Medicines of animal origin were equally inventive. Dog turds were considered remarkable for treating pleurisy and colic; pig urine lowered fevers. Crow droppings dissolved in wine were good for dysentery; the chopped meat of geese and “well nourished kittens,” roasted and distilled, cured jaundice. Ground unicorn horns from India and Ethiopia (!) were of great repute for treating plague, rabies and scorpion bites. Even in the sixteenth century, viper’s venom was known to be a powerful antidote to the bites of poisonous animals and was used to combat the effects of poisonous plants. All parts of the viper, not only the venom, were used in various cures; the bodies were dried, then pulverized and mixed with wine and other ingredients.
The pharmacological properties of plants were well known to Renaissance healers. Apothecaries mixed innumerable aperitifs, digestifs, purges, and simples. Exotic herbs and spices from all over Africa and the Far East entered France through Lyon and found their way onto apothecaries’ shelves. Tobacco was introduced into Europe by Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century and was consumed in many different forms: as oil, salt, syrup, perfume, water, leaves and powder. Smoking tobacco was considered useful for strengthening the memory, curing cataracts, and mitigating headaches and asthma. Tobacco oil was used on pimples; dropped in the ears it cured deafness. Tobacco salt whitened teeth; tobacco syrup arrested colds. Other plant products much used in medications included pepper, ginger, saffron, almonds, and fennel. Chewing on cloves relieved toothaches, a remedy Jollande’s mother-in-law relies on in The Measure of Silence.
As for inorganic medications, soluble salts of gold, silver, sulfur and mercury were used as elixirs for long life. Copper was used for stomach ailments; iron dissolved in vinegar soothed ulcers. Mercury, mixed with butter, killed lice; it was mixed with vinegar and oil and drunk as a treatment for syphilis. Precious stones such as agate, emeralds, onyx and pearls were ground and swallowed as powders or mixed into sauces.
As you can see, the range of medications in the sixteenth century ran the gamut from useful and effective to outrageous and downright harmful. Apothecaries and doctors had their favorite cures which they prescribed based on their clinical experience. As the printing industry expanded, noted doctors and apothecaries began publishing books of their “recipes” for the benefit of others in the field. I’ll leave you, as promised, with apothecary Jean Liébault’s recipe for earthworm oil:
“Take a half measure of earthworms, wash them diligently in white wine, then cook them in two measures of olive oil and a bit of red wine, until the wine is consumed, then pour off and squeeze out the entirety and save the oil. It would be even better to put other worms in this oil and leave them there as long as the oil lasts. This oil is singular for comforting cold nerves and for joint pain.” (quoted in Rossignol, p. 111; translation mine).
Kicked Out of Heaven Vol. II
Paperback Black & White: $54.00
The Untold History of The White Races cir. 700 – 1700 a.d.
666 pages 197 pages
ONLY 2 COPIES LEFT!
Kicked Out Of Heaven Vol. II: The Untold History of The White Races cir. 700-1700 a.d. is a 3 volume series that will be released one by one. This book details everything about European society and mentality. In this edition you will find these facts: Alcoholism & The Blue Devils, Insanity & Lead Poisoning, Ergot (LSD) Hallucinations, The Sweating Sickness & Leprosy, The Tobacco Enema & Leeches, The Defloration Mania, The Dancing Mania, The Black Death, The Gravediggers & Body Snatchers, Jews Poisoning the Wells, Millions of Deaths, Folklore & Superstition, Magic Mirrors & Crystal Balls, Witches Dancing in Baby Blood, Pants Made of Human Skin, Necromancy & Ghost Armies, Attacks from The Undead, Lycanthropy & Were-Wolves, Multiple Cases of Vampires, Who is Satan, Lucifer & The Devil!
WJW FOX 8 News Cleveland: Most parents still rely on myths to avoid colds.