The “bossiedokters”

Medical men have played a vital role in the history of the Great Karoo, and some sons of this region have risen to great heights in medicine. The trekboers migrant farmers learned about medicinal plants from indigenous people and so it is not surprising that the initial healers were “bossiedokters”, who using veld plants and “boererate” as well as lotions, potions and powders mostly from trusted little boxes of Lennon’s remedies. Nevertheless, their success rate was great and these unqualified men (and women) were trusted and respected. One who practiced at Klaarstroom was highly acclaimed in Judge Juta’s memoirs. Among the top “bossiedokters”, of the Karoo was Auntie Hettie Grootboom. She was a firm believer in the efficacy of Karoo acacia, the “soetdoring” and she made very effective use of various parts of this tree.  She mixed finely chopped roots into baby food to prevent colic, recommended that the tips of young leaves be chewed to relieve indigestion, and for more serious stomach complaints, such as diarrhea and dysentery, she boiled up a mixture of bark and leaves. When this concoction had cooled the patient had to drink a glassful three times a day, writes Bartle Logie in Traveller’s Joy.  A similar “tea” made only from bark and sweetened with sugar was recommended as a gargle. At the first inkling of a sniffle, Auntie Hettie made a paste from the gum, bark and leaves to rub on the sufferer’s chest to clear the nose and head.  The same paste was used to treat cuts and grazes, and warmed with vinegar, it was used to make a poultice to draw out inflammation.

© Rose’s Roundup, April 2012.

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