A Recipe for Disaster? Metals, Chemicals and Acids

There are a lot of things that you wouldn’t consider ingesting, or putting on your skin. Today, metals like titanium and stainless steel are used in medicine for hip replacements and prosthetics. In the past, a lot of metal compounds were actually recommended to be ingested or used on wounds. Many of these chemicals, metals and acids are irritants and damage the body. Ingredients now used for cleaning or hardening aren’t exactly suitable for sensitive areas like the eyes.

An excellent Balsam to cure any Green-wound or Ach – WYW1352/3/4/7/3

Take Adders tongue, plantain, Ribwort, or [?] comfry, self heal, Dittony, Vervaine, Mouselaces, St Johnswort, Hounds-tongue, Cardmus, cammomile, of each one hand full, bruise & steep ‘em in Aqua vita on strong/Water 9 Days then made hot strain forth the Juice & put to it a pint & half of Sallad Oyle, then bottle ‘em softly, fill the Juice be half wasted, then but 12 Ounces of Venus Turpentine to it & boyle it again, & keep it for yourself.

Venus or Venice turpentine may seem innocuous after the long list of plants and herbs before it, but it’s now used to harden horse shoes which suggests that it’s not something you’d want to consume. It’s also now used as a sealing wax and varnish in artwork. Adder’s tongue is, surprisingly, not actually the tongue of a snake but a type of fern.

C696, Page 4 – Astringent Collyium No. 11 ‘Mix ten drops of extract of lead, that is the liquor plumbi actatis of the shops, and two drachms of distilled vinegar., with four ounces of distilled water. This is a good application to inflamed eyes, especially when 1 of a gently astringent cooling quality is indicated’.

A mixture of lead and vinegar probably isn’t the ideal combination to bathe your eyes with. Exposure to too much lead around the eyes can result in redness, pain and blurred vision. This remedy is more likely to exacerbate inflamed eyes, not reduce it.

C696, Page 2 – Weakness of the eyes
Cure for Weak Eyes – Take a small lump of white copperas about the size of a Pea put if into a phial holding about 1 oz of Water carry this in the pocket and occasionally taking out the Cork turn the Phial on the finger and thus bathe the eye. – This will effect a well sunk in a short time

White copperas is a form of iron also called ferrous sulphate. Widely used in the manufacture of iron gall ink, it’s commonly used to fix dyes and black leather. It’s definitely not something you would want to put in your eyes.

C696 – Scurvy of the gums
Scurvy in the Gums – Make safe tea – dissolve a little alum in it in which dip a linen Cloth and rub your gums with the same if you want to make your teeth white mix a little burnt alum with 6 spoonfuls of Honey and 2 spoonfuls of juice of Pelandine and rub your teeth with [?]

Alum is a kind of compound, usually referring to potassium alum. It’s commonly used to purify water, to tan leather, and to fireproof textiles. It can be used as an antiseptic because it’s so astringent and is still used in dentistry today.

There were many different compounds and mixtures used in the past to treat and cure ailments. Some of them, like those noted above, would not be used today in the same way.