Anesthetics and Topical Pain Relievers
If you’ve ever had anything from a paper cut to a big slice on your leg, you can thank the Native Americans. They pioneered pain relief, and if it wasn’t for them, we’d cry more often from something as simple as a paper cut. One remedy used for inflammation and pain was the bark of the American black willow or Salix nigra. It contains salicin, which produces salicylic acid, which is used in modern-day aspirin as an anti-inflammatory. Natives in Virginia used Jimson weed, or Datura stramonium as a topical analgesic to heal the pain. They would grind the root and make a plaster to apply to external injuries. Whether it was a cut or a bruise, they’d use the paste and lather it up, much like we do with topical pain relievers. Moreover, if they had a broken bone, they’d ingest the plant and use it as an anesthetic. Capsaicin, a chemical in hot peppers, was also used for topical pain relief, though it sounds much more brutal (Forbes).