Due to the hurricane and resulting loss of power, my Halloween post
did not make it.
So, without further ado . . .
Several readers have asked me about the weed that killed Lincoln's mother.
So, here is an excerpt from the book, "Wicked Plants," by Amy Stewart.
(a fascinating little volume)
"Milk sickness was a disease that caused weakness, vomiting, tremors and delirium. Cattle contracted the disease by grazing on White Snakeroot, and it was passed on in their milk, butter and meat. Few people realized this at the time, and when Nancy Hanks Lincoln contracted the illness, she died after a week, as did her aunt, uncle and several other people in the town. She died at the age of 34, leaving behind 9 year old Abraham and his sister Sarah.
"During the nineteenth century a few doctors and farmers independently discovered white snakeroot was the cause of milk sickness, but news traveled slowly in those days. An Illinois doctor named Anna Bixby noticed the seasonality of the disease and speculated that it might have to do with the emergence of a particular plant in summer. She fed white snakeroot to a calf to confirm the disease. She led a campaign to eradicate the plant from her community, and almost eliminated milk sickness in the area by 1834.
"White snakeroot grows to four feet tall and produces small white clusters of flowers similar to Queen Anne's lace. The plant is still found in the woods across eastern North America and throughout the south."
Several other interesting tidbits are found in this book, including the fact that the drug company Bayer introduced an extract from the poppy in 1868,
that it named "Heroin." It was sold as a cough syrup for children and adults,
and was on the market for two years.