I found this 1834 herb book by Samuel Thomson at the local flea market…


… and I thought I’d look him up:DSCF0018 thomson book





“Samuel Thomson (9 February 1769 – 5 October 1843) was a self-taught American herbalist and founder of the alternative system of medicine known as “Thomsonian Medicine”, which enjoyed wide popularity in the United States during the 19th century…

“Thomson was born in Alstead, New Hampshire, the second-eldest of six children. His father, John Thomson, was a farmer and the family lived in a remote country area which Thomson described as a “wilderness”. From a young age he became curious about the various plants which he saw growing in the countryside and their medicinal uses. Much of his early knowledge was acquired from a local widow woman, who had acquired a reputation as a healer due to her skill with herbal remedies. Thomson also used to sample the plants he found growing in the wild – in this way he discovered Lobelia, which became an important remedy in the system of medicine he later founded. Unaware of the medicinal properties of the plant, Thomson used to trick other boys into eating it, which caused them to vomit due to its emetic nature…”
(Source: wikipedia.com)

The book still had its original leather covers, though a bit warped from age and intermittent dampness, and it was definitely worn from use. Pages were still together, though the binding was giving out where it attached to the covers, and some pages were also starting to “escape” half way from the binding. Several pages at the front and back looked like refugees from the paper shredder.

I felt that I owed at least a mention of the book here, to at least acknowledge this serendipitous find. Could it be an attempt by someone in the “past” to reconnect with the “present”. While I might be flattering myself, well, who knows?

From what I’ve read and understood, Thomson’s “system” was based on herbs which he grouped by function, which after suitable preparation, sequence and amount given he believed this would restore health to a sick person.

The initial herb mentioned is Lobelia inflata which he called “the emetic herb” which was “To cleanse the stomach, overpower the cold and promote a free perspiration.”

“No. 2 – To retain the internal vital heat of the system, and cause a free perspiration” – the herbs mentioned for this are: Cayenne pepper, ginger, black pepper.

“No. 3 – To scour the stomach and bowels, and remove the canker” he lists these herbs: Bayberry or Candleberry (bark of roots)
White Pond Lily (root)
Hemlock (inner bark)
Marsh Rosemary (root)
Sumach (bark, leaves, berries)
Witch hazel (leaves)
Red raspberry (leaves)
Squaw Weed (roots and top)

“No. 4 – Bitters to correct the bile and restore digestion”
Bitter herb – Balmony
Poplar bark
Barberry bark
Bitterroot or Wandering Milkweed (bark of root)
Golden Seal, Ohio Kercuma, the root

“No. 5 – Syrup for the dysentery, to strengthen the stomach and bowels and restore weak patients” – Peachmeat, Cherry stones.

No. 6 – Rheumatic drops to remove pain, prevent mortification, and promote a natural heat” – Gum Myrrh, Spirit of Turpentine, Gum Camphor

These are my initial notes based on Thomson’s book, published 178 years ago. The above is not medical advice. Before using herbs and/or substances mentioned above that may not be familiar to you, use caution and due diligence, and seek the advice of a knowledgeable medical professional.


2 Comments on I found this 1834 herb book by Samuel Thomson at the local flea market…

  1. so cool! Thank you. ARe you planning to get a copy of this book printed? I would love to buy a copy of this book. I am an Herbalist student at Bastyr university.

  2. Hi Susan,
    I’ve since found out that this book has been reprinted and is available online. Here for example:

    Thank you for your comments!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: