Hilton Head Island | Before the Bridge | Medicine
By Luana M. Graves Sellars
Similar to a lot of elements in their lives, the Gullah also maintained traditional African practices in medicine. Remedies that had been used over time and the practical knowledge of how to use plants and herbs for healing, was how the Gullah found cures for whatever was ailing them. The island had its own “medicine man”, William “Frankie” Aiken Sr., who knew the right plants to combine to fix what ailed you. Natural remedies like peppermint oil, which gave relief from a toothache, garlic which was used to regulate blood pressure or fight an infection and dogwood tea, which was good for a fever.
“Go get Granny” was the common phrase used when medical attention was needed. There were a couple of “Granny’s” who were mid-wife’s and delivered most of the island’s children; Susan “Ma Sookie” Williams and Adrianna Ford. Ford was also known as a healer, who, dressed in her crisp uniform and carrying her bag of medical supplies, would walk around the island, caring for the sick and delivering babies in the 1930s and ’40s. There was no official doctor until the 1950s, and even then, he would come to the island every couple of weeks. Hannah White “Mom” Barnwell was the island’s first registered nurse. Just like everything else on the island, medical services were bartered for with a bundle of crops, livestock or a skill and received without an expectation of compensation.
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