Plants bring ease from pain

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Features Editor

July 31, 2000 10 PM

There’s an oral vaccine for poison ivy that’s inexpensive and effective if you have the intestinal fortitude to take it. Taken early in the spring, you will be spared the itching and misery caused by the pesky plant, said Darryl Patton, Gadsden author and lecturer.

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Patton is skilled in the identification and medicinal uses of at least 300 native plants and is highly respected around the country as an authority on the subject. He was the featured speaker at the July meeting of the Pioneer Herb Society at Pike Pioneer Museum. He passed along valuable medicinal information to the members and their guests that he had gathered from the late Tommie Bass – herb doctor of Shinbone Ridge.

Some of the "advice" was taken with a grain of salt but some of it left "patients" shuddering in their seats.

The poison ivy "vaccine" for example.

"Early in the spring, if you will pick three leaves, about the size of a mouse’s ear, off the poison ivy plant and wrap them in a piece of bread and eat them and do this once every two or three days for about three weeks, you won’t be bothered with poison ivy for that season and probably the next and maybe even longer," Patton said.

Apparently, noticing the shuddering and "no-no" shaking of the heads, Patton said the faint of heart could let the leaves dry, crush them and put them in a capsule shell and swallow them down.

Patton said much of his knowledge about medicinal plants came from Tommie Bass, a mountain herbalist, who lived in a hand-built house in the back country around Leesburg.

"Tommie Bass was an American Treasure," Patton said. "If you had an ache or pain, you could ask him and he would provide you with some ease."

For sinus trouble, he might recommend a tea of wild cherry bark or inhaling steam from a boiling pot of "rabbit terbaker."

"Overweight folks might be told the wonders of Chickweed or Queen Ann’s Lace," Patton said. "They’ll do the trick."

Patton said his first meeting with Bass was the most interesting two hours of his life.

"I found Tommie to be the most humble and guileless person I have ever met in my life," he said.

"His overriding concern was to bring some ease to his fellow man. He was not out to make a dollar at the expense of others’ ailments. He was a seeker of neither glory nor fame."

The result of Patton’s many visits with Bass was the development of an intense interest in learning to identify and use the various plants shown to him.

Patton’s mission now is to make sure the wisdom and knowledge of Tommie Bass and his traditional form of "bringing ease" is not forgotten.

"Tommie used simple herbs for healing," Patton said. "If nothing else, he represented stability and continuity in the healing arts."

Even today, Patton said, everything goes back to plants.

"We still use home remedies, they’re just packaged in a box and sold in pharmacies," he said.

Patton said it is amazing how many medicines that are in use today have their beginnings in the simple "boil 20 minutes, steep 20 minutes and sip" remedies of the mountain and country bumpkin herbalists.

Patton relayed some of the mountain herb doctor remedies to the Pioneer Herb Society and showed how plants are still used to cure the ills and relieve the pains even in today’s synthetic society.

As a way of keeping traditional herbal medicine alive, Patton has written a book which is dedicated to his friend Tommie Bass. The book is titled Tommie Bass – Herb Doctor of Shinbone Ridge

and the

Pioneer herbalists made a bee-line for the books.

"Who knows, we might try some of these remedies.

So, if you see us running down Highway 231 like our coat tails are on fire, we just might be trying out Bass’ kerosene and sulfur remedy for the itch," Alma Bodiford, president of the herb society, said laughing.

Copies of Patton’s book may be purchased through the museum gift shop.