Western Wednesday: Medicine in the Olden Days
|Photo: Pixabay/Steve Buissinne|
So what did folks do before modern drugs?
Medicine in the 1700s:
- Headaches, dropsy (swelling), and stomach pains: teas infused with lavender, rosemary, wormwood, sage, foxglove, and mint.
- Fever: Wine “sharpened with lemon juice” or water gruel, orange whey, or weak chamomile tea
- Bleeding was also a popular “cure” that often created more problems than it solved!
- Itchy skin and/or infection prevention: Camphor
- Diarrhea: Opium.
- Arthritis: Apple pectin mixed into juice.
- Insect stings: Honey
- Burns: Cloths soaked in tea
- Indigestion: baking soda solution
- Coughs (and many other ills): Castor oil
- Sore throat: Saltwater gargle (still used today!)
A frightening “cure” that was part of medicine for nearly five hundred years was mercury. Thought to rejuvenate the body, it was most popular for sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis. Unfortunately, it eventually caused deformities before killing the patient.
Another common remedy was a mustard poultice. Used for chronic aches and pains as well as to ease chest congestion, the poultice (a soft moist mass) was made from mustard seed powder spread inside a protective dressing. The key was not to leave it in place for too long because it could cause first-degree burns! The vapor could cause nausea. Other poultices were created with dried crumbled bread mixed with sweet milk. Sometimes egg whites, crushed boiled onions, cornmeal or wheat bran were added.
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