Medicine and Healing in 17th Century Scotland

Midwife / Healer

Midwife / Healer

Medicine and healing in 17th century Scotland

If you lived in Edinburgh and had money or stature, you could have engaged a trained physician. Healers, midwives, and bonesetters were available for common folk. This trade was passed down from mother to daughter. These women were skilled in the use of herbs and natural materials such as tar, honey, and garlic to cure disease or treat wounds.

Garlic was known to calm spasms, kill parasites, and fight infections. Honey healed stubborn wounds. Alfalfa treated digestive weakness and restored lost vitality. Burdock was good for skin eruptions; it induced sweating. Blackberry relieved diarrhea. Catnip calmed nerves and reduced fever. Dandelion root and flower stimulated digestion. Borage was good for rheumatism. An infusion of mugwort could restore a woman’s moon cycle and was good for digestive ailments, frayed nerves, and sleeplessness.

Medicinal herbs were often administered in teas or salves. To strengthen them, they were dissolved in vinegar, which had healing properties of its own. Vinegar was thought to improve skin tone, strengthen bones, and balance the four bodily humors.

Healers were called upon to reset bone fractures and adjust dislocated joints. Sometimes they used comfrey for bone setting. The plant’s roots were dug up in spring and grated to produce a sludge, which was packed around the broken limb. This hardened to a consistency similar to plaster. Comfrey leaves, boiled as a tea, brought down swelling and muted pain.

Such was the state of medicine and healing in 17th century Scotland. In my novels, I tried to make the healing and midwifery scenes authentic, given the time and place and resources available. My advice to the reader is to NOT try them at home without formal training.

By Jeanne Treat, author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a tale of old Scotland




Summer Solstice

A video compilation of our visit to Aikey Brae Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  Wouldn’t you love to attend a ‪#‎Solstice‬ ceremony here?


It’s quite a hike!  Here are the GPS coordinates:







This is the circle I referenced in my novel DARK BIRTHRIGHT, book one of the Dark Birthright Trilogy.

Dark Birthright Saga


James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, On 21 May in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.


You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”


Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”


The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”


Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:

Battle of Culloden – 16 April 1746

Culloden Monument

Culloden Monument

The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rising.  On April 16, 1746, near Inverness , the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) faced a royalist army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland.  The Jacobites had a goal – to overthrow the reigning House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne.   Their army consisted of Scottish Highlanders, a number of Lowland Scots, a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment, and French and Irish units.  They were supported and supplied by France.  The Duke of Cumberland’s army was largely English, with a fair number of Scottish Highlanders, and Ulster men from Ireland.

The battle on Culloden Moor was bloody and quick.  Over 1500 Jacobites were killed or wounded in an hour – while Hanovarian forces incurred light losses – about 50 dead and 250 wounded.  Many wounded Jacobites were slaughtered in the aftermath – earning the Duke of Cumberland the title of ‘Butcher’.   Charles Stuart escaped to France and made no further attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Britain.

In the following months, the King’s forces continued the assault on Jacobite sympathizers with the Act of Proscription, disarming them and banning the kilt and the tartan.  Violators were incarcerated or transported to a penal colony for a second offense.   Other Acts ended the feudal bond of military service and removed the sovereign power chiefs had over their clan.  The ban on kilt and tartan was not lifted until thirty-five years after the battle.  This monument stands as a silent reminder of this tragic event.


Here is a short story I wrote about this battle:

“Recollections of a Spirit”

It was a cold morning on April 16th, 1746. The sun had just risen.

Duncan and I had traveled for days on horseback, to join the army of the Prince. We trusted that he could defeat the red soldiers as he had at Prestonpans. Near Inverness, a French courier demanded our intentions and asked us to carry letters to Culloden House. Duncan took the letters, stored them in his plaid, and we continued on our way. His brothers met us at Inverness, telling us to fight with the Glengarry regiment, camped near Drumossie Moor. I took the letters and told him to join his brothers, that I would follow after I delivered them.

That was the last time that I saw him as a free man. I was taken at Inverness by the English and jailed. When it was determined that I carried letters in French, they beat me mercilessly, asking who they were for, and what their meaning was. I could not tell them. They kept me in irons in a cold cellar, without food or water. The beatings were relentless.

Word came that day that the Prince’s army had been soundly defeated. Other prisoners joined me, many with mortal wounds, dying shortly thereafter. Men arrived with limbs hacked or bowels pierced. The stench of rotting flesh was overpowering. There was no word of my friend or his brothers. They kept us in a cellar, bound, with no food or water for that day and the next. No one tended our wounds or administered last words. Men cried piteously for water or death. Still, I held out hope.

On the morning of the third day, I learned that I was to be executed as a rebel. After sunrise, I would be flogged to death at the tree outside the jail. They’d sent for a lowlander from a nearby encampment, known for his brutality.

Before sunrise, I was brought outside and made to sit on the cold ground to await my fate. I smelled wood fires and heard dogs barking, as red soldiers guarded me. Able-bodied prisoners were brought out to watch, but they wouldn’t look at me. I knew it was my last day.

As a young man, I was no stranger to whippings. I did as I liked and risked the consequences. Father whipped me soundly with a strap many times. I played a game that I would not flinch or cry out, so he beat me until he was no longer angry. These were my thoughts as I waited, that it would not be worse than that.

The red soldiers allowed a man of the cloth to approach me to say the last words. It was cold and he wore a hood that obscured his face. As he knelt beside me and pushed back his hood, I saw that it was Duncan. By God’s grace he had survived the battle. He touched my forehead and made the sign of the cross, saying the words we’d heard so many times. With tears in his eyes, he whispered that he couldn’t save me, but would avenge my death with his last breath. I begged him not to watch it, but he would not leave me.

At sunrise the Lowlander arrived, a muscular man with eyes of steel. Soldiers pounded stakes into either side of an oak, removed my irons and shirt, and tied me to the tree with rope. It was cold but I was sweating, and my heart pounded like a drum. As blood rushed in my ears, I heard the sentence being read.

A soldier gagged me, but the man removed it, saying that he needed to hear me. He took the ‘cat’ out of his bag and showed it to me. It was a whip of nine knotted strands, ending in sharp bits of metal. In a voice that was cold and deliberate, he taunted me, calling me a rebel, a traitor, and an animal. I burned with humiliation and anger.

All I wanted was to bear my punishment in silence and die like a man; but it wasn’t to be. I held staunch for twenty strokes and faltered, my pride crumbling. I grunted, cursed, and gasped for breath as the leather tails blistered my back. May God forgive me, I cried like a child, and rubbed my wrists raw against the ropes.

He stopped after one-hundred strokes to drink. I was nearly unconscious, so they roused me with water. Before he began again, he taunted me. He’d wagered that I wouldn’t last another fifty, and intended to finish me now. The man ran his rough fingers across the marks in my flesh, thrust his hand down the front of my kilt, and touched me as a lover would.

In spite of my predicament, I was furious and spit into his face. His eyes narrowed in anger.

He began again, whipping me with a vengeance. Blood soaked my kilt, ran down my legs, and pooled in my boots. I could barely stand, and the cries that I made were not even human.

I heard them call out one-forty.

Silently, I begged God to take my soul. I was cold and trembling, too weak to cry out. My body was dying but my mind was a raging storm. I held on to anger and refused to die. My inner voice cried, “I won’t let go, I won’t let go!”

Duncan’s anguished thoughts broke through my inner turmoil.

Eavan let go!

Let go! Eavan let go!

For God’s sake let go!

May God forgive me for not taking your place!

My mind calmed and my breathing slowed. A brilliant bubble formed before my eyes, translucent and full of light. I saw Mother looking out to sea for my brother, Grandfather whittling a walking stick, and young John struggling on his deathbed. The bubble enfolded me, and softly popped.

I was pleasantly confused, convinced that they’d stopped the execution. I stood among them in my best riding breeks, shirt, and plaid. It was lightly snowing but I was as warm as fresh bread. I flexed my shoulder muscles and gazed at my hands. My backside was whole and my wrists were healed.

The big man cleaned and oiled his whip and put it in his bag. He joked with the soldiers about the rebel bastard, and collected his wagers. Still I did not understand. Duncan mounted his horse and rode towards me.

I waved my hands. “Duncan. Over here! They let me go.”

My friend stared through me to a place beyond, his face lined with grief. What did he see? I turned my head and saw the bloody shell of a body that was mine, and knew I was dead.

A young soldier thrust his bayonet into the body. “The rebel is gone! Let this be a lesson to all who oppose the King of England.”

Duncan made the sign of the cross and rode off on his chestnut mare. I followed him out of town, where he dismounted and concealed his horse behind some trees. He sat on a log and waited, running his thumb along the blade of his dirk.

Before long a rider appeared; the lowlander with eyes of steel. Dressed as a man of the cloth, my friend concealed his knife and bid him stop. As the man dismounted, Duncan seized him and cut his throat from ear to ear.

I watched this without emotion. It didn’t matter. Mine was a world without pain and hunger, or domination by the English. Duncan would be along soon enough.


By Jeanne Treat

Jeanne is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a tale of 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  You can read about it online at:


Luc Gordon from Dark Destiny

Luc Gordon from Dark Destiny

An excerpt from “Dark Lord” – from a chapter named “Covenant”

Alex Hay

Alex Hay

February 28, 1638, Edinburgh, Scotland

The morning was cold and dry in the city. There had been little snow or rain that month, causing fresh water shortages. The sun had just risen, casting rays through low clouds. The streets were bustling with activity. Women swept their doorsteps and hung out damp bedding to dry. Children ran with dogs, shouting and spinning hoops. Tradesmen and mariners left their homes to go to their daily jobs. These things were happening and more. For more than fifty thousand men had descended upon Edinburgh to sign the National Covenant. They came from all parts of Scotland; the Highlands, Lowlands, and even the islands.
Back in October, the King had stripped the capitol city of purpose and influence. He’d ordered the petitioners to leave or be arrested and tried for treason. Worse yet, the Privy Council and law courts were advised to desert Edinburgh for a secure location. The King had promised to consider the petitions when the city was peaceful, but that hadn’t happened. Instead, he seemed content to let them stew in their own juice. Dozens of petitioners were arrested and transferred to London to await their fate in the Tower of London. Many of the Lords involved withdrew to safe locations to raise money and support for Leslie’s army. There was no doubt as to how this would go down.
Word of the rebellion traveled to the far reaches of Scotland via letters, posters, and personal accounts. The protest grew into a campaign of petitions and supplications denouncing the Laudian prayer book and criticising the power of bishops.
Led by the lords Loudoun, Rothes, Balmerino, and Lindsay, the supplicants organised four elected “Tables” or committees to represent the nobility, gentry, burgesses and clergy. A fifth Table was to act as an executive body. In the face of the Privy Council’s impotence, they acted as an alternative government.
The well-respected clergyman Alexander Henderson and the lawyer Archibald Johnstone were tasked with drawing up a National Covenant. It was to unite the supplicants and clarify aims, the main one being a rejection of untried “innovations” in religion.
Favors were called in and loyalties tested. By early December, the specter of religious persecution was the basis for fiery sermons, town hall meetings, and supper table conversation. Money was raised; weapons and supplies gathered, and men committed themselves to the cause. They awaited marching orders.
Word came in mid-January, asking them to report to Edinburgh by the end of the third week of February. There they would be given the opportunity to sign a covenant and pledge their support for the rebellion. In vague terms, they were told about Leslie’s army and encouraged to join the ranks.
Lord Traquair, after his brush with death in the Edinburgh riot, obtained permission to come to the King. He told Charles frankly that he must either abandon the new Liturgy requirements or come to Scotland with 40,000 armed men. Instead of an army, Traquair was given a proclamation to deliver. The King made it clear that it was he not the bishops who was responsible for the new service book. Anyone who dared to oppose it directly challenged the King’s authority. The proclamation was read on the twenty-second of February to a hostile crowd who greeted it with hoots and jeers. A rival protestation was read in the presence of his Majesty’s heralds, who could not escape the crowd. They were bound to report to the King.
This created a need for a signed Covenant. Henderson and Johnstone were encouraged to complete it in a manner that would leave little open to debate. Not all ministers were convinced that Episcopacy was against divine law, so no mention was to be made of bishops. They were to ask all signatories to pledge themselves to defend the reformed religion and resist innovations, unless accepted by free assemblies and Parliaments.
It was now the twenty-eighth of February. According to posters and the word on the street, the National Covenant would be presented today. Supporters were to attend a ceremony in Greyfriars Kirk to commit to preserving the purity of the church.
Alex Hay was one such man. He’d spent five months in Leslie’s army, with only sporadic contact with his family. The militia had grown rapidly after the riot, from a private army of mercenaries to a loosely organized force of thousands. They’d made him a lieutenant and put him in charge of a band of plough boys no older than his sons…

Read about it at:

The Royal Demise of King Charles I – a snippet from “Dark Destiny”.

King Charles I

King Charles I

Historical Background

Parliament appointed a High Court of Justice in January 1649.  King Charles I was charged with high treason against the people of England for his part in the English Civil War. The King’s trial opened on 20 January. He refused to answer the charges, saying that he did not recognise the authority of the High Court, but he was found guilty of the charges against him and sentenced to death on 27 January 1649. The King was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall on 30 January.

This event is dramatized in my novel DARK DESTINY, book three of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  Here is a snippet from the book.

From a chapter named “Royal Demise”

January 30, 1649 – London, England – 9:30am – St. James’ Park

            It was a bitter morning in London, with temperatures hovering in the low thirties.  It was so cold that the Thames froze over.  The sky was overcast, a harbinger of things to come.

King Charles knelt beside his dog; a brown and white spaniel named Rogue, and caressed his ears.  “Never fear, my friend.  Someone will care for you.”  The dog gazed at him with innocent eyes.  Charles knew that he would never see him again.

“My King!” William Juxon cried.  The Bishop of London looked stricken.  “I would be pleased to take him to your family or keep him myself if need be.”

Charles looked up.  “Thank you, friend.”  The old man was a devoted companion.  “May God smile upon you.”  The King stroked the dog’s back and planted a kiss on his head.  Then he struggled to stand, relying upon his weak ankles.

“Let me help, your Majesty!”  The Bishop reached out to assist him.

Charles waved a hand.  “Nay, let me do it.”  After a few more attempts he was upright, facing the Bishop.  He gazed at the sky and sighed.  “Such a beautiful morning.”

Juxon raised his eyebrows.

The King smiled.  “Ah…  I know that it is not.  Humor me.  For it is the last morning that I will ever see.”

“Oh…”  The Bishop was close to tears, “I wish that was not true.”

The King squeezed his shoulder.  “Weep not for me.  For this is my second marriage day.  Before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.”

Juxon wept openly.

Charles barely heard him.  Now that he’d said goodbye to the dog, he obsessed on events that led up to his predicament.  After a long incarceration, he’d escaped to the Isle of Wight.  Betrayed by the island’s governor, he’d been confined to Carisbrooke Castle.  From this location, he bargained with various royalist parties and signed a secret treaty with the Scots.  His offer was simple.  If they would invade England on Charles’ behalf and restore him to the throne, he would tolerate Presbyterianism.  Factions of royalist Scots invaded England, sparking a brutal second civil war.  They were soundly defeated.

After failed negotiations, the King was moved to Hurst Castle in late 1648, then to Windsor Castle.  For encouraging a civil war while in captivity, the monarch was accused of high treason.  The House of Commons passed an Act of Parliament to create a court for his trial.

Charles had thought that this action would fail.  It was dangerous to accuse a King of treason.  Indeed, many potential commissioners refused to serve.  Then the unthinkable happened.  In early January, he’d been put on trial before sixty-eight commissioners who urged him to enter a plea.  Charles refused, claiming that no court had jurisdiction over a monarch.  He argued that his authority to rule had been given to him by God when he was crowned and the trial was illegal.  Three times he refused to enter a plea!  It was seen as an admission of guilt.  The trial proceeded, witnesses were heard, and fifty-nine of the commissioners signed his death warrant.

The Chief Judge had delivered the sentence, “Charles Stuart is a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good of this nation.  He shall be put to death by severing his head from his body.”

The memory infuriated him.  When the sentence was passed, I tried to defend myself.  They would not hear me!  I was taken from the court by armed soldiers like a common criminal.  He’d been granted a few days to make peace with God and say goodbye to his family.

The Bishop of London helped him to prepare for the ordeal, joining him for morning prayers and administering the Sacrament.  He read the lesson for the day, ‘The Passion of the Christ’.  Charles found it reassuring.  Like Christ the Savior, he was ready to endure this final humiliation to meet his maker.  Some thought him guilty.  But God would absolve him of wrongdoing.

His family was another story.  His two oldest sons and younger daughter were living in Paris, under the protection of the exiled Stuart court.  It gave him comfort that his son James had escaped parliamentary custody to travel to France, disguised as a woman.  His bloodline would continue and eventually prevail.  The only ones left in London were his wife Henrietta, his thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth, and nine-year-old son Henry.  He hadn’t seen his wife in more than four years.  They’d quarreled over fundamental issues, one being her unfaithfulness.  Therefore, he’d snubbed his wife and allowed only his daughter and son to visit.

Charles got revenge.  His last words to his daughter were “Tell your mother that my thoughts never strayed from her, and that love should be the same to the last.  I have always been faithful to her.”  This innocuous message pleased his children, but he knew that it would wound his wife.  He’d investigated her infidelity and found that she betrayed him.  He confronted her with evidence and extracted a confession about that traitorous Scot, Lord Gordon.  He gritted his teeth.  How many more were there?  French whore!

Colonel Thomlinson approached.  The uniformed man was in charge of the two companies of infantry guarding him.  He stroked his beard nervously.  “It is time, Your Majesty.”

The King unconsciously touched his neck.  They will escort me to my death.  Breathe, Charles!  Dignity is required.  You must not show fear.  He had dressed in thick underclothes so that he would not shiver from the cold.  It could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

“Your Majesty,” the Colonel repeated.  “The signal has been given.  We must go.”  The guards raised the Colors and began to beat drums.  A young boy accepted the leash and led the spaniel away.

The King’s bowels churned.  He’d eaten no breakfast, but instead had taken the Sacrament.  Nothing more.  He did not want to vomit.  Oh, how he wished for a swig of laudanum!  Charles looked around.  He was surrounded by soldiers.  No one would rescue him.  There was no chance of escape.  “I am ready.”

Ah…  But a handful of his supporters were there as well.  He saw them remove their caps to travel bare-headed as he would.  The Bishop, his attendant Thomas Herbert, and a few more…  Such brave men.

Bishop Juxon placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Come, your Majesty.”

Charles watched as his partisans lined up before and after him.  For an instant, he felt protected by his friends.  The foot soldiers formed a barrier around them as they began to walk across the park with Colors flying and drums beating.  The Palace of Whitehall loomed in the distance.  He could see a large crowd gathered around it.

Charles held his head high.  His outward manner was calm, but his mind was a raging storm.  How dare they do this to a King!

The procession left the park and passed crowds of curious onlookers gathering to see the execution.  They took the stairs up into the Gallery, then into the Cabinet Chamber.  There the King continued his Devotion with the Bishop.  To avoid fainting from hunger, he drank a glass of wine and ate a piece of bread at noon.  Another hour passed.

Charles thought that it was cruel to make him wait.  He’d been informed of a delay.  The official executioner refused to do the deed.  There then followed a frantic search to find someone to take his place.  Finally, they’d located a man and his assistant who agreed to do it masked.

The King hoped that he knew what he was doing.  An unskilled ax man could take three blows to sever a head.  Charles swallowed hard.  He wished that it was over.

The story continues in Dark Destiny, book three in the Dark Birthright Saga.

Read about the series:

Medicine and Healing in 17th Century Scotland

Midwife / Healer

Midwife / Healer

Medicine and healing in 17th century Scotland


If you lived in Edinburgh and had money or stature, you could have engaged a trained physician. Healers, midwives, and bonesetters were available for common folk.  This trade was passed down from mother to daughter.  These women were skilled in the use of herbs and natural materials such as tar, honey, and garlic to cure disease or treat wounds.

Garlic was known to calm spasms, kill parasites, and fight infections.  Honey healed stubborn wounds.  Alfalfa treated digestive weakness and restored lost vitality.  Burdock was good for skin eruptions; it induced sweating.  Blackberry relieved diarrhea.  Catnip calmed nerves and reduced fever.  Dandelion root and flower stimulated digestion.  Borage was good for rheumatism. An infusion of mugwort could restore a woman’s moon cycle and was good for digestive ailments, frayed nerves, and sleeplessness.

Medicinal herbs were often administered in teas or salves.  To strengthen them, they were dissolved in vinegar, which had healing properties of its own.  Vinegar was thought to improve skin tone, strengthen bones, and balance the four bodily humors.

Healers were called upon to reset bone fractures and adjust dislocated joints.  Sometimes they used comfrey for bone setting. The plant’s roots were dug up in spring and grated to produce a sludge, which was packed around the broken limb.  This hardened to a consistency similar to plaster.  Comfrey leaves, boiled as a tea, brought down swelling and muted pain.

Such was the state of medicine and healing in 17th century Scotland.  In my novels, I tried to make the healing and midwifery scenes authentic, given the time and place and resources available.  My advice to the reader is to NOT try them at home without formal training.

By Jeanne Treat, author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a tale of old Scotland