Catfish Alley and Mississippi Herbalism

Into the Woods article in Catfish Alley magazine

Into the Woods article in Catfish Alley magazine

I had a great time being interviewed by Birney Imes of Catfish Alley magazine last month for this February’s issue.  It’s a delight and an honor when someone takes interest in what you are doing…and even better when they represent you well in their writings (that doesn’t always happen!).

Not only did Birney help me share my love of plants and the forest, he taught me about an early botanical medical doctor of Mississippi that I had never heard of!  That would be Gideon Lincecum who resided in Columbus, MS for 30 years before moving to Texas in the 1840s or so.  Fluent in both the Chickasaw and Choctaw languages, Gideon was self-taught man in every way.

With just a handful of months in “formal education” he navigated independent studies to achieve his medical license.  However, as stated in his autobiography, his real medical training began when he was accepted by a Choctaw medicine man in learning the ways of plant medicine.  He went out into the forest for 6 weeks with this elder to learn about plants.

Image of the front cover of Gideon's autobiography

Image of the front cover of Gideon’s autobiography

Gideon moved to Texas later in life and opened up a practice there as well.  He commonly wrote Darwin in correspondence.  He passed in the 1870s and left a rich legacy of just over 300 plant specimens (his materia medica), and detailed notes.  The herbarium is located in Austin, TX.  Of course, I have made a mental note of this and plan to visit at some point!

I absolutely love that there is a history of botanical herbal medicine in the area of Mississippi that I currently reside in.  It’s heartening.  And, of course that would be the case.  One of the main reasons Gideon chose plant medicine over Western medicine at the time was simply that he was tired of killing patients with the practices at the time (lead syringes, mercury injection, and blood letting).  He found that plants were powerfully gentle and quite safe and effective.

I look forward to continuing to delve into his legacy of plant-based medicine.  Gideon was a rare soul in those days, documenting traditional botanical/herbal medicine of the Choctaw (in particular) before their ways could be clouded by European methods and understanding of plants.  After the loss of a young patient “under circumstances leaving me no ground to doubt the fact that the death was occasioned by the allopathic remedies,” Lincecum was finally led to cease treatment with allopathic medicines and turned exclusively to the use of botanic remedies in his practice (Lincecum 1904).

Finally, I’ve been invited to write a quarterly column for Catfish Alley magazine, so tune in for more plant goodness in future issues!

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8 thoughts on “Catfish Alley and Mississippi Herbalism

  1. Who would I get in touch with to write an article in Catfish Alley? There is a special person and place in West Point, Ms. I would like to talk to someone about doing an article about. my phone number is 662-295-1057 Thank you

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