The sailors who took Jacques Cartier on his second voyage to what became known as New France fell ill in December 1535. One of the party described what happened: "the sickness broke out among us accompanied by most marvelous and extraordinary symptoms; for some lost all their strength; their legs became swollen and inflamed, while the sinews contracted and turned as black as coal. In other cases the legs were found blotched with purple-coloured blood. Then the disease would mount to the hips, thighs, shoulders, arms, and neck. And all had their mouths so tainted, that the gums rotted away down to the roots of the teeth, which nearly all fell out." Domagaya, son of Chief Donnacona of Stadacona, provided Cartier with a prescription: an infusion of the bark and leaves of a tree he called Annedda.
The sailors who took Jacques Cartier on his second voyage to what became known as New France fell ill in December 1535. One of the party described what happened:

"the sickness broke out among us accompanied by most marvelous and extraordinary symptoms; for some lost all their strength; their legs became swollen and inflamed, while the sinews contracted and turned as black as coal. In other cases the legs were found blotched with purple-coloured blood. Then the disease would mount to the hips, thighs, shoulders, arms, and neck. And all had their mouths so tainted, that the gums rotted away down to the roots of the teeth, which nearly all fell out."

Domagaya, son of Chief Donnacona of Stadacona, provided Cartier with a prescription: an infusion of the bark and leaves of a tree he called Annedda.


© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Jacques Cartier's Crew

Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives


Of the 100 men who were ill with this complaint, 25 died and the rest recovered. The disease was probably scurvy, caused by Vitamin C deficiency.

We do not know exactly which tree Domagaya recommended, but it was probably hemlock, white cedar, or spruce. All these evergreens were used by First Nations in the area to help ward off scurvy during the cold Canadian winters when no fresh fruits or greens were available.

Of the 100 men who were ill with this complaint, 25 died and the rest recovered. The disease was probably scurvy, caused by Vitamin C deficiency.

We do not know exactly which tree Domagaya recommended, but it was probably hemlock, white cedar, or spruce. All these evergreens were used by First Nations in the area to help ward off scurvy during the cold Canadian winters when no fresh fruits or greens were available.


© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Picea abies

Missouri Botanical Garden

© Missouri Botanical Garden


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • recall how Cartier’s crew was healed by traditional medicine;
  • indicate if an illness like the one that affected Jacques Cartier’s crew could happen again today.

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