As part of my training I have been working with a book of receipts (recipes) dated 8th May 1736. The book forms part of a collection of documents from Fountains Abbey and is simply called a Book of Receipts or Prescriptions for Disease (reference WYL150/6048). The book is handwritten and contains a compilation of approximately 30 medicinal recipes with some names included of people who provided or recommended the recipes.
In addition to the ingredients, the recipes include some instructions on how to use the cure or treatment for ailments such as scurvy, worms, piles, ague, colic indigestion and pestilence.
It is not always clear whether the treatment should be swallowed or applied externally to the affected part. Some of the ingredients are harmful ie sulphur powder, quicksilver (mercury), white lead, filed pewter and scraped tin.
DO NOT TRY THESE RECIPES AT HOME.
My favourites are:
Infallible Cure for the Bite of A Mad Dog
The ingredients include Venice Treacle [which could be bought from an apothecary ready mixed and contained as many as 64 ingredients including viper skin and opium]. Other ingredients included scraped pewter and filed tin. The treatment could be swallowed or applied to the injury.
A second cure [which did not claim to be infallible] recommends the following;
Blood letting (9 ounces of blood).
A mixture of ground liverwort and black pepper added to warm cow’s milk.
Fasting to follow, and then repeated cold baths requiring total immersion of the body.
I am not sure which would have killed the patient first; the dog bite, or the “cures”.
For the Piles
The ingredients include powdered White Frankincense and White Lead mixed with honey.
The mixture to be either applied to the pile or used as a suppository.
At the same time a small amount of equal quantities of live sulphur and sugar in a spoonful of milk to be consumed at night.
I was unable to find Live Sulphur possibly this is the same as Flowers of Sulphur which was used to treat skin diseases. White Lead is toxic as is Frankincense taken in large quantities. Drops of White Frankincense oil is still used today on the skin with a carrier oil it is said to reduce skin sagging!
Treatment for Worms
The main ingredients include tops of Cardnus, Wormwood and its seeds, dried chamomile flowers mixed with 2 pints of cold spring water and filtered, then a small amount put on a teaspoon with a smaller amount oil of beechnut added and fed to the patient.
Treatment appears to be aimed at children with advice such as: give to a child (aged 2 to 4 or 5 years old) half a spoonful or more or less mixed with a quarter teaspoonful of oil of beech nuts, fasting to follow immediately afterwards for an hour and a second dose to be given late afternoon for a week or ten days.
[Revised dosage for older children helpfully supplied.]
Today the Wormwood plant is considered poisonous. I was unable to find the other two ingredients.
The above recipes are only summaries and I recommend reading the actual document which contains many more proposed treatments and cures. During my research I have learned many herbal remedies are still in use throughout the world today.