In all fairness, this installation of Remedies shouldn’t be attributed to me at all, but moreso to the great and evangelical John Wesley, whose solutions to everyday maladies of the body are both terrifying and highly amusing. We’ve encountered his crackpot cures before with the explosively disgusting and agonizing Iliac Passion. Must we mock the man who invented Methodism yet again?
Yes. Yes, we absolutely must.
It is within his tome of medical cures in the 1750’s ‘Primitive Physick, or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases’ that we will be exploring some of the more, how shall we say, curious, remedies to common ailments of the era. Strange remedies for even stranger disorders, as this was the time period with prevailing conditions being titled with such tags as ‘The Gravel’, ‘Stoppage in the Head’ and ‘The Consumption’, among many others.
His book was something of a bestseller, written in 1747, initially released anonymously. This is understandable – I would also be reluctant to stake my name against this glorious collection of physical panaceas. Wesley finally put his name to it in 1760 – surprised, I would assume, that it had actually been taken seriously. But be in no doubt – these remedies were taken very seriously indeed, and none of what I place in italics should be in any way considered fabricated or hyperbolic. It really is as insane as it reads.
1) Basic Health
At the beginning of the book, he offers some basic codes of conduct, health-wise. There are good suggestions here, such as ‘a due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health‘, but then starts to lose it a bit, by saying that ‘the Lungs may be strengthened by loud speaking‘, an act he undoubtedly advocated due to his day-job as minister, the primary role of which was standing in front of people and yelling at them for the things they had done wrong that week. He goes further to say that those who read or write should do it on their feet ‘otherwise it will impaire their Health.’ Education gained from a good reading should pass down through you like a prune stool-softener, it would seem.
In the main body of this household classic, we can move straight to the most pernicious of maladies: baldness. For this, he turns to items conveniently located in your kitchen pantry, onions in this case. ‘Rub that part Morning and Evening, with Onions, till it is red…‘ – apparently it’s important to give the old dome a good alopecia-curing scrub with a root-vegetable – he goes on to advise that the afflicted should proceed to ‘rub it afterwards with Honey.‘ Because, at this point, why not.
I might suggest turnips as the next step, or, hell, why not just shove your whole noggin in the vegetable patch to hedge your bets.
3) The Common Cold
This is one ailment I firmly believe we are on the verge of resolving (it is 1875 after all – how long does it take?), and we are all well aware as to how the efficacious application of citrus will cure it in a quick fashion. But should you quaff such a concoction, as you may have been instructed? Never. Instead, ‘pare very thin the yellow Rind of an Orange. Roll it up inside out and thrust a Roll into Each Nostril.’ Well of course. Inhale the glorious citrus. Don’t ingest it. Shove it up your nose with gusto. Silly you.
There are no less than 12 recommended cures for the ‘Consumption’, the archaic term for tuberculosis, including cold-bathing, consuming various types of plant-life, to this deceptively simple concoction: ‘half a Pint of skim’d milk, one spoonful of the best rum, sweetened with… sugar or the sugar of roses… [with] eight parts water, lie in Bed an Hour‘ then more rum, more milk, more sugar, and more rum again. Being thoroughly drunk and ready to vomit at this stage, the tuberculosis will be the least of your troubles.
Are you hard of hearing? No trouble! Mr Wesley recommends a cold bath, or (and there are many ‘ors’ in his remedies) further use of the onion as juice poured into your ear.
If all else fails: ‘be electrified thro‘ the Ear’. When you can begin to hear your screams, you’re cured.
6) Windy Rupture
A what, you ask? A hernia, by any other name, and a very serious condition. Our authority on the subject Wesley recommends that for this painful condition, the most extreme of cures is required: ‘Warm Cow-dung well. Spread it thick on Leather… and apply it hot. When cold, put on a new one. It commonly cures a Child (keeping his bed) in two Days.’
Other than to ask what the hell you were forcing this child to do for a living to have it suffer a hernia, I have absolutely nothing further to add to this.
7) Hypochondriac and Hysteric Disorders
During this period of time, with these kind of cures, an alternate definition of a ‘hypochondriac’ would be ‘someone who is really asking for trouble’. That said, there is a cure to be proffered for such a condition as complaining too much – and one must wonder if there is a touch of malice in this restorative. Wesley of course recommends the ever ubiquitous ‘cold Bathing’, otherwise ‘…take an ounce of Quicksilver every Morning.‘
Quicksilver, to the ignorant, is mercury. With an ounce of this poisonous liquid metal in you every morning, your whining and complaining will soon be at an end.
As your good Doctor, I have tried several of these concoctions myself, and even with my augmented constitution, I am feeling a mite bit queasy. My suggestion with consumption cure – leave out the milk, and go solely with the rum.
Join me next time as I examine further cures by Mr Wesley in the near future. Stay well, and if you can’t manage that, donate your organs to me.