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Of Roses, Pine Trees, and Egg Yolks

I am oftentimes amazed at the resourcefulness of people in centuries past. We consider dealing with medical issues, in an age before antibiotics and surgery, as being especially problematic.

In fact, those people did not know any better. They worked and healed with what they had which was largely what nature provided.

In my upcoming release, The Brooch, my hero comes home from the war with a severely damaged and infected arm. Prior medical help, for army surgeons were not known for the skill, has not only offered no help, but it has actually worsened his condition. His return home brings him to Elizabeth Johns McQueen and her healing hands. She trained under her father, a physician in the British army, who was better than the average army surgeon/barber. Elizabeth's mother, in Nova Scotia, was a healer, and her mother-in-law, Colina McQueen, is renowned as a local midwife and healer.

So, Elizabeth falls back on what she knows best to help our hero - a concoction of pine spirits (turpentine in its raw form), egg yolk, and oil of roses.

Interestingly enough, this concoction had been around since Roman times, but for some reason, it had fallen out of favor by the 16th century. And then, in 1536, French physician Ambroise Pare found that soldiers with gunshots and/or amputations who were treated in what was considered a traditional manner at the time, with boiling elder oil and cauterization, suffered more pain and longer recoveries than those treated with turpentine, egg yolk, and oil of roses.

“You have lost your mind.” The anger rattled through Elizabeth’s veins, but she could give it no life. His arm was of first importance.

She sat back to the bench. She pulled the bowl of water toward her and reached for the rag. She picked and pulled at the wound.

The man winced. His muscles tightened. “My w-w-will."