education! Her main areas of interest include the history of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the history of psychiatric medicine. Meaghan’s experience of quarantine during the COVID19 pandemic has allowed her to expand her cooking skills, and discover the many hiking locations that Kingston and the surrounding region has to offer.