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Folkways Folk Healers: Lori Eslinger

  Lori Eslinger, Grannywoman 

Lori Eslinger was often referred to as a Grannywoman, even though her skills with plants and plant medicine in another age would have labeled her an herbalist. 

Gerald Goodman, Eslinger's grandson, of Springfield, recalls that even when his grandmother lay on her deathbed in 1968, she was busy dispensing herbal medicine. A doctor from Springfield by the name of Albert Simpson heard that Romance, Missouri's highly regarded Grannywoman was passing. He came to that little town to talk with Eslinger and tape record her as she recited recipes for such remedies as skunk fat salve for clearing congestion, and tea made from tubers of the Barnyard Blue Flower for soothing colic. 

Grandson Gerald Goodman says he can especially remember how powerful (and strong smelling!) the skunk fat salve was.
"It was a killer. It really worked." He also remembers his grandmother saying what he thought were some crazy things about the power of plants. But later, when Goodman was a young man studying in Europe, he happened to see some old books about medicine that dated back to the 12th century. The pictures in those books depicted some of the same things his grandmother told him about certain plants. 

The Eslinger line of herbal doctors apparently brought European information about medicinal plants with them back in the 1700s when they immigrated to North America from Germany. They brought it with them when traveling west to Tennessee and then west again into the Ozarks, where Lori's part of the family stayed. On that westward journey, many people from Europe also learned about native plants and remedies from American Indians. Lori Eslinger, like so many folk healers in the Ozarks, was just one in a long line of people who carried old knowledge with them and learned about new plants and treatments as they moved through this country. 



Related Story
"Go Get the Grannywoman!"


Written by Patty Cantrell.