Saturday, April 27, 2024

Medicine Shows and Exploitation

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Science & Society, History of Science

Ed Hessler

This is a story about sordid medicine shows and the exploitation of plant-based medical knowledge of Indigenous Peoples by Joe Schwarz, Director of the Office for Science & Society at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Schwarz begins with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, a 1990s television program (never seen or even heard of). Of course, he begins with one of the medicines--willow bark tea which contains salicin. It has fever -and pain- reducing  properties but also can irritate the lining of the stomach. Salicin has also been used by other cultures globally.

Schwarz discusses modern aspirin, the history of using plants for various ailments, the traveling medicine shows of the 1800s, the formation of the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company, the method of distribution of one of the products, Sagwa during shows, the decline of such shows after the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act in the U. S. and mentions the call in Canada for noting Indigenous contributions, closing  with a comment about what science is.

Schwarz  notes that white willow bark can still be purchased as a powder or in whole pieces. If you are interested a search engine found more find suppliers than I thought. If you do a search it will provide you some idea of the scale of this business.

No comments:

Post a Comment