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Charcoal, Herbs, and Other Simple Remedies
by Ellen G. White
[These are experiences of a health reformer from last century using charcoal, herbs, and simple remedies in the treatment of disease. At the time, medical doctors were prescribing such drugs as arsenic, strychnine, calomel, and mercury. In an effort to avoid the serious side effects of such preparations, simple remedies were resorted to. In as much as drugs today still have side effects, it would be worthwhile to become familiar with an intelligent use of these remedies.
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After seeing so much harm done by the administering of drugs, I cannot use them, and cannot testify in their favor. I must be true to the light given me by the Lord.
The treatment we gave when the sanitarium was first established required earnest labor to combat disease. We did not use drug concoctions; we followed hygienic methods. This work was blessed by God. It was a work in which the human instrumentality could cooperate with God in saving life. There should be nothing put into the human system that would leave its baleful influence behind. And to carry out the light on this subject, to practice hygienic treatment, and to educate on altogether different lines of treating the sick, was the reason given me why we should have sanitariums established in various localities.
I have been pained when many students have been encouraged to go to _____ to receive an education in the use of drugs. The light which I have received has placed an altogether different complexion on the use made of drugs than is given at _____ or at the sanitarium. We must become enlightened on these subjects. The intricate names given the medicines are used to cover up the matter, so that none will know what is given them as remedies unless they obtain a dictionary to find out the meaning of these names.
The Lord has given some simple herbs of the field that at times are beneficial; and if every family were educated in how to use these herbs in case of sickness, much suffering might be prevented, and no doctor need be called. These old-fashioned, simple herbs, used intelligently, would have recovered many sick who have died under drug medication.
One of the most beneficial remedies is pulverized charcoal, placed in a bag and used in fomentations. This is a most successful remedy. If wet in smartweed boiled, it is still better. I have ordered this in cases where the sick were suffering great pain, and when it has been confided to me by the physician that he thought it was the last before the close of life. Then I suggested the charcoal, and the patient slept, the turning point came, and recovery was the result. To students when injured with bruised hands and suffering with inflammation, I have prescribed this simple remedy, with perfect success. The poison of inflammation was overcome, the pain removed, and healing went on rapidly. The most severe inflammation of the eyes will be relieved by a poultice of charcoal, put in a bag, and dipped in hot or cold water, as will best suit the case. This works like a charm.
I expect you will laugh at this; but if I could give this remedy some outlandish name that no one knew but myself, it would have greater influence. . . . But the simplest remedies may assist nature, and leave no baleful effects after their use.—Letter 82, 1897
There are many simple herbs which, if our nurses would learn the value of, they could use in the place of drugs, and find very effective. Many times I have been applied to for advice as to what should be done in cases of sickness or accident, and I have mentioned some of these simple remedies, and they have proved helpful.
On one occasion a physician came to me in great distress. He had been called to attend a young woman who was dangerously ill. She had contracted fever while on the campground, and was taken to our school building near Melbourne, Australia. But she became so much worse that it was feared she could not live. The physician, Dr. Merritt Kellogg, came to me and said, "Sister White, have you any light for me on this case? If relief cannot be given our sister, she can live but a few hours." I replied, "Send to a blacksmith's shop, and get some pulverized charcoal; make a poultice of it, and lay it over her stomach and sides." The doctor hastened away to follow out my instructions. Soon he returned, saying, "Relief came in less than half an hour after the application of the poultices. She is now having the first natural sleep she has had for days."
I have ordered the same treatment for others who were suffering great pain, and it has brought relief and been the means of saving life. My mother had told me that snake bites and the sting of reptiles and poisonous insects could often be rendered harmless by the use of charcoal poultices. When working on the land at Avondale, Australia, the workmen would often bruise their hands and limbs, and this in many cases resulted in such severe inflammation that the worker would have to leave his work for some time. One came to me one day in this condition, with his hand tied in a sling. He was much troubled over the circumstance; for his help was needed in clearing the land I said to him, "Go to the place where you have been burning the timber, and get me some charcoal from the eucalyptus tree, pulverize it, and I will dress your hand." This was done, and the next morning he reported that the pain was gone. Soon he was ready to return to his work.
I write these things that you may know that the Lord has not left us without the use of simple remedies which, when used, will not leave the system in the weakened condition in which the use of drugs so often leaves it. We need well-trained nurses who can understand how to use the simple remedies that nature provides for restoration to health, and who can teach those who are ignorant of the laws of health how to use these simple but effective cures.
He who created men and women has an interest in those who suffer. He has directed in the establishment of our sanitariums and in the building up of schools close to our sanitariums, that they may become efficient mediums in training men and women for the work of ministering to suffering humanity. In the treatment of the sick, poisonous drugs need not be used. Alcohol or tobacco in any form must not be recommended, lest some soul be led to imbibe a taste for these evil things.—Letter 90, 1908
In regard to that which we can do for ourselves, there is a point that requires careful, thoughtful consideration. I must become acquainted with myself, I must be a learner always as to how to take care of this building, the body God has given me, that I may preserve it in the very best condition of health. I must eat those things which will be for my very best good physically, and I must take special care to have my clothing such as will conduce to a healthful circulation of the blood. I must not deprive myself of exercise and air. I must get all the sunlight that it is possible for me to obtain.
I must have wisdom to be a faithful guardian of my body. I should do a very unwise thing to enter a cool room when in a perspiration; I should show myself an unwise steward to allow myself to sit in a draft, and thus expose myself so as to take cold. I should be unwise to sit with cold feet and limbs, and thus drive back the blood from the extremities to the brain or internal organs. I should always protect my feet in damp weather.
I should eat regularly of the most healthful food which will make the best quality of blood, and I should not work intemperately if it is in my power to avoid doing so.
And when I violate the laws God has established in my being, I am to repent and reform, and place myself in the most favorable condition under the doctors God has provided—pure air, pure water, and the healing, precious sunlight.
Water can be used in many ways to relieve suffering. Drafts of clear, hot water taken before eating (half a quart, more or less), will never do any harm, but will rather be productive of good.
A cup of tea made from catnip herb will quiet the nerves.
Hop tea will induce sleep. Hop poultices over the stomach will relieve pain.
If the eyes are weak, if there is pain in the eyes, or inflammation, soft flannel cloths wet in hot water and salt, will bring relief quickly.
When the head is congested, if the feet and limbs are put in a bath with a little mustard, relief will be obtained.
There are many more simple remedies which will do much to restore healthful action to the body. All these simple preparations the Lord expects us to use for ourselves, but man's extremities are God's opportunities. If we neglect to do that which is within the reach of nearly every family, and ask the Lord to relieve pain when we are too indolent to make use of these remedies within our power, it is simply presumption. The Lord expects us to work in order that we may obtain food. He does not propose that we shall gather the harvest unless we break the sod, till the soil, and cultivate the produce. Then God sends the rain and the sunshine and the clouds to cause vegetation to flourish. God works and man cooperates with God. Then there is seedtime and harvest.
God has caused to grow out of the ground, herbs for the use of man, and if we understand the nature of those roots and herbs, and make a right use of them, there would not be a necessity of running for the doctor so frequently, and people would be in much better health than they are today. I believe in calling upon the Great Physician when we have used the remedies I have mentioned.—Letter 35, 1890.
Do all that you possibly can to perfect the institution inside and out. Be sure that your premises are in the best of order. Let there be nothing about them that will make a disagreeable impression of the minds of the patients.
Encourage the patients to live healthfully and to take an abundance of exercise. This will do much to restore them to health. Let seats be placed under the shade of the trees, that the patients may be encouraged to spend much time out-of-doors. And a place should be provided, enclosed either with canvas or with glass, where, in cooler weather, the patients can sit in the sun without feeling the wind. . . .
Fresh air and sunshine, cheerfulness within and without the institution, pleasant words and kindly acts—these are the remedies that the sick need, and God will crown with success your efforts to provide these remedies for the sick ones who come to the sanitarium. By happiness and cheerfulness and expressions of sympathy and hopefulness for others, your own soul will be filled with light and peace. And never forget that the sunshine of God's blessing is worth everything to us.
Teach nurses and patients the value of those health-restoring agencies that are freely provided by God, and the usefulness of simple things that are easily obtained.
I will tell you a little about my experience with charcoal as a remedy. For some forms of indigestion, it is more efficacious than drugs. A little olive oil into which some of this powder has been stirred tends to cleanse and heal. I find it is excellent. Pulverized charcoal from eucalyptus wood we have used freely in cases of inflammation. . . .
Always study and teach the use of the simplest remedies, and the special blessing of the Lord may be expected to follow the use of these means which are within the reach of the common people.—Letter 100, 1903.
A brother was taken sick with inflammation of the bowels and bloody dysentery. The man was not a careful health reformer, but indulged his appetite. We were just preparing to leave Texas, where we had been laboring for several months, and we had carriages prepared to take away this brother and his family, and several others who were suffering from malarial fever. My husband and I thought we would stand this expense rather than have the heads of several families die and leave their wives and children unprovided for.
Two or three were taken in a large spring wagon on spring mattresses. But this man who was suffering from inflammation of the bowels, sent for me to come to him. My husband and I decided that it would not do to move him. Fears were entertained that mortification had set in. Then the thought came to me like a communication from the Lord to take pulverized charcoal, put water upon it, and give this water to the sick man to drink, putting bandages of the charcoal over the bowels and stomach. We were about one mile from the city of Denison, but the sick man's son went to a blacksmith's shop, secured the charcoal, and pulverized it, and then used it according to the directions given. The result was that in half an hour there was a change for the better. We had to go on our journey and leave the family behind, but what was our surprise the following day to see their wagon overtake us. The sick man was lying in a bed in the wagon. The blessing of God had worked with the simple means used.—Letter 182, 1899
We need a hospital so much. On Thursday Sister Sara McEnterfer was called to see if she could do anything for Brother B's little son, who is eighteen months old. For several days he has had a painful swelling on the knee, supposed to be from the bite of some poisonous insect. Pulverized charcoal, mixed with flaxseed, was placed upon the swelling, and this poultice gave relief at once. The child had screamed with pain all night, but when this was applied, he slept. Today she has been to see the little one twice. She opened the swelling in two places, and a large amount of yellow matter and blood was discharged freely. The child was relieved of its great suffering. We thank the Lord that we may become intelligent in using the simple things within our reach to alleviate pain, and successfully remove its cause.—Manuscript 68, 1899.
(Selected Messages, volume 2, pages 293-301)