Hints to Young Ladies (I)

October 22nd, 2017

Two simple chemicals should appear on every toilet-table : the carbonate of ammonia and powdered charcoal. No cosmetic has more frequent uses than these. The ammonia must be kept in glass with a glass stopper from the air. French charcoal is preferred by physicians, as it is more finely ground, and a large bottle of it should be kept on hand. In cases of debility, and all wasting disorders it is valuable. To clear the complexion, take a teaspoonful of charcoal well mixed in water or honey for three nights, then use a simple purgative to remove it from the system. It acts like calomel with no bad effect, purifying the blood more effectually than any thing else. But do not omit the aperient, or the charcoal will remain in the system. After this course of purification, tonics may be used.

Source: The Housekeeper’s Friend: A Practical Cookbook

Colds and Hoarseness

October 5th, 2016

Borax has proved a most effective remedy in certain forms of colds. In sudden hoarseness or loss of voice in public speakers or singers, from colds, relief for an hour or so may be obtained by slowly dissolving, and partially swallowing, a lump of borax the size of a garden pea, or about three or four grains held in the mouth for ten or fifteen minutes before speaking or singing. This produces a profuse secretion of saliva or “watering” of the mouth and throat, just as wetting brings back the missing notes to a flute when it is too dry.

A flannel dipped in boiling water and sprinkled with turpentine, laid on chest as quickly as possible, will relieve the most severe cold or hoarseness.

Another simple, pleasant remedy is furnished by beating up the white of one egg, adding to it the juice of one lemon, and sweetening with white sugar to taste. Take a teaspoonful from time to time. It has been known to effectually cure the ailment.

Or bake a lemon or sour orange twenty minutes in a moderate oven. When done, open at one end and take out the inside. Sweeten with sugar or molasses. This is an excellent remedy for hoarseness.

An old time and good way to relieve a cold is to go to bed and stay there, drinking nothing, not even water, for twenty-four hours, and eating as little as possible. Or go to bed, put your feet in hot mustard and water, put a bran or oatmeal poultice on the chest, take ten grains of Dover’s powder, and an hour afterwards a pint of hot gruel; in the morning, rub the body all over with a coarse towel, and take a dose of aperient medicine.

Violet, pennyroyal or boneset tea, is excellent to promote perspiration in case of sudden chill. Care should be taken next day not to get chilled by exposure to fresh out-door air.

Source: The White House Cookbook, F.L. Gillette

For Cold

March 15th, 2016

There is no remedy so good as to go to bed and stay there, drinking nothing, not even water, for twenty-four hours, and eating as little as possible. Or, go to bed; put your feet in hot mustard and water; put a bran or oatmeal poultice on the chest ; take ten grains of Dover’s powder, and an hour afterwards a pint of hot gruel ; in the morning rub the body all over with a coarse towel, and take a dose of aperient medicine.

Violet, pennyroyal, or boneset tea are excellent to promote perspiration in case of sudden chill.

Or, take white wine whey. One pint of milk ; two wineglassfuls of white wine ; one teaspoonful of vinegar. Simmer gently; then strain, sweeten, and spice; give hot.

Source: The Unrivalled Cook-Book and Housekeeper’s Guide, Mrs Washington

Ingredient: Castor Oil

May 19th, 2015

This oil is a valuable aperient; for whilst, in doses of from half an ounce to an ounce, it thoroughly evacuates the bowels, it does so with little irritation; hence it is especially useful in inflammatory cases, or where there is spasm, or where all increased action of the system is particularly to be avoided. From its quick and mild operation, it is particularly adapted for children, and females during pregnancy. It is also the best purgative that can be employed in that affection of the bowels knowm by the names of colica pictonum, or painter’s colic, the Devonshire colic, and the dry bellyache; and it is the more useful in that disease, as it may be joined with opium and other narcotics without having its purgative properties lessened. For the same reason castor oil is advantageously given in calculous affections. It has also been regarded by some continental physicians as peculiarly well suited for expelling the tape-worm. It is likewise considered the best purgative, when properly administered, for combating habitual costiveness. For this purpose a large dose must first be given in the morning, and the use of the oil continued for some weeks, gradually diminishing the dose daily, until half a tea-spoonful only is taken; on the discontinuance of which, the bowels continue to be relieved without further assistance. One disadvantage attending the use of this oil is its tendency to excite vomiting, but this is counteracted by combining it with some aromatic. The best modes of exhibiting it in general have been much canvassed; it is given floating on water with a small quantity of brandy poured over it, and when this can be swallowed at once, there is no better mode; but as this cannot always be done, it may be given with success in coffee or mutton-broth, or suspended in water by the intervention of mucilage or yolk of egg, according to the taste of the patient. Upon the whole, castor oil is a purgative of great value, and one whose operation, as it is in daily use, should be well understood.

Source: A Companion To The Medicine Chest, John Savory.

Ingredients: Buckthorn

October 4th, 2008

The common Buckthorn grows in our woods and thickets, and used to be popularly known because of the purgative syrup made from its juice and berries. It bears dense branches of small green flowers, followed by the black berries, which purge violently. If gathered before they are ripe they furnish a yellow dye. When ripe, if mixed with gum arabic and lime water, they form the pigment called “Bladder Green.” Until late in the present century– O dura ilia messorum!–English rustics, when requiring an aperient dose for themselves or their children, had recourse to the syrup of Buckthorn. But its action was so severe, and attended with such painful gripings, that as time went on the medicine was discarded, and it is now employed in this respect almost exclusively by the cattle doctor. Dodoeus taught about Buckthorn berries: “They be not meet to be administered but to young and lusty people of the country, which do set more store of their money than their lives.” The shrub grows chiefly on chalk, and near brooks. The name Buckthorn is from the German buxdorn, boxthorn, hartshorn. In Anglo-Saxon it was Heorot-bremble. It is also known as Waythorn, Rainberry Thorn, Highway Thorn and Rhineberries. Each of the berries contains four seeds: and the flesh of birds which eat thereof is said to be purgative. When the juice is given medicinally it causes a bad stomach-ache, with much dryness of the throat: for which reason Sydenham always ordered a basin of soup to be given after it. Chemically the active principle of the Buckthorn is “rhamno-cathartine.” Likewise a milder kind of Buckthorn, which is much more useful as a Simple, grows freely in England, the Rhamnus frangula or so-called “black berry-bearing Alder,” though this appellation is a mistake, because botanically the Alder never bears any berries. This black Buckthorn is a slender shrub, which occurs in our woods and thickets. The juice of its berries is aperient, without being irritating, and is well suited as a laxative for persons of delicate constitution. It possesses the merit of continuing to answer in smaller doses after the patient has become habituated to its use. The berry of the Rhamnus frangula may be known by its containing only two seeds. Country people give the bark boiled in ale for jaundice; and this bark is the black dogwood of gunpowder makers. Lately a certain aperient medicine has become highly popular with both doctors and patients in this country, the same being known as Cascara Sagrada. It is really an American Buckthorn, the Rhamnus Persiana, and it possesses no true advantage over our black Alder Buckthorn, though the bark of this latter must be used a year old, or it will cause griping. A fluid extract of the English mild Buckthorn, or of the American Cascara, is made by our leading druggists, of which from half to one teaspoonful may be given for a dose. This is likewise a tonic to the intestines, and is especially useful for relieving piles. Lozenges also of the Alder Buckthorn are dispensed under the name of “Aperient Fruit Lozenges;” one, or perhaps two, being taken for a dose as required.

There is a Sea Buckthorn, Hippophoe, which belongs to a different natural order, Eloeagnaceoe, a low shrubby tree, growing on sandhills and cliffs, and called also Sallowthorn. The fruit is made (in Tartary) into a pleasant jelly, because of its acid flavour, and used in the Gulf of Bothnia for concocting a fish sauce.

The name signifies “giving light to a horse,” being conferred because of a supposed power to cure equine blindness; or it may mean “shining underneath,” in allusion to the silvery underside of the leaf.

The old-fashioned Cathartic Buckthorn of our hedges and woods has spinous thorny branchlets, from which its name, Rhamnus, is thought to be derived, because the shrub is set with thorns like as the ram. At one time this Buckthorn was a botanical puzzle, even to Royalty, as the following lines assure us:–

“Hicum, peridicum; all clothed in green;
The King could not tell it, no more could the Queen;
So they sent to consult wise men from the East.
Who said it had horns, though it was not a beast.”

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

Ingredients: Lettuce

September 27th, 2008

LETTUCE.

Our garden Lettuce is a cultivated variety of the wild, or strong-scented Lettuce (Lactuca virosa), which grows, with prickly leaves, on banks and waysides in chalky districts throughout England and Wales. It belongs to the Composite order of plants, and contains the medicinal properties of the plant more actively than does the Lettuce produced for the kitchen. An older form of the name is Lettouce, which is still retained in Scotland.

Chemically the wild Lettuce contains lactucin, lactucopricin, asparagin, mannite, albumen, gum, and resin, together with oxalic, malic, and citric acids; thus possessing virtues for easing pain, and inducing sleep. The cultivated Lettuce which comes to our tables retains these same properties, but in a very modified degree, since the formidable principles have become as completely toned down and guileless in the garden product as were the child-like manners and the pensive smile of Bret Harte’s Heathen Chinee.

Each plant derives its name, lactuca, from its milky juice; in Latin lactis; and in Greek, galaktos (taking the genitive case). This juice, when withdrawn from the cut or incised stalks and stems of the wild Lettuce, is milky at first, and afterwards becomes brown, like opium, being then known (when dried into a kind of gum) as lactucarium. From three to eight grains of this gum, if taken at bedtime, will allay the wakefulness which follows over-excitement of brain. A similar lactucarium, got from the dried milk of the cultivated garden Lettuce, is so mild a sedative as to be suitable for restless infants; and two grains thereof may be safely given to a young child for soothing it to sleep.

The wild Lettuce is rather laxative; with which view a decoction of the leaves is sometimes taken as a drink to remedy constipation, and intestinal difficulties, as also to allay feverish pains. The plant was mentioned as acting thus in an epigram by Martial (Libr. VI., Sq.).

“Prima tibi dabitur ventro lactuca movendo
Utilis, et porris fila resecta suis.”

Gerard said: “Being in some degree laxative and aperient, the cultivated Lettuce is very proper for hot bilious dispositions;” and Parkinson adds (1640): “Lettuce eaten raw or boyled, helpeth to loosen the belly, and the boyled more than the raw.” It was known as the “Milk Plant” to Dioscorides and Theophrastus, and was much esteemed by the Romans to be eaten after a debauch of wine, or as a sedative for inducing sleep. But a prejudice against it was entertained for a time as venerem enervans, and therefore mortuorum cibi, “food for the dead.”

Apuleius says, that when the eagle desires to fly to a great height, and to get a clear view of the extensive prospect below him, he first plucks a leaf of the wild Lettuce and touches his eyes with the juice thereof, by which means he obtains the widest perspicuity of vision. “Dicunt aquilam quum in altum volare voluerit ut prospiciat rerum naturas lactucoe sylvaticoe folium evellere et succo ejus sibi oculos tangere, et maximam inde claritudinem accipere.”

After the death of Adonis, Venus is related to have thrown herself on a bed of lettuces to assuage her grief. “In lactucâ occultatum a Venere Adonin–cecinit Callimachus–quod allegoricé interpretatus Athenoeus illuc referendum putat quod in venerem hebetiores fiunt lactucas vescentes assidue.”

The Pythagoreans called this plant “the Eunuch”; and there is a saying in Surrey, “O’er much Lettuce in the garden will stop a young wife’s bearing.” During the middle ages it was thought an evil spirit lurked among the Lettuces adverse to mothers, and causing grievous ills to new-born infants.

The Romans, in the reign of Domitian, had the lettuce prepared with eggs, and served with the last course at their tables, so as to stimulate their appetites afresh. Martial wonders that it had since then become customary to take it rather at the beginning of the meal:–

“Claudere quae caenas lactuca solebat avorum
Dic mihi cur nostras inchoat illa dapes.”

Antoninus Musa cured Caesar Augustus of hypochondriasis by means of this plant.

The most common variety of the wild Lettuce, improved by frequent cultivation, is the Cabbage Lettuce, or Roman, “which is the best to boil, stew, or put into hodge-podge.” Different sorts of the Cos Lettuce follow next onwards. The Lactuca sylvatica is a variety of the wild Lettuce producing similar effects. From this a medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared, and an extract from the flowering herb is given in doses of from five to fifteen grains. No attempt was made to cultivate the Lettuce in this country until the fourth year of Elizabeth’s reign.

When bleached by gardeners the lettuce becomes tender, sweet, and succulent, being easily digested, even by dyspeptic persons, as to its crisp, leafy parts, but not its hard stalk. It now contains but little nutriment of any sort, but supplies some mineral salts, especially nitre. In the stem there still lingers a small quantity of the sleep-inducing principle, “lactucarin,” particularly when the plant is flowering. Galen, when sleepless from advanced age and infirmities, with hard study, took decoction of the Lettuce at night; and Pope says, with reference to our garden sort:–

“If you want rest,
Lettuce, and cowslip wine:–‘probatum est.'”

But if Lettuces are taken at supper with this view of promoting sleep, they should be had without any vinegar, which neutralises their soporific qualities. “Sleep,” said Sir Thomas Brown, “is so like death that I dare not trust it without my prayers.”

Some persons suppose that when artificially blanched the plant is less wholesome than if left to grow naturally in the garden, especially if its ready digestibility by those of sensitive stomachs be correctly attributed to the slightly narcotic principle. It was taken uncooked by the Hebrews with the Paschal lamb.

John Evelyn writes enthusiastically about it in his Book of Sallets: “So harmless is it that it may safely be eaten raw in fevers; it allays heat, bridles choler, extinguishes thirst, excites appetite, kindly nourishes, and, above all, represses vapours, conciliates sleep, and mitigates pain, besides the effect it has upon the morals– temperance and chastity.”

“Galen (whose beloved sallet it was) says it breeds the most laudable blood. No marvel, then, that Lettuces were by the ancients called sanoe by way of eminency, and were so highly valued by the great Augustus that, attributing to them his recovery from a dangerous sickness, it is reported he erected a statue and built an altar to this noble plant.” Likewise, “Tacitus, spending almost nothing at his frugal table in other dainties, was yet so great a friend to the Lettuce that he used to say of his prodigality in its purchase, Summi se mercari illas sumitus effusione.” Probably the Lettuce of Greece was more active than our indigenous, or cultivated plant.

By way of admonition as to care in preparing the Lettuce for table, Dr. King Chambers has said (Diet in Health and Disease), “The consumption of Lettuce by the working man with his tea is an increasing habit worthy of all encouragement. But the said working man must be warned of the importance of washing the material of his meal. This hint is given in view of the frequent occurrence of the large round worm in the labouring population of some agricultural counties, Oxfordshire for instance, where unwashed Lettuce is largely eaten.” Young Lettuces may be raised in forty-eight-hours by first steeping the seed in brandy and then sowing it in a hot-house.

The seeds of the garden Lettuce are emollient, and when rubbed up with water make a pleasant emulsion, which contains nothing of the milky, laxative bitterness furnished by the leaves and stalk. This emulsion resembles that of almonds, but is even more cooling, and therefore a better medicine in disorders arising from acrimony and irritation.

From the Lactuca virosa, or strong-scented wild Lettuce, a medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared, using the whole plant. On the principle of treating with this tincture, when diluted, such toxic effects as too large doses of the juice would bring about, a slow pulse, with a disposition to stupor, and sleepy weakness, are successfully met by its use. Also a medicinal extract is made by druggists from the wild Lettuce, and given in doses of from three to ten grains for the medicinal purposes which have been particularised, and to remove a dull, heavy headache.

“The garden Lettuce is good,” as Pliny said, “for burnings and scaldings if the leaves be laid thereon, with salt (sic), before the blisters do appear.” “By reason,” concludes Evelyn, “too, of its soporiferous quality, the Lettuce ever was, and still continues, the principal foundation of the universal tribe of Sallets, which cools and refreshes, besides its other properties, and therefore was held in such high esteem by the ancients, that divers of the Valerian family dignified and ennobled their name with that of Lactucinii.” It is botanically distinguished as the Lactuca sativa, “from the plenty of milk,” says “Adam in Eden” (W. Coles), “that it hath, and causeth.”

Lambs’ Lettuce, or Corn Salad, is a distinct plant, one of the Valerian tribe, which was formerly classed as a Lettuce, by name, Lactuca agnina, either because it appears about the time when lambs (agni) are dropped, or because it is a favourite food of lambs.

The French call this salade de Prètre, “monks’ salad,” and in reference thereto an old writer has said: “It certainly deserves a place among the penitential herbs, for the stomach that admits it is apt to cry peccavi.”

The same plant is also known by the title of the White Pot Herb, in contrast to the Olus atrum, or Black Pot Herb. It grows wild in the banks of hedges and waste cornfields, and is cultivated in our kitchen gardens as a salad herb, the Milk Grass, being called botanically the Valerianella olitoria, and having been in request as a spring medicine among country folk in former days. By genus it is a Fedia, and bears diminutive white flowers resembling glass. Gerard says: “We know the Lambs’ Lettuce as Loblollie; and it serves in winter as a salad herb, among others none of the worst.” In France it goes by the names manche and broussette. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the fresh root.

The black pot-herb–so called from the dark colour of its fruit–is an umbelliferous plant, (Smyrnium olusatrum) or Alexanders, often found in the vicinity of abbeys, and probably therefore held in former repute by the Monks. Its names are derived from Smyrna, myrrh, in allusion to the odour of the plant; and from Macedonicum, or the parsley of Macedon, Alexander’s country. The herb was also known as Stanmarch. It grows on waste places by rivers near the sea, having been formerly cultivated like celery, which has now supplanted it. When boiled it is eaten with avidity by sailors returning from long voyages, who happen to land at the South Western corner of Anglesea.

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

Ingredients: Common Ivy

July 26th, 2008

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

Definition: Cathartic, Purgative, Aperient

January 1st, 2008

Cathartic, Purgative, Aperient: Tending to cause evacuation of the bowels. An aperient is generally milder than a cathartic or a purgative.