Tobacco is proof that just because something is natural, it doesn’t follow that it’s good for you. That hasn’t stopped people from using it for everything from a painkilling salve to a toothpaste.
European explorers to the Americas first found the native people using the dried leaf both for recreation and for medicine. It was used as a disinfectant and a stimulant. In large doses it knocked people out, so acted as a sort of anesthetic.
It was touted as an anti-diarrheal, a skin softener and, applied as a poultice or powder, a pain reliever on wounds and burns.
It’s no wonder that the Europeans embraced it when the explorers brought it back. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, it was recommended for general bodily ills, nasal discharge, fevers, indigestion, and vomiting.
One of the more scary recommendations that lasted up until the 1800s was the application of smoke through the rectum for strychnine poisoning, constipation, strangulated hernia, tetanus, hydrophobia, and worms. Imagine your doctor prescribing that!