Category Archives: Medicine

Household Medicine Women

To perfume gloves excellently

Following my series of posts on Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife, today’s fragments are some snippets of advice for the housewife on perfuming gloves, making cider, and creating a medicinal salve from a lump of butter.

When our English Housewife is exact in the rules before rehearsed [that is, cooking and home medicine], shee shall then sort her mind to the understanding of other House-wifely secrets, right comfortable and meet for her use.

First I would have her furnish herself of verie good Stills, for the distillation of all kindes of Waters, which Stills would either be of Tinne or sweet Earth, and in them shee shall distill all sorts of waters meete for the health of her Household, as Sage water which is good for Rhumes and Collickes, Radish water which is good for the stone, Angelica water good for infection, Vine water for itchings, Rose water and Eye-bright water for dimme sights, Treacle water for mouth cankers, Allum [mineral salt] water for old Ulcers, and a world of others, any of which will last a full yeare at the least.

Then shee shall know that the best waters for the smoothing of the skinne and keeping the face delicate and amiable are those which are distilled from Beane flowers, Strawberries, Vine leaves, Goats milke, from the whites of Egges, from the Flowers of Lillies, any of which will last a yeare or better.

To make an excellent sweet water for perfume you shall take Basill, Mint, Marjorum, Sage, Balme, Lavender and Rosemary, of each one handfull of Cloves, Cinamon and Nutmegges,  then three or four Pome-citrons [a citrus fruit resembling a large lemon] cut into slices. Infuse all these into Damaske-rose water the space of three daies, and then distill it with a gentle fire of Charcoale, then when you have put it into a very cleann glasse, take Musk, Civet and Ambergreece [OED: A wax like substance found floating in tropical seas] and put into a rag of fine Lawne, and then hang it within the water. This being either burnt upon a hot pan, or else boiled in perfuming pannes with Cloves, Bay-leaves, and Lemmon pills, will make the most delicate perfume that may be without any offence, and will last the longest of all other sweet perfumes.

To perfume gloves excellently, take the oyle of sweet Almonds, oyle of Nutmegges, oile of Benjamin [a sweet tree gum] each a dramme, of Ambergreece one grain, fat Musket (Musk) two graines. Mixe them all together and grinde them upon a Painters stone, and then anoint the gloves therewith. Yet before you anoint them let them be dampishly moistened with Damaske Rose water.

To make very good washing balls take Storaxe [fragrant gum resin] of both kindes, Benjamin [a tree resin], Calamus Aromaticus [fragrant reed?], Labdanum [another gum resin used in perfuming] of each a like, and braise them to powder with Cloves and Arras (?)  Them beate them all with a sufficient quantitie of Sope till it bee stiffe, then with your hand you shall worke it like paste and make round balls thereof.

If during the month of May before you salt your butter you save a lumpe thereof, and put it into a vessell, and so set it into the sunne the space of that moneth, you shall finde it exceeding soveraigne and medicinable for wounds, strains, aches, and such grievances.

Perry is made of Peares only, and your Cider of Apples, and for the manner of making thereof it is done after one fashion, that is to say after your Peares or Apples are well picked from stalkes, rottennesse and all manner of other filth, you shall put them in the presse mill which is made with a mill-stone running around in a circle, under which you shall crush your Peares or Apples, and then straining them through a bagge of haire cloth into close vessels.  You shall save that which is within the haire cloth bagge, and putting it into severall vessells, put a pretty quantitie of water thereunto, and after it hath stood a day or two, and hath been well stirred, press it all again.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved
Household Medicine

Two or three egges everie morning

Taken from an Elizabethan medical book, ‘set foorth for the great benefit and comfort of the poorer sort of people that are not of abilitie to go to the physitions’, today’s fragments are a selection of household remedies for managing the symptoms of syphilis.

Take Liverwoort, Sorell, Balme, and Succory, one ounce and seeth these in quart of Whay, having been well clarified, and let the Patient Drinke halfe a pynt thereof at the least, every morning.

Take a good quantity of Oatemeale, and beate it verie smalle, and put it into a quart of new milke, & seeth it, and put therein a good quantitie of Sugar, and when it is well boyled, straine it, and let the Patient eate the milk, and this will helpe him without all doubt.

Take Venice Turpentine, and wash it cleane, in these waters following, Viz. in Plantine water, in Red-rose water, and in water of Licquorice, and when you have washed it verie well, then take the Turpentine, and seeth it with as much white Masticke, & when it is sodden enough it will breake to a powder, it is easily perceived uppon a knives poynt, then take halfe an ounce of Nutmegs beaten to powder, & put to it the like quantitie of the powder of Venice Turpentine, and halfe an ounce of white Sugar, and mingle them verie well together, then let the Patient put a quantitie of this powder into an Egge or two which must bee but reare rosted, and so let him supp it of, and let him eate nothing for the space of an houre after, but if hee eate twoo or three of these Egges everie morning so dressed, it will bee the better, untill such time as he be whole, & then let him drink halfe an ounce of Red-rose water, & halfe an ounce of Plantine water, after such time as he hath eaten his last Egge.
Note that hee must eate Two of these Egges aforesayde in his bed before hee doe arise in the morning, and the third one houre after that he is risen up out of his bedde, and after the space of one houre more, he must drinke the water above saide, and then he must walke a good while after it.

Take two new laide Eggs, & put the whites of them awaye cleane, and set them in the fire, untill they bee bloud warme, then take halfe a Nutmegge, & a good peece of Suger Candie, & a pretty quantitie of Currall finely beaten to powder, then take a litle Cinamon & Amber, of each of them a like quantitie, & mixe all these together, & put them into the Egge, and let the Patient suppe it of, or else let him toste a peece or two of fine white breade, and poure thereon the yolkes of the eggs, and then straw the aforesaid powder uppon it, and soe eate it, and this will presently helpe him. This hath beene proved.

Take Wilde Time, and Parsely, of each of them a good handefull, & boyle them in a quart of strong Ale, and let it boyle, untill the one halfe bee consumed, and let the partie greeved drink the quantitie of halfe a pinte thereof at a time, every Morning and Evening for the space of Nine or tenne daies together, & it helpeth.

Take Woodbinde, Daysies and Plantine leaves, of each of them three good handefulls, and a good quantitie of the best english Honny that you can get, and a peece of Roch Allum as bigge as a Wallnut, then put all these together, in a quart of faire running water, and a good quantitie of Red-rose Water, and boyle them in an earthen pot, or Pipkin, and let it be close covered, for the space of halfe an houre, and then straine it through a fine linnen cloth, and then take of this water being luke warme, & with a sringe squirte it up into the Yarde [penis] of the Patient, and let the Pipe be put in, an inch or somewhat more, and let it be alwaies very stronglye spouted up, whereby the Water may goe beyonde the sore place, and soe use it every day three times for the space of one whole Moneth together, and then he shall be quite sound from this disease for ever after.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Art Medicine

Muscles, As they appear in Humane Body

These images come from a book published in the 1680s entitled A Complete Treatise of the Muscles.

Custom Medicine

The princesse of physical plants

These snippets come from an enthusiastic early 17th century pamphlet on the merits of tobacco. Not only is tobacco enjoyable to smoke, but, according to the author, it cures everything from the gout to the clap. Disclaimer: These are antiquated medical claims. Don’t try at home (especially blowing smoke beneath a hormonal woman).

The finest Tobacco is that which pearceth quickly the odorat with a sharpe aromaticke smell, and tickleth the tongue with acrimonie, not unpleasant to the taste, whether the substance of it be chewed in the mouth, or the smoake of it received.  For the cure and preservation of an armie of maladies, Tobacco  must be used after this manner. Take of leafe Tobacco as much as, being folded together, may make a round ball of such bignesse that it may fill the patients mouth. Incline his face downward towards the ground, keeping the mouth open, not moving any whit with his tongue, except now and then to waken the medicament. There shall flow such a flood of water from his brain and his stomacke, and from all the parts of his body that it shall be a wonder. This he must do fasting in the morning, and if it be for preservation, and the bodie very full of evil humours, he must take it once a weeke, otherwise once a month. But if it bee to cure the Epilepsie or Hydropisie once every day.  Thus have I used Tobacco  my selfe, and thus used Tobacco Jean Greis, a venerable old man at Nantes in the French Britain, who lived while he was six score yeares of age, and who was known for the only refuge of the poore afflicted souldiers of Venus when they were wounded with the French Pockes.

If the mother [menstruation] vexe and torment a woman, the smoake of Tobacco either above or under, shall ease her more than feathers or leather.  If thou be pepsicke, if thou be asthmaticke, if thou be urged to cough through defluxion, the smoake of Tobacco is better then tussilago [coltsfoot]. If the rage of toothache excarnificate the gummes, Tobacco  is better then Insquiam [?]. If there be sounding in the eares, it is fitter than cinabre [a mineral].  I add further, that amongst so many thousands which use & abuse Tobacco at all occasions without observation of any physicall precept, there are very few found that can ascribe their death to Tobacco. So that if Tobacco were used physically and with discretion there were no medicament in the worlde comparable to it.

The Arthritis or gowt are prevented prettily. It preserveth from the toothach. It cureth the migrain, the colicke, the cough, the cold. It stayeth growing fatte. It is the antidote of Hypochondriacke melancholie. It prepareth the stomacke for meat, it maketh a clear voice, it maketh a sweet breath, it cleareth the sight, it openeth the eares and openeth the passage of the nose. It comforteth nerves, and taken in siruppe there is no obstruction that can abide it. It is present reliefe against the most part of poysons. And in few words, it is the princesse of physical plants.  To conclude this discourse I must excuse here my plainnesse and simplicitie with this caveat,  that albeit the never too much commended Tobacco bee of sufficiencie to cure many diseases, yet it is not of efficacie in all persons, in all seasons, in all temperaments, but it must be used by the direction of some expert and prudent Physician.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved
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