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Camelina oil noted by Confederate physician during US Civil War

David Roberts Blog 0 Comments

Here is a snippet about the extraordinary properties and uses of Camelina [Gold of Pleasure] oil that was prepared for the Confederate Army during the US Civil War.

Resources Of The Southern Fields And Forests was written in 1863 by Dr. Francis Peyre Porcher to provide “scientific and popular knowledge as regards the medicinal, economical, and useful properties of the trees, plants, and shrubs found within the limits of the Confederate States.”

The book, according to the Medical University of South Carolina, was commissioned by the surgeon general of the Confederacy, Dr. Samuel Preston Moore, to identify substitutes for the manufactured drugs that were unavailable due to the Union blockade of southern ports and the lack of southern pharmaceutical laboratories.

Porcher writes: “Camelina sativa, Crantz., referred to in Chapman’s Botany of Southern States, and in P. O. Report on Agriculture, 1851, is a new oil plant.

“In some parts of the world it is cultivated for its stems, which yield a fibre applicable for spinning, and for its oleiferous seeds. Merat says it is cultivated for this purpose in Flanders.

“Mr. Wm. Taylor, F. L. S., has recently drawn the attention of agriculturists and others to this as an oil plant, adapted for feeding cattle, and for other purposes.

“It has been found to flourish this year on sandy soils, where no other vegetable would grow. When grown upon land that has been long in tillage and well farmed, the crop will be most abundant.

“If seed is sown early in March, the crop will be ready to harvest in the beginning of July, and the land fallowed for wheat or spring corn.

“When grown with care and in good season, the produce will mostly be very abundant as high as thirty-two bushels and upward to the acre.

“A fine oil is produced for burning in lamps, in the manufacture of woollen goods, in the manufacture of soaps for lubricating machinery, and for painters. The oil cake has been found highly nutritious in the fattening of sheep and oxen, as it contains a great portion of mucilage and nitrogenous matter, which, combined together, are found very beneficial in developing fat and lean.

“For all these reasons it is hoped that every farmer will avail himself of this valuable discovery as a remunerating rotation crop.

“We have examined some of the oil obtained from the seed of the Camelina sativa, and which has been recently sent to several medical men by Mr. Taylor, under the belief that it possesses valuable medical properties. It is of a a yellow color, and smells something like linseed oil. Finding it of service in relieving the incessant cough of an animal, Mr. Taylor has extended the use to the human subject, and states that it has cured several persons affected with diseased lungs and asthma.”

Here is a link to the relevant place in Southern Fields and Forests: Gold of Pleasure

Photo of Francis Peyre Porcher from Medical University of South Carolina Waring Library

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