Old Time Remedies

The remedies our ancestors used -- or, at least, were told to use! Folk remedies, old wives' tales, mediaeval cures... they're all here.

NOTE: these remedies are listed only for information and/or amusement. They are not to be construed as medical advice of any type, nor are they recommended for use. Consult your doctor for any medical advice you require.

 

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Toothache, Home-Made Poultice for

"Make a poultice of a slice of toast, saturate in alcohol and sprinkle with pepper and apply externally. This will give almost instant relief."

Source: Mother's Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

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Monday, 3 November 2008

Toothache, Clove Oil and Chloroform for

"Clove oil and chloroform, each one teaspoonful. Saturate cotton and apply locally."

Source: Mother's Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Toothache, Oil of Cloves Quick Relief for

"If the tooth has a cavity take a small piece of cotton and saturate with oil of cloves and place in tooth, or you may rub the gum with oil of sassafras." These are both good
remedies, and will often give relief almost instantly.

Source: Mother's Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

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Saturday, 26 July 2008

Ingredients: Common Ivy

The clergyman of fiction in the sixth chapter of Dickens' memorable Pickwick, sings certain verses which he styles "indifferent" (the only verse, by the way, to be found in all that great writer's stories), and which relate to the Ivy, beginning thus:--

"Oh! a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old."

The well known common Ivy (Hedera helix), which clothes the trunks of trees and the walls of old buildings so picturesquely throughout Great Britain, gets its botanical name most probably from the Celtic word hoedra "a cord," or from the Greek hedra "a seat," because sitting close, and its vernacular title from iw "green," which is also the parent of "yew." In Latin it is termed abiga, easily corrupted to "iva"; and the Danes knew it as Winter-grunt, or Winter-green, to which appellation it may still lay a rightful claim, being so conspicuously green at the coldest times of the year when trees are of themselves bare and brown.

By the ancients the Ivy was dedicated to Bacchus, whose statues were crowned with a wreath of the plant, under the name Kissos, and whose worshippers decorated themselves with its garlands. The leaves have a peculiar faintly nauseous odour, whilst they are somewhat bitter, and rough of taste. The fresh berries are rather acid, and become bitter when dried. They are much eaten by our woodland birds in the spring.

A crown of Ivy was likewise given to the classic poets of distinction, and the Greek priests presented a wreath of the same to newly married persons. The custom of decorating houses and churches with Ivy at Christmastide, was forbidden by one of the early councils on account of its Pagan associations. Prynne wrote with reference to this decree:--

"At Christmas men do always Ivy get,
And in each corner of the house it set,
But why make use then of that Bacchus weed?
Because they purpose Bacchus-like to feed."

The Ivy, though sending out innumerable small rootlets, like suckers, in every direction (which are really for support) is not a parasite. The plant is rooted in the soil and gets its sustenance therefrom.

Chemically, its medicinal principles depend on the special balsamic resin contained in the leaves and stems, as well as constituting the aromatic gum.

Ivy flowers have little or no scent, but their yield of nectar is particularly abundant.

When the bark of the main stems is wounded, a gum will exude, and may be collected: it possesses astringent and mildly aperient properties. This was at one time included as a medicine in the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia, but it has now fallen out of such authoritative use. Its chemical principle is "hederin." The gum is anti-spasmodic, and promotes the monthly flow of women.

An infusion of the berries will relieve rheumatism, and a decoction of the leaves applied externally will destroy vermin in the heads of children.

Fresh Ivy leaves will afford signal relief to corns when they shoot, and are painful. Good John Wesley, who dabbled in "domestic medicine," and with much sagacity of observation, taught that having bathed the feet, and cut the corns, and having mashed some fresh Ivy leaves, these are to be applied: then by repeating the remedial process for fifteen days the corns will be cured.

During the Great Plague of London, Ivy berries were given with some success as possessing antiseptic virtues, and to induce perspiration, thus effecting a remission of the symptoms. Cups made from Ivywood have been employed from which to drink for disorders of the spleen, and for whooping cough, their method of use being to be kept refilled from time to time with water (cold or hot), which the patient is to constantly sip.

Ivy gum dissolved in vinegar is a good filling for a hollow tooth which is causing neuralgic toothache: and an infusion of the leaves made with cold water, will, after standing for twenty-four hours, relieve sore and smarting eyes if used rather frequently as a lotion. A decoction of the leaves and berries will mitigate a severe headache, such as that which follows hard drinking over night. And it may have come about that from some rude acquaintance with this fact the bacchanals adopted goblets carved out of Ivywood.

This plant is especially hardy, and suffers but little from the smoke and the vitiated air of a manufacturing town. Chemically, such medicinal principles as the Ivy possesses depend on the special balsamic resin contained in its leaves and stems; as well as on its particular gum. Bibulous old Bacchus was always represented in classic sculpture with a wreath of Ivy round his laughing brows; and it has been said that if the foreheads of those whose potations run deep were bound with frontlets of Ivy the nemesis of headache would be prevented thereby. But legendary lore teaches rather that the infant Bacchus was an object of vengeance to Juno, and that the nymphs of Nisa concealed him from her wrath, with trails of Ivy as he lay in his cradle.

At one time our taverns bore over their doors the sign of an Ivybush, to indicate the excellence of the liquor supplied within. From which fact arose the saying that "good wine needs no bush," "Vinum vendibile hederâ non est opus." And of this text Rosalind cleverly avails herself in As You Like It, "If it be true" says she, "that good wine needs no bush," -- "'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue."

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

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Saturday, 21 June 2008

Ingredients: Fennel

We all know the pleasant taste of Fennel sauce when eaten with boiled mackerel. This culinary condiment is made with Sweet Fennel, cultivated in our kitchen gardens, and which is a variety of the wild Fennel growing commonly in England as the Finkel, especially in Cornwall and Devon, on chalky cliffs near the sea. It is then an aromatic plant of the umbelliferous order, but differing from the rest of its tribe in producing bright yellow flowers.

Botanically, it is the Anethum foeniculum, or "small fragrant hay" of the Romans, and the Marathron of the Greeks. The whole plant has a warm carminative taste, and the old Greeks esteemed it highly for promoting the secretion of milk in nursing mothers. Macer alleged that the use of Fennel was first taught to man by serpents. His classical lines on the subject when translated run thus:--

"By eating herb of Fennel, for the eyes
A cure for blindness had the serpent wise;
Man tried the plant; and, trusting that his sight
Might thus be healed, rejoiced to find him right."

"Hac mansâ serpens oculos caligine purgat;
Indeque compertum est humanis posse mederi
Illum hominibus: atque experiendo probatum est."

Pliny also asserts that the ophidia, when they cast their skins, have recourse to this plant for restoring their sight. Others have averred that serpents wax young again by eating of the herb; "Wherefore the use of it is very meet for aged folk."

Fennel powder may be employed for making an eyewash: half-a-teaspoonful infused in a wineglassful of cold water, and decanted when clear. A former physician to the Emperor of Germany saw a monk cured by his tutor in nine days of a cataract by only applying the roots of Fennel with the decoction to his eyes.

In the Elizabethan age the herb was quoted as an emblem of flattery; and Lily wrote, "Little things catch light minds; and fancie is a worm that feedeth first upon Fennel." Again, Milton says, in Paradise Lost, Book XI:--

"The savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of sweetest Fennel."

Shakespeare makes the sister of Laertes say to the King, in Hamlet, when wishing to prick the royal conscience, "There's Fennel for you." And Falstaff commends Poins thus, in Henry the Fourth, "He plays at quoits well, and eats conger, and Fennel."

The Italians take blanched stalks of the cultivated Fennel (which they call Cartucci) as a salad; and in Germany its seeds are added to bread as a condiment, much as we put caraways in some of our cakes. The leaves are eaten raw with pickled fish to correct its oily indigestibility. Evelyn says the peeled stalks, soft and white, when "dressed like salery," exercise a pleasant action conducive to sleep. Roman bakers put the herb under their loaves in the oven to make the bread taste agreeably.

Chemically, the cultivated Fennel plant furnishes a volatile aromatic oil, a fixed fatty principle, sugar, and some in the root; also a bitter resinous extract. It is an admirable corrective of flatulence; and yields an essential oil, of which from two to four drops taken on a lump of sugar will promptly relieve griping of the bowels with distension. Likewise a hot infusion, made by pouring half-a-pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of the bruised seeds will comfort belly ache in the infant, if given in teaspoonful doses sweetened with sugar, and will prove an active remedy in promoting female monthly regularity, if taken at the periodical times, in doses of a wineglassful three times in the day. Gerard says, "The green leaves of the Fennel eaten, or the seed made into a ptisan, and drunk, do fill women's brestes with milk; also the seed if drunk asswageath the wambling of the stomacke, and breaketh the winde." The essential oil corresponds in composition to that of anise, but contains a special camphoraceous body of its own; whilst its vapour will cause the tears and the saliva to flow. A syrup prepared from the expressed juice was formerly given for chronic coughs.

W. Coles teaches in Nature's Paradise, that "both the leaves, seeds, and roots, are much used in drinks and broths for those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldinesse, and make them more gaunt and lank." The ancient Greek name of the herb, Marathron, from maraino, to grow thin, probably embodied the same notion. "In warm climates," said Matthiolus, "the stems are cut, and there exudes a resinous liquid, which is collected under the name of fennel gum."

The Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia orders "Sweet Fennel seeds, combined with juniper berries and caraway seeds, for making with spirit of wine, the 'compound spirit of juniper,' which is noted for promoting a copious flow of urine in dropsy." The bruised plant, if applied externally, will speedily relieve toothache or earache. This likewise proves of service as a poultice to resolve chronic swellings. Powdered Fennel is an ingredient in the modern laxative "compound liquorice powder" with senna. The flower, surrounded by its four leaves, is called in the South of England, "Devil in a bush." An old proverb of ours, which is still believed in New England, says, that "Sowing Fennel is sowing sorrow." A modern distilled water is now obtained from the cultivated plant, and dispensed by the druggist. The whole herb has been supposed to confer longevity, strength and courage. Longfellow wrote a poem about it to this effect.

The fine-leaved Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe Phellandrium), is the Water Fennel.

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

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Friday, 23 May 2008

Toothache, Oil of Cinnamon for

"Oil of cinnamon rubbed on gum and on cotton batting and put in hollow tooth."

Source: Mother's Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

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Monday, 21 April 2008

Ingredients: Capsicum (Cayenne)

The Capsicum, or Bird Pepper, or Guinea Pepper, is a native of tropical countries; but it has been cultivated throughout Great Britain as a stove plant for so many years (since the time of Gerard, 1636) as to have become practically indigenous. Moreover, its fruit-pods are so highly useful, whether as a condiment, or as a medicine, no apology is needed for including it among serviceable Herbal Simples. The Cayenne pepper of our tables is the powdered fruit of Bird Pepper, a variety of the Capsicum plant, and belonging likewise to the order of Solanums; whilst the customary "hot" pickle which we take with our cold meats is prepared from another variety of the Capsicum plant called "Chilies." This plant -- the Bird Pepper -- exercises an important medicinal action, which has only been recently recognized by doctors. The remarkable success which has attended the use of Cayenne pepper as a substitute for alcohol with hard drinkers, and as a valuable drug in delirium tremens, has lately led physicians to regard the Capsicum as a highly useful, stimulating, and restorative medicine. For an intemperate person, who really desires to wean himself from taking spirituous liquors, and yet feels to need a substitute at first, a mixture of tincture of Capsicum with tincture of orange peel and water will answer very effectually, the doses being reduced in strength and frequency from day to day. In delirium tremens, if the tincture of Capsicum be given in doses of half-a-dram well diluted with water, it will reduce the tremor and agitation in a few hours, inducing presently a calm prolonged sleep. At the same time the skin will become warm, and will perspire naturally; the pulse will fall in quickness, but whilst regaining fulness and volume; and the kidneys, together with the bowels, will act freely.

Chemically the plant furnishes an essential oil with a crystalline principle, "capsicin," of great power. This oil may be taken remedially in doses of from half to one drop rubbed up with some powdered white sugar, and mixed with a wineglassful of hot water.

The medicinal tincture is made with sixteen grains of the powdered Capsicum to a fluid ounce of spirit of wine; and the dose of this tincture is from five to twenty drops with one or two tablespoonfuls of water. In the smaller doses it serves admirably to relieve pains in the loins when depending on a sluggish inactivity of the kidneys. Unbroken chilblains may be readily cured by rubbing them once a day with a piece of sponge saturated with the tincture of Capsicum until a strong tingling is induced. In the early part of the present century, a medicine of Capsicum with salt was famous for curing severe influenza with putrid sore throat. Two dessert spoonfuls of small red pepper; or three of ordinary cayenne pepper, were beaten together with two of fine salt, into a paste, and with half-a-pint of boiling water added thereto. Then the liquor was strained off when cold, and half-a-pint of very sharp vinegar was mixed with it, a tablespoonful of the united mixture being given to an adult every half, or full hour, diluted with water if too strong. For inflammation of the eyes, with a relaxed state of the membranes covering the eyeballs and lining the lids, the diluted juice of the Capsicum is a sovereign remedy. Again, for toothache from a decayed molar, a small quantity of cayenne pepper introduced into the cavity will often give immediate relief. The tincture or infusion given in small doses has proved useful to determine outwardly the eruption of measles and scarlet fever, when imperfectly developed because of weakness. Also for a scrofulous discharge of matter from the ears, Capsicum tincture, of a weak strength, four drops with a tablespoonful of cold water three times a day, to a child, will prove curative.

A Capsicum ointment, or "Chili paste," scarcely ever fails to relieve chronic rheumatism when rubbed in topically for ten minutes at a time with a gloved hand; and an application afterwards of dry heat will increase the redness and warmth, which persist for some while, and are renewed by walking. This ointment, or paste, is made of the Oleo-resin -- Capsicin -- half-an-ounce, and Lanolin five ounces, the unguent being melted, and, after adding the Capsicin, letting them be stirred together until cold. The powder or tincture of Capsicum will give energy to a languid digestion, and will correct the flatulency often incidental to a vegetable diet. Again, a gargle containing Capsicum in a proper measure will afford prompt relief in many forms of sore throat, both by its stimulating action, and by virtue of its special affinities (H.); this particularly holds good for a relaxed state of the throat, the uvula, and the tonsils. Cayenne pepper is employed in the adulteration of gin.

The "Peter Piper" of our young memories took pickled pepper by the peck. He must have been a Homoeopathic prover with a vengeance; but has left no useful record of his experiments -- the more's the pity -- for our guidance when prescribing its diluted forms.

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

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Monday, 24 March 2008

Toothache, Dry Salt and Alum for

"Equal parts. Take common salt and alum. Mix and pulverize these together, wet a small
piece of cotton and cause the mixture to adhere to it and place in the hollow tooth. At first a sensation of coldness will be produced, which will gradually disappear, as will the toothache. This is an excellent remedy and should be given a trial by any person suffering with this trouble."

Source: Mother's Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

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Sunday, 9 March 2008

Ingredients: Betony

Few, if any, herbal plants have been more praised for their supposed curative virtues than the Wood Betony (Stachys Betonica), belonging to the order of Labiates. By the common people it is often called Bitny. The name Betonica is from the Celtic "ben," head, and "tonic," good, in allusion to the usefulness of the herb against infirmities of the head. It is of frequent growth in shady woods and meadows, having aromatic leaves, and spikes (stakoi) of light purple flowers. Formerly it was held in the very highest esteem as a leading herbal simple. The Greeks loudly extolled its good qualities. Pliny, in downright raptures, styled it ante cunctas laudatissima! An old Italian proverb ran thus: Vende la tunica en compra la Betonia, "Sell your coat, and buy Betony;" whilst modern Italians, when speaking of a most excellent man, say, "He has as many virtues as Betony"--He piu virtù che Bettonica.

In the Medicina Britannica, 1666, we read: "I have known the most obstinate headaches cured by daily breakfasting for a month or six weeks on a decoction of Betony, made with new milk, and strained."

Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a book entirely on the virtues of this herb. Meyrick says, inveterate headaches after resisting every other remedy, have been cured by taking daily at breakfast a decoction made from the leaves and tops of the Wood Betony. Culpeper wrote: "This is a precious herb well worth keeping in your house." Gerard tells that "Betony maketh a man have a good appetite to his meat, and is commended against ache of the knuckle bones" (sciatica).

A pinch of the powdered herb will provoke violent sneezing. The dried leaves formed an ingredient in Rowley's British Herb Snuff, which was at one time quite famous against headaches.

And yet, notwithstanding all this concensus of praise from writers of different epochs, it does not appear that the Betony, under chemical analysis and research, shows itself as containing any special medicinal or curative constituents. It only affords the fragrant aromatic principles common to most of the labiate plants.

Parkinson, who enlarged the Herbal of Gerard, pronounced the leaves and flowers of Wood Betony, "by their sweet and spicy taste, comfortable both in meate and medicine." Anyhow, Betony tea, made with boiling water poured on the plant, is a safe drink, and likely to prove of benefit against languid nervous headaches; and the dried herb may be smoked as tobacco for relieving the same ailment. To make Betony tea, put two ounces of the herb to a quart of water over the fire, and let this gradually simmer to three half-pints. Give a wine-glassful of the decoction three times a day. A conserve may be made from the flowers for similar purposes. The Poet Laureate, A. Austin, mentions "lye of Betony to soothe the brow." Both this plant, and the Water Betony -- so called from its similarity of leaf -- bear the name of Kernel-wort, from having tubers or kernels attached to the roots, and from being therefore supposed, on the doctrine of signatures, to cure diseased kernels or scrofulous glands in the neck; also to banish piles from the fundament.

But the Water Betony (Figwort) belongs not to the labiates, but to the Scrophulariaceoe, or scrofula-curing order of plants. It is called in some counties "brown-wort," and in Yorkshire "bishopsleaves," or, l'herbe du siège, which term has a double meaning -- in allusion both to the seat in the temple of Cloacina (W.C.) and to the ailments of the lower body in connection therewith, as well as to the more exalted "See" of a Right Reverend Prelate. In old times the Water figwort was famous as a vulnerary, both when used externally, and when taken in decoction. The name "brown-wort" has been got either from the brown colour of the stems and flowers, or, more probably, from its growing abundantly about the "brunnen," or public German fountains. Wasps and bees are fond of the flowers. In former days this herb was relied on for the cure of toothache, and for expelling the particular disembodied spirit, or "mare," which visited our Saxon ancestors during their sleep after supper, being familiarly known to them as the "nightmare." The "Echo" was in like manner thought by the Saxons to be due to a spectre, or mare, which they called the "wood mare." The Water Betony is said to make one of the ingredients in Count Mattaei's noted remedy, "anti-scrofuloso." The Figwort is named in Somersetshire "crowdy-kit" (the word kit meaning a fiddle), "or fiddlewood," because if two of the stalks are rubbed together, they make a noise like the scraping of the bow on violin strings. In Devonshire, also, the plant is known as "fiddler."

An allied Figwort -- which is botanically called nodosa, or knotted -- is considered, when an ointment is made with it, using the whole plant bruised and treated with unsalted lard, a sovereign remedy against "burnt holes" or gangrenous chicken-pox, such as often attacks the Irish peasantry, who subsist on a meagre and exclusively vegetable diet, being half starved, and pent up in wretched foul hovels. This herb is said to be certainly curative of hydrophobia, by taking every morning whilst fasting a slice of bread and butter on which the powdered knots of the roots have been spread, following it up with two tumblers of fresh spring water. Then let the patient be well clad in woollen garments and made to take a long fast walk until in a profuse perspiration. The treatment should be continued for nine days. Again, the botanical name of a fig, ficus, has been commonly applied to a sore or scab appearing on a part of the body where hair is, or to a red sore in the fundament, i.e., to a pile. And the Figwort is so named in allusion to its curative virtues against piles, when the plant is made into an ointment for outward use, and when the tincture is taken internally. It is specially visited by wasps.

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

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Monday, 7 January 2008

Toothache

Two or three drops of essential oil of cloves put upon a small piece of lint or cotton wool, and placed in the hollow of the tooth, will be found to have the active power of curing the toothache without destroying the tooth or injuring the gums.

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