Untold lives blog

19 April 2013

How to stay healthy with homemade remedies

In recent months there is more and more talk about super-bugs and their resistance of antibiotics. Doctors and researchers warn that we may be taken back 200 years, when many died from simple infections. Let’s find out how we could treat some ailments if we followed our ancestors’ example.

Cartoon of an ill patient An ill patient. Detail from a cartoon 'Quite a lucky day'.P.P.5273.c, volume XLII, p.33. Images Online Noc

Asthma - Strong black coffee could stop the attack. Relief might also be brought by the fumes of dried blotting paper soaked in saltpetre. If that is of no help, do not hesitate to smoke 20 grains of datura leaf mixed with tobacco.

Bleeding from internal organs - The bottom line of the treatment: Keep Quiet! That will probably give you a chance to say good bye to the world, in silence, whilst you are being served cold effusions. Lemonade or alum whey (two teaspoons of powdered alum with two tumblers of milk) with a sprinkle of opium is the treatment. If you have a fever too, a mixture of two drachms of nitre in barley water with some lemon and sugar to taste should sort you out.

Convulsions - Put your child immediately into a hot bath and give it some castor oil. Adults should be treated with cold water to the head, mustard plasters to the calves, and a serving of purgative.

Hiccoughs - Not life threatening, but irritating! Try holding the right ear with the left forefinger and thumb, bringing the elbow as far across the chest as possible.

Hysteria - Put away your diazepam and use a mixture of whisky, water and chlorodyne instead. If you are treating a hysteric after the medicine has been administered, just leave them alone.

Lung infection - Take linseed poultices and ipecacuanha, then dress in a bran jacket. Recovery guaranteed!

Poisoning - If you have a heated dispute with your mother-in-law just before Sunday dinner and suddenly you think a little extra something has been added to your soup, try a mixture of milk, soap, water, whites of eggs, seed oil, and rice-water topped with mucilaginous drink. Time is of the essence, so drink it immediately! It will work on acids, but if you suspect that arsenic was the extra spice you will need also to take an emetic.

Toothache - Mix 40 drops of carbolic acid, 60 drops of eau-de-cologne, and a piece of gum mastic (an aromatic resin from a pistachio tree), apply one drop onto cotton wool and put into the hollow.

Snake wearing a  hat

  Snake wearing a hat - from a collection of poems and songs by Edward Lear. Images Online Noc

If you happen to be in a more exotic clime and get bitten by a snake follow these simple instructions:
1. Tie a ligature every few inches; (whipcord seems to be the best, but don’t be too fussy)
2. Ask someone to cut the flesh around the bites and let it bleed. If the snake is deadly, just let them amputate the joint or run the knife round the bone.
3. You need to suck the poison out (you are already poisoned, so nothing to loose, really!) and then your assistant must burn the wound with carbolic or nitric acid, nitrate of silver, or a hot iron. If you are still standing, you will be given a drop of brandy!

Good health!

Dorota Walker
Reference Specialist, Asian and African Studies   


Further reading:
F. A. Steel & G. Gardiner, The complete Indian housekeeper and cook, ed. by R. Crane and A. Johnson (Oxford 2010)



For anyone wanting to make a bran jacket, here are Steel and Gardiner's instructions!
'Take two strips common coarse muslin or cheese cloth wide enough to go round the body. Place together. Then fold in half. At the fold and the rough end shape for arm-holes and shoulders. Run the two strips together, and join shoulder on the folded side. Quilt loosely with bran. On the joined side and shoulder put tapes. Dip in scalding water, wring out in a towel as dry as possible. Slip on over one arm, and tie on opposite side and shoulder.'

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