Old Time Medicine Not for the Faint of Heart

Val Hansen YEEHAW!   


 It’s Award Winning Author


         Valerie Hansen


Hello again!

Here’s an intro to THE DOCTOR’S NEWFOUND FAMILY, one of the stories I promised you last time. It always amazes me how much material is available in real history. There may be problems in politics NOW, but they can’t hold a candle to what was going on in 1855 San Francisco. (by the way, holding a raw egg up to a candle flame was how you used to pick out the rotten ones!) Works for me.

I loved researching “modern” medicine, too. What a hoot. Makes me wonder what they’re going to say about our cutting edge techniques a hundred years or so in the future. Talk about scary. Some of the old books in my collection deal with turn-of-the-century treatments, such as putting metal contraptions inside the poor women who had destroyed their bodies by lacing themselves into tight corsets all their lives. Ouch! By submitting to that torture, they could continue to follow fashion and still – maybe – bear children. No wonder men who had big families usually had had more than one or two wives in the process.

 You’ll find, in my favorite novels, that lives tend to turn out pretty well, at least in the end. That’s because it’s my choice how to manipulate the circumstances and make that happen. I’ve gotten letters from a few readers who are of the opinion I have all the answers. Nope. Not me. But I will say I understand the role that a strong Christian faith played in those days because I can still see that element right here, today, in my own.

orphanageNow, if I were half as smart as my characters are, I wouldn’t have a care in the world. Of course, my parents weren’t murdered and I’m not stuck raising three younger siblings, all by myself, in a society where women aren’t permitted to do many honest jobs. That’s the scenario I set up for Sara Beth Reese. Enter Dr. Taylor Howard, who actually went to medical school, such as it was in 1855. Most doctors apprenticed in those days, instead.

Meigg Wharf

 The crooked politicians and wealthy scions of San Francisco do all they can to not only rob Sara Beth and her brothers of their father’s meager estate, they set out to eliminate her when she’s too smart for them. If it weren’t for the Vigilance Committee and General Sherman and the loose handling of gold dust by the U.S. Mint….. Sorry, I can’t tell you more or I might spoil the story. J    

 I’m including a few pictures. Some pertain to the story while others are merely to add to my credibility when I write about guns and western lore. I can’t bake a biscuit over a campfire – at least I don’t think I can – but I’m quite capable of fetching fresh meat for the stew. I know, I know. It’s kind of un-ladylike. But I like to eat. And I never shoot anything I don’t intend to consume – except for an occasional armadillo that’s rooting up my garden. They carry leprosy, as well as other diseases, so I figure I’m doing everybody a favor. No, I’m not joking. I told you I was up on medical facts.

 Till we meet again, probably around Feb. 2011 when I tackle the 1906 San Francisco earthquakes and fires, keep your corset loose enough to breathe, don’t trust crooked sheriffs, support widows and orphans like the Ladies’ Protection and Relief Society did, and make sure your doctor went to a genuine medical school.




Woo-hoo! Val is giving away three copies of her exciting new book The Doctor’s Newfound Family.  Don’t be shy now, you hear?  Join in the discussion and you could be one of the lucky winners.


 The Doctor’s Newfound Family (Love Inspired Historical)


Love discovered in the most unexpected place…

 He found his calling ministering to the downtrodden in San Francisco. But in Sara Beth Reese, Dr. Cole Hayward finds something more. The beautiful young woman’s spirit and kindness warm Cole’s heart, but it’s her fearless determination that drives him to action. Sara Beth has vowed to clear the name of her murdered father, and she’ll face any obstacle to achieve her goal. Orphaned, alone in the world—except for the three younger brothers in her care—she needs Cole’s protection, whether she’ll admit it or not. As danger escalates, Cole will risk everything for the right to make this newfound family his to love and protect for a lifetime.


Waterloo Teeth




I came across an interesting bit of trivia the other day.  Interesting in a macabre, high-ick-factor kind of way.   It seems early dentures were created utilizing actual human teeth.  While porcelain teeth were developed in 1774, these early models were prone to chipping and breakage and were considered inferior to dentures utilizing real teeth.  Because of the scarcity of healthy human teeth, animal teeth were sometimes employed.  Some sets of teeth were carved from a single chunk of bone or ivory.  But none of these looked like the real thing and normally did not fit well enough to allow for eating or even clear speech.  The biggest problem, however, was the fact that there was no enamel on these materials.  That meant decay set in all too soon.  Which in turn led to a rotten taste in the mouth and unpleasant breath odor.  This problem was one of the reasons for the rise in use of fans as a fashion accessory.

As a side note, contrary to legend, George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood, but of animal teeth.  He actually owned at least four sets.  They included a set composed mostly of hippopotamus teeth, one of horse teeth, of gold teeth and of human teeth.  The image to the left is one of his actual sets, preserved in a museum.

Finding high quality human teeth to implant in dentures was a problem for these early dental pioneers.  The sources most accessible were less than desirable – corpses from potter’s fields, teeth pulled from dental patients, teeth purchased and pulled from the desperately impoverished.  For obvious reasons, none of these sources proved ideal.  Since the supply was limited, prices were quite dear.  Dentists were eager to find a plentiful source of healthy human teeth.

Then, in 1815, the Battle of Waterloo provided a gruesome bonanza.  50,000 men fell that day, most of whom were young, healthy and generally had good quality teeth.  Battlefield scavengers added pulling teeth to their plunder of the corpses, and sad to say, the not-yet-dead.  Most of these teeth made their way back to Britain – by the barrel full.  The top-quality dentures that resulted from this bounty were worn with much pride by the members of the affluent class as a sort of patriotic trophy and became known as Waterloo teeth. 

Waterloo 02

Over time, that name came to be used for any teeth taken from a battlefield.  Even though a satisfactory process for creating quality artificial teeth was developed in the 1840’s, as late as the American Civil War human teeth were still being harvested from battlefields.   

Before you think too harshly of this practice, however, you might stop and consider how future generation will view the fact that the most prized wigs and toupees of our generation are those made from human hair.

So, what do you think?  Gruesome?  Icky?  Cool?

The Razzle Dazzle of the Medicine Show

 I’ve always been fascinated by the Medicine Shows that traveled the old west, and the charlatans who sold their magic medicines.
“Razzle-dazzle! Fast music and flashy color that made the blood zing, out there in the cornfields. ‘ Come on folks, Im going to give you the chance of a lifetime! I offer you this miraculous medicine that – ‘”

So starts a non-fiction book fittingly entitled “Medicine Show – Conning People and Making them Like it,” by Mary Calhoun. I used some of the details from this and other sources in one of my westerns, “Wanted.” The heroine and her brother were the off-spring of a medicine show family.  Well, everyone thought so.

For nearly a century, traveling medicine shows were a colorful part of the American life with their fast talking salesmen, their creatively named remedies and the varied entertainments that attracted the crowds. From 1850s until the 1940’s, medicine selling troupes moved from town to town, first in wagons, much later in trucks, all of the vehicles brightly painted to capture attention.

But medicine shows were not an American invention. Throughout the centuries, European Medicine shows consisted of a “doctor” selling his wares on city streets with the assistance of two or three hired musicians, clowns or acrobats, but the traveling medicine show developed in America.

In the early 1800s, medical care was very limited. Trained doctors were few – in 1775, only 400 of them held university medical degrees. Some didn’t go to medical school at all but apprenticed to an established doctor for four years. Some medical schools offered only two six-week terms before setting their students loose on an unsuspecting public. One prominent Philadelphia doctor prescribed horseback riding as a cure for tubercular patients because it was believed that the smell of horses was good for weak lungs. No one knew what cancer was or how to treat it. And only large towns had apothecary shops that sold the known medicines of the time.

So why not wonder medicines? Since colonial times, patent medicines had been offered for sale by individuals.   There was no regulation until the early 1900s.  

Although the medicine show started as small entrepreneur businesses, others saw it as big business. Two giants, the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company and Hamlin’s Wizard oil Company, saw the possibilities.   They established medicine factories in the east and dispatched up to thirty troupes apiece to sell their products by entertaining small town America. 

Many of the “medicines” were touted as Indian tonics – “Nature’s Gift to Nature’s Children.” White men posed as Indian doctors. The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company advertised its bottles of Indian Sagwa as an Indian remedy composed of the “virtues of roots, herbs, barks, gums and leaves.”

The advertising bills added that the concoction “was the purest, safest and most effectual cathartic medicine know to the public. The sciences of medicine and chemistry have never produced so valuable a remedy, nor one so potent to cure all diseases arising from impure blood.”

The price: $1 or $5 a bottle, a fortune back then.

Although the small one-wagon show continued to operate with its own homemade remedies, the trend was toward several wagons and as many as a dozen men and women who doubled as musicians and actors. After the 1880s, many of the shows featured Indians.

When the troupe arrived at a cross-roads or a town, they all started the same. First came the ballyhoo, the come-on. It might be a parade if there were several wagons, and if not, a dancing dog or a beautiful girl in a Chinese gown. The show began with music and laughter to warm up the crowd – musicians playing lively tunes, comedians telling jokes. The talent often included dancing girls, comedy sketches, even entire plays.

Then the “doctor” took over, giving a health lecture and selling his tonics and salves, pills and liniments. The “doctors” often had as creative names as their medicines: Brother Jonathon, Princess Lotus Blossom, Doctor Punja, and Silk Hat Harry.

And they had their own recipes. Brother Jonathon, mixed his Giver of Life compound in a large wooden tub. Going on the assumption that water is a gift of life, he mixed a tonic that was three fourths water. Other ingredients included Epsom salts, burnt sugar, powdered rhubarb, licorice powder and wintergreen essence.

Then there was a salve called Tiger Fat made of petroleum jelly, camphor, menthol crystals, oil of eucalyptus, turpentine and oil of wintergreen.

Vital Sparks – “God’s Gift to Men,” was made with small hard black candy, water, and a few powdered aloes. I leave its purpose to your imagination.

Some were harmful and contained cocaine or were so strong in alcohol that they masked symptoms in people desperately ill. But the medicine show doctors seldom sold medicines that contained dangerous drugs. Most pitch doctors specialized in concoctions of vegetables or mineral salts. They wanted to come back, and dead patients wouldn’t be good for them.

One ironic fact: the high alcoholic content of the popular invigorating tonics probably did produce a temporary feeling of well-being. Many of the Temperance ladies may have taken their daily doses of medicine without realizing they had broken their pledges never to touch alcohol. Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compounds for women was dissolved in 21 percent alcohol.

The better drugs did work on occasion. Some of the Indian remedies did have healing properties. And the liniments, salves and tonics were often effective if used simply to massage sore muscles, sooth irritated skin and some were harmless purgatives. It was enough to bring testimonials from the locals, and repeat business.

“And partly,” according to “Medicine Show,” “the farmer opened his wallet and bought the medicine because the entertainment of the medicine show, the razzle dazzle in the cornfield, WAS a medicine, a balm to the spirit.”

Any of you see some great heroines and rascally heroes or villains here?



Amnesia-Sleepwalking by Amber Stockton


Amber Stockton
Amber Stockton


If you picked up almost any novel in the early 1990’s, about half of them would have a theme connected in some way to amnesia. It could be the main character or a supporting character. Either way, that theme and topic flooded the market for a brief period of time. So much so, that once the phase passed, editors wouldn’t even touch a novel that mentioned the word let alone had it as a plot element.

It’s a good thing that isn’t the case today. I’ve read some amazing novels in recent years where one character suffered from some form of amnesia and loved how the author brought the story around.

Hearts and Harvest
Hearts and Harvest

One of my books that I have circulating, trying to sell, involves the heroine suffering from a case of amnesia, but over 100 years ago, it was quite a bit different than we view it today. In fact, although the term dates back to the 1600’s, there weren’t a whole lot of doctors who diagnosed it as such until the late 1800’s. When I discovered this, it took my story in a turn for the better….and more entertaining. 🙂

copper_sm2_-_copy1What I discovered in most of the smaller towns or further out west in the more unsettled areas, the average doctor didn’t encounter many cases of this. So, being unfamiliar with how to diagnose or treat a patient suffering from it, they did one of the only things they could do. They compared it to what they *did* know.

And that was sleepwalking.

Quite often, sleepwalkers act and speak in ways that are foreign to their normal behavior patterns or personalities. Then, when they wake up, they have no recollection of what they did. In many ways, they suffer memory loss.

Patterns and Progress
Patterns and Progress

In addition, most believed that you should never awaken a sleepwalker for fear that you might separate their mind from their body and cause the person to suffer far greater maladies than whatever is causing them to behave this way. From medical books of the time period of my story, there are many documented cases exactly like this.

So, when a doctor was faced with a patient amnesiasuffering from amnesia due to a traumatic experience, an injury or any other cause, that doctor might caution those who know the patient to tread lightly. Such is the case in my story. My heroine is a prim and proper lady from Philadelphia who escaped an arranged marriage and fled east, then married a successful cattle baron in Wyoming. While journeying by train to visit her uncle, her train is robbed and an explosion causes her to lose her memory.

amnesia-for-dummiesTraveling on the same train is a young woman fleeing from an abusive marriage and coming to take a job as a barmaid in a saloon. A case of mistaken identity has my heroine working as that barmaid while news of her death is sent back home to her husband. When her foreman finds her, he can’t believe his eyes. He’d always held a torch for her, and now he has his chance! Once her husband finds out, the town doctor issues the warning that he shouldn’t reveal his identity to his wife for fear that further harm than good could result. The foreman takes his boss to see his wife, but the ranch owner can’t touch her or tell her who he is. Instead, he has to sit back and watch his wife flirt with his foreman!

And so the story continues… 🙂

As you can see, time *does* make a difference in medical discoveries, treatments, and diagnoses. In the case of my story, this discovery added a whole new dimension that made the writing of it a whole lot of fun!

 Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Patterns and Progress by Amber Stockton.  

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author in beautiful Colorado Springs. They celebrated the birth of their first child in April and have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, a Border Collie/Flat-Haired Retriever mix. She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other credits include writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to the books: 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage and Grit for the Oyster.

 Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.

Train Doctors


There are headlines aplenty these days around the topic of health care, but would it surprise you to learn that one of the early adopters of employer-based health care was the railroads?   

While the vast majority of nineteenth century workers had to find and pay for their own medical care, the railroads were developing a unique and valuable employee medical benefit. 


Because the nature of railway work and travel conditions led to a heightened likelihood of injuries to employees as well as passengers and bystanders some form of available medical services became almost a necessity.  The problem became exacerbated with the opening of the transcontinental railroad.  As an ever increasing number of people were transported across unsettled territory, territory that never seen trained physicians or even the most rudimentary of medical facilities, the railroads had no choice but to hire their own physicians and set up medical facilities along their routes.

Thus was born the era of train doctors.  Most of the men and women who answered this call were actually general practitioners who could also perform surgery.   And because of the unique dangers railroad workers faced, the so-called train doctors found themselves faced with types of injuries which few had dealt with before.  They were pioneers in the development of trauma care under primitive conditions, developing techniques and treatments that eventually found their way into routine medical practice.

From the outset, most of these practitioners expressed concern over the conditions and equipment they had to work with, as well as the ability to see their patients in a timely manner when minutes could literally mean the difference between life and death.

first-aid-kitOne tool that resulted from the drive to get stop-gap care to workers who sustained injuries in remote areas, were special packs devised by railway surgeons to be carried on all trains.  These packs were stocked with basic emergency supplies such as medicines, sterile dressings and basic implements.  These were, in fact, the precursors of the modern day first aid kit.  Train doctors also promoted the training of key railroad workers in the use of such materials so that the injured party could be given appropriate first line aide until a proper physician could be reached.

As for facilities, at first, railroad doctors tried using hotel rooms, spare rooms in residences or even back porches for emergency medical care, but such rooms not only lacked the necessary equipment, their use also resulted in a large expense for the railroads who not only paid for the use of the room but also faced cleaning and replacement costs for bloodstained linens and furniture.  As an alternative, the train doctors pushed for the development and use of hospital cars to serve as both properly equipped surgical facilities and transportation for seriously ill or injured patients.  




The adoption of such cars greatly improved the survival rate of the seriously injured railroad worker and eventually evolved into highly sophisticated facilities.  They contained room to bed and care for three to four patients as well as a fully equipped operating room.  They were scrupulously maintained in order to provide a clean environment in which the surgeon could effectively perform his duties, stabilizing his patients before sending him or her on to a regular hospital.

Speaking of hospitals, the railroads were also very influential in hospital2establishing such facilities along their routes.  In mid-century it was remarked that a person traveling from St. Louis to El Paso would traverse 1300 miles without passing a single hospital.    And this was only one of numerous such stretches in the country.  The first railroad to respond to this glaring need was the Central Pacific Railroad which opened its own hospital in Sacramento in 1869.  Other railroads quickly followed suit, establishing their own hospitals along well traveled routes.

Dr. C.W.P. Brock, President of the National Association of Railway Surgeons, was quoted as saying: Mr. Greeley’s advice to the young man to “go west” may be followed with great benefit by railway surgeons from the older sections of our country; and when they have seen the superb hospitals and the practical workings of the system they will say, as the Queen of Sheba said after seeing the splendors of King Solomon, “that the half had not been told.”


narsOn a more practical front, another surgeon was heard to estimate that “the daily cost per patient at a railway hospital runs from 40 to 60 cents, compared to $1.00 to $1.50 at a city or contract hospital.”

Train doctors were overall a progressive lot.  They endorsed the emphasis on sterilization and overall cleanliness in patient care well before such thinking was met with universal acceptance.  They were also progressive in their attitude toward embracing women into their profession.  In 1894. Dr. Carrie Lieberg of Hope, Idaho was appointed division surgeon on the Northern Pacific.

In addition to surgery on railroad-related injuries and general trauma care, railway surgeons also took on the role of overall health care provider.  They treated a wide range of illnesses, performed routine checkups, delivered babies and advised on safety, health and sanitation issues.

Alas, the train doctors are no more.  There are a number of factors that contributed to the eventual demise of the once highly effective and indispensible system.  Key among them was the change in government regulations and the explosion of medical advances in the 1950s.  The last of the railroad hospitals were sold or closed in the 1970s and the remaining train doctors retired, joined other practices or set up private practices of their own.

But these dedicated men and women left an enduring legacy.   badge

Their trade journal, The Railway Surgeon, though it reinvented itself a number of times, remains in print today under the name Occupational Health and Safety

The modern day specialty of occupational medicine can trace its roots to these surgeons.  They also helped to shape modern medical practice, especially in the area of trauma study and care.  They were pioneers in front line field care, in the stabilization and transport of the seriously injured, in overall trauma care and in the development and use of the modern day first aid kit.

All but forgotten by the vagaries of our national memory, train doctors nevertheless played a major, but largely unsung, role in making the settlement of the western frontier a safer proposition for all who travelled through or eventually settled in the surrounding areas.


Stacey Kayne: Inspired by House Fires and Hacksaws


Crazy as that sounds, a house fire and a hacksaw were strong visual inspirations for the conception of my novella in STETSONS, SPRING & WEDDING RINGS.  The heroine in this book, Miss Constance Pauley, was inspired by a true story. I had just begun to dabble in writing when I heard about a local woman who’d ended up in California as the result of a house fire in Montana in the early 1900’s. Eighteen years old and working as a housekeeper in a boardinghouse, she’d accidentally knocked a kerosene lamp into a basket of linens. No fire-retardant fabrics back then, and the room was quickly ablaze. The house went up in flames and she suffered burns to her legs and hands. The rural Montana community didn’t have a physician capable of treating such burns—not without the loss of her legs. Check out the standard surgical kits of the times–very similar to what you’d find in a tool shed nowadays.

detail of surgical kit (J.H. Gemrig, 1840-1880)

The town sent out a wire asking for help. The nearest hospital willing to treat her was in San Francisco, and arrangements were made to send her to California by train. Back then a caboose was coupled at the back of each train and the only doors on the standard cars were on the ends, the passage too narrow for a stretcher to get through. Bound to the stretcher, she was hoisted up by a number of men and slid in through a window. Her treatment was a success and after her release from the hospital she found a teaching job outside of San Francisco. She met and married a farmer and eventually found her way to our small agricultural town where she taught school until she retired.

I was fascinated by the imagery of this young woman being bound to a stretcher and the fear she must have felt as that window swallowed her up into the belly of the train, transporting her hundred of miles from her home. In my own version of the story it is the hero who sets the fire, as is revealed in the excerpt. When the town doc pulls out his hacksaw as the best means to save her life, Kyle draws his gun to keep the doc at bay and begins setting his own plans into motion, starting with sending that wire to San Francisco. And then the real fun begins.

I have to share a recent treasure find of a research book–Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs: Frontier Medicine in America.  The author of this informative book has a riveting writing style; clever, witty and downright hilarious in some segments. “Powder papers, booty balls, and sugartits, Lotions, Potions and Deadly Elixirs has a cure for whatever ails.”  And he’s not kidding! Some of the documented medical procedures and home remedies in this book are mind-boggling, others horrifying–while some are good, honest herbal remedies like Grandma used to make. Aside from a wide and varied well of information, it’s plain fun reading. Some of the stories and antic dotes are sure to inspire upcoming characters.

Can you imagine the town doc showing up at your home and busting out one of those early surgical kits?  I’m starting to think a fear of doctors may be an inherited survival instinct  😉

Click on a cover to order your copy of my newest releases!

"Courted by the Cowboy"  Stetsons, Spring & Wedding Rings Anthology MOUNTAIN WILD

Brenda Novak’s Auction To Benefit Diabetes!


May is fast approaching, as is author Brenda Novak’s annual action to raise money for diabetes research.  As I shared with you last year, I’ve known Brenda since the start of my writing  journey and she is one of the sweetest and most encouraging authors you could hope to meet. I had the pleasure to sit beside her during my flight home from my first RWA National Conference. We talked about our families and missing our kids and Brenda shared her worries over her youngest of five children and his life-threatening struggles with juvenile diabetes. Nothing can be more frightening for a parent than to have their child be under constant siege of a life-threatening disease. A few years later I was thrilled to hear about the benefit she was putting together to aid diabetes research. The support she managed to rally inside and outside of Romance Writer’s of America was awe-inspiring. In the past four years her auction has continued to grow. Last year the auction raised $252,000–that’s more than A QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS!


Click on the banner above to browse the massive list of donated items. There is a vast assortment of items to fit any staceys-donationbudget and listed in a number of different categories on her auction site.

Bidding begins on May 1st, but it could take a day or so to preview all the donations.  Be sure to bookmark the page! Bidders can also register early and click “watch item” on those of interest to get automatic updates!

This year I’ve donated a western style (of course!) purse filled with my complete Wild Trilogy and other goodies.  Hope you’ll stop in to check it out!

I did some digging on the history of diabetes and was surprised to learn this disease was identified more than two thousand years ago in the first century A.D. by Greek physician Aretaeus. He named the affliction “diabetes” from the Greek word “siphon”. He recorded that “fluids do not remain in the body, but use the body only as a channel through which they may flow out.”  While ancient doctors could identify the illness, they were powerless to treat it.  In fact, doctors had little success in aiding their diabetic patients until the 20th Century. Until 1921, the best a doctor could prescribe was a low-calorie diet to help prolong a diabetic’s life, but this did not stop the progression of the disease or help the patient’s suffering.

In the fall of 1921 Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best made a discovery breakthrough with a concoction of canine pancreas extract–insulin. When administered to  a young boy dying of diabetes, his dangerously high blood sugars dropped to near normal levels within 24 hours. Until the discovery of insulin, most children diagnosed with diabetes were expected to live less than a year.  Since insulin’s discovery, medical breakthroughs continued to prolong and ease the lives of people with diabetes.

I’ve always thought of it as a the “sugar” disease, but had no idea until these past few years how devastating a disease it truly is.  When I was a kid I recall a few diabetic kids in my classes and thinking they were the lucky ones, because they got to have mid-morning snacks while the rest of us had to wait until lunch to get any food from our lunch boxes.  Some of my relatives were diagnosed with diabetes later in life.  How about you, know someone who has diabetes?

Today one comment poster will win an advance copy of my June anthology STETSONS, SPRING & WEDDING RINGS! "Courted by the Cowboy"  Stetsons, Spring & Wedding Rings Anthology

Honey: Medicine and Nectar of the Gods


Kate Bridges-signature line

Did you know that raw honey, properly stored, doesn’t spoil? Archeologists have uncovered ancient tombs from Egypt—some bearing honey in sealed containers that is still of good quality and edible.

h6Earliest caveman paintings – 13,000 B.C. – depict people getting stung by bees as they try to collect the gooey liquid.

Honey is the source of many traditional myths. In Greek mythology, honey was considered one of the foods of the Gods of Olympus, a drink or nectar they consumed to achieve immortality.

h2Hippocrates, the father of medicine, emphasized its nutritional and medicinal values. Several centuries later, the art of beekeeping (apiculture) passed down to the Romans and then the rest of the world. Beekeepers encourage an overproduction of honey in their hives so that the excess can be removed without leaving a dangerous food shortage for the bees. In cold weather and when food sources are scarce, the bees survive on their honey.

A healthy hive contains about 40-60,000 bees. Honeybees visit approximately two million flowers to make a pound of honey. To produce one ounce, a bee has to make about 1600 round trips from the flower source (one round trip can be as long as 6 miles). Average lifespan? 4-6 weeks. No one said it was easy to be a bee.

h4   h7

For 4,000 years, honey has been used as a remedy for health ailments. Here are a few:

Ancient Egyptians used it for burns, skin ulcers and wounds

– Inflammation of the eyelids

Athlete’s foot and fungal infections

Stomach aches and diarrhea

Sore throat

Recently, a New Zealand scientist discovered one particular honey with high levels of  antibacterial properties to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Honey was also used for all kinds of ailments that it actually did not help to cure. There are still many inaccurate claims out there.

Not all honey is created equal. The quality depends on the source of the pollen—the types of plants used by the bees. Recently, some experts have been suggesting that if you suffer from hay fever allergies, you might desensitize your allergies by eating local honey produced by bees that have used local plants. Amazing stuff!

Beeswax is used in cosmetics, such as lip balms. Other uses: candles, lubricants for doors, bow strings, furniture polish. Royal jelly, a pollen-and-honey combination used specifically to feed the larvae which develops into the Queen Bee, is used in skin creams to fight aging.

h9Raw honey may be pasteurized (heated) to kill any yeast that may be present. Yeast causes honey to ferment and crystallize, so pasteurizing slows this process. Crystallized honey can be brought back to liquid form by gently heating it—but not boiling.

The nutritional benefits of honey include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Never feed an infant or young child honey–including baked goods with honey—because it can cause botulism, a type of food poisoning that can be fatal. Pasteurizing honey does not make it any safer against botulism.

When honey is fermented with yeast and water, it develops into an alcoholic liquid called mead. Mead was a favorite beverage with the English and Europeans, and used around the world as far back as 8,000 years ago. It may have been the first type of alcohol ever invented, predating wine. It was flavored and brewed with spices and fruits. It’s still sold today.

In Classic Greek, the word ‘drunk’ means ‘honey-intoxicated’. Some say the English word ‘honeymoon’ is traceable to the father of the bride giving the couple enough alcoholic mead to celebrate for a month—but others dispute the origin of the word.

What’s your favorite source of sweetener? Did your mom or grandmother use honey in any form to soothe any of your ailments? Have you ever tasted mead?

Visit me at www.katebridges.com!

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Click on the link to go to Amazon: Wanted In Alaska (Harlequin Historical Series)

A Special Valentine Gift … The Heart You Save May Be Your Own by Charlene Sands

Heart sunset


Hey, today is Friday the 13th!  But I don’t mind. Friday the 13th has always been lucky for me.  My parents married on Friday the 13th and let’s face it, without them I wouldn’t be here!  My husband and I moved into the house we adore on Friday the 13th, so the date holds good memories.

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate love and romance on Valentine’s Day.  So much has been written about it, poems, and odes and stories and each year we try to show our love and appreciation for our beloved ones with homemade gifts,  gorgeous flowers or fancy dinners.  Perhaps that’s why February has also been deemed, American Heart Month.   There’s one more thing you can do to honor your loved one.  You can learn how to save a life, maybe his/hers, or maybe your own.  And that’s the best gift of all! 

For the past 15 years I’ve been a CPR instructor with the American Heart Association.   Since I teach childbirth and baby care in the community my main focus has always been with infants, but I’ve also taught and recertified nurses, doctors, office employees about being Heart Healthy as well as the mechanics of CPR.   Here are some facts you may not know … and if you do, it’s a good reminder.


·     About 75 percent to 80 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, so being trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one.

·     Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can double a victim’s chance of survival.

·     CPR helps maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain and increases the amount of time that an electric shock from a defibrillator can be effective.

·     Approximately 95 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital.

·     Death from sudden cardiac arrest is not inevitable. If more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved.

·     Brain death starts to occur four to six minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest if no CPR and defibrillation occurs during that time.

·     If bystander CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival fall 7 percent to 10 percent for every minute of delay until defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation are successful if CPR and defibrillation are not provided within minutes of collapse.

·     Coronary heart disease accounts for about 450,000 of the nearly 870,000 adults who die each year as a result of cardiovascular disease.

The very best thing you can do to save someone’s life is to recognize the warning signs.  Denial plays an important role. Heart attack victims, often don’t want to believe they are having a heart attack. They will make excuses – it’s the spaghetti I ate last night or I’m too young to have a heart attack. I know, my uncle died because he refused to acknowledge the signs. He stayed at home with chest pains for 2 hours before his attack which eventually led to his death.  

Here are the signs to look for:

Chest Discomfort – a squeezing pain or fullness, may come and go, or may last several minutes. At times, it’s been described as it feeling like an elephant sitting on the chest.

Discomfort in other parts of the body such as one or both arms, neck, jaw and back.

Shortness of breath with our without chest pain.

Cold sweat or nausea and lightheadedness

Though women do experience chest discomfort too, they may often have shortness of breath, nausea and back and jaw pain.

REMEMBER LADIES – It’s not just a man’s disease. 

So what can you do?   Well for you and your loved ones to stay heart healthy, here’s some things to ALWAYS DO.a-foods

Eat Healthy – it’s the old addage but it’s true.  Check food labels.  Make sure you’re limiting fats and high calories from your diet. Eat baked, not fried.  Eat fruits and vegetables fresh if possible, or steamed. 

a-dog-walkExercise – It’s not a 4-letter word!  Make it fun. Take the dog for a walk. Play tennis.  Swim.  Chase your kids or grandkids around the park. Did you know that the AHA recommends 30 minutes of moderate to intense activity a day.  It’s not a lot and you can break it up if you’re not an active person. Do something for 10 or 15 minutes a few times a day.  Make the time. The benefits are invaluable and include, improving your blood cholesterol levels, reducing high blood pressure, manages diabetes, reduces depression and anxiety and acts as a stress-buster. CHOOSE TO MOVE!

Stop Smoking – We all know it’s bad, but the risks of smoking and damage it does to your body are horrific. You are twice as likely to have a heart attack if you smoke.  Women who smoke have a higher risk of coronary heart disease compared to nonsmoking women. Smoking puts added strain on the heart because it causes vessels to clamp down or constrict.  If some of the blood vessels have already been narrowea-stop-smokingd or damaged by heart disease, smoking makes the problem worse.Smoking also causes temporary changes in your heart; it beats faster, raising your blood pressure and reducing blood flow.  Smoking also increases the level of carbon monoxide in your blood, which robs your heart and other tissues of vital oxygen.

Manage Your Weight – obesity is a major risk factor to heart attack. But if you eat healthy and exercise and lose your excess weight, you will reduce that risk factor and feel better overall.  a-baby-911

Act fast if you suspect someone is having a heart attack. 

CALL 911 or whatever your emergency number is in your area. 

Take a CPR class or renew your skills.   a-cpr

Visit the AHA website for more info on exercise, staying heart healthy, meal plans, CPR, risk factors, events and classes in your area. 

REMEMBER the heart you save might be your loved one’s or may even be your own!

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone …Oh and did I mention that reading a romance novel, can also reduce stress, put a smile on your face and help you lose calories, (if you read it while on the threadmill)  Check out my current book guaranteed to make your heart throb, in a good way!  Oh and tomorrow I’m the spotlight author on our dear friend Pam Thibodeaux’s Blog.  Please make 2 stops tomorrow, Petticoats and Pam’s Blog!

How many of you know CPR?  When’s the last time you’ve taken a class?  And do you believe you’re heart healthy? Are you trying to be? 


Christmas at the Museum

I spent a recent afternoon at the Monona County Historical Society Museum. It was their Christmas Open House, in Onawa, Iowa, and they’re open tomorrow and next weekend, too. Otherwise they’re mainly closed in the winter.


Click on any of these pictures and they get larger. I didn’t do that because I’m a computer genius. It does it on its own. I have no idea why, but I’m glad.  
Possibly the most interesting thing in the Monona County Museum, to me, was a Hair Wreath . I’d never seen anything like this before.

I got this info about Hair Wreaths from HERE. I just couldn’t hardly stare at it long enough. It’s amazing, intricate, true artwork, done with human hair.

From 1850 to 1875, one of the most popular forms of fancywork was the hair wreath.
Appealing to the tendency among Victorian women to incorporate the importance of friends and family into their work, hair served as a tangible remembrance of someone. Often, close companions exchanged hair as tokens of friendship. Hair was also sometimes taken after a person’s death as a means of honor and remembrance. For a woman whose local supply fell short, hair swatches could even be purchased from catalogs and stores. Hair wreaths were constructed almost entirely of human hair, which was manipulated to resemble a variety of flowers, floral sprigs, and leaves. The flowers placed together in a horseshoe-shaped wreath represent a common Victorian symbol for good luck displayed with the open ends up so as to “hold the luck inside.”


Here’s what I went in to look at—a doctor’s bag. A doctor’s bag figures prominently in my work in progress, which won’t be out for a while so I won’t bother to talk about it, except to say, I need to know exactly what a 1880 doctor bag looked like and what would be in it.

I loved this. I think you can tell I’m a writer because I found the stuff WRITTEN DOWN almost more interesting than the STUFF. I just love words. 🙂 This is a recipe for soap.

And this??? A list of rules for the behavior and duties of teachers. Yikes. Definitely click on the Rules for Teachers and read them. Pretty strict. Where was the UNION??? Starting at rule #4 they get very personal. I especially love the one that says if a woman teacher gets married or engages in unseemly conduct, she’ll be dismissed. Like Marriage is on a par with unseemly conduct. My mother-in-law says this is absolutely true. NO MARRIED WOMEN WORKED. It wasn’t punitive, it was just the way things were. Getting married was the same as resigning. My mil says it’s because once you were married, you had a man to support you and keeping your job kept it away from someone who needed it. It was simple good manners. A woman could sell eggs and butter though. So there were ways to make money.

Onawa, Iowa is the home of the Eskimo Pie…and you thought it was Nome, didn’t you?
No way.
It’s a really interesting exhibit and lots to read so I’m happy.
Did you know Russell Stover got involved in the creation of Eskimo Pies?
He made the chocolate coating work.
The day I was there, it was the annual Christmas open house
and they had hot cider and cookies and music. A nice day.
A saddle dated 1880 so my hero would have one JUST LIKE IT.
Except without the decorated tree beside it, probably…unless he’s a wussy cowboy. Or wait, maybe I should say…extremely sentimental. And what cowboys are like that, huh?

And here is a replica of the keelboat Lewis and Clark pulled up the Missouri River.

For some reason this doesn’t get bigger when I click on it. I have no idea why. But look close. Those toy men standing on the front…they help you to realize how SMALL the keel boat was.
And they dragged that thing against the current from St. Louis??
Of course the Missouri wasn’t so deep and fast moving as it is now so maybe it was easy, huh?
Wanna bet???
I’m haunting museums these days, searching for a doctor’s bag. So who knows what else I’ll come up with to blog about?
Tell me about the seasonal fun in your area. Is any of it for Thanksgiving or have we totally by-passed that to start Christmas right after Halloween?
I live in a small town and we have a community Thanksgiving Dinner, put on by the ministerial association, five churches in our small town. Then the library has a festival of trees. There is a Christmas Cantata with choirs from all five churches.
Every organization in town has a chili feed or bake sale, or both. Christmas programs at all the churches. The school will have a music concert. There is a tour of homes, to allow us to snoop in the most beautifully decorated houses in town. But of course, this is all Christmas isn’t it? Oops. I skipped over Thanksgiving, too.
News flash…I don’t let them come to my place.
Tell me about your thanksgiving traditions.
And, in honor of my niece, who is currently on active duty in Iraq, and all the brave men and women who sacrifice to keep us free, click HERE to see a tribute to our service men and women at Thanksgiving.