I've got a great RSS feed from Medieval Cookery waaaay down on the left column here on my site that I like to read through every now and then. Not that I'm really all that good of a cook, or that I would ever attempt some of the remedies, but some of this stuff is just fascinating.
Browsing the recent entry of The commonplace book of Countess Katherine Seymour Hertford (1567) showed a few interesting gallstone treatments:
A medycyn for the Stone
Tak the cromes of levyned brede
and frye theme wt butter and vyngne
then putt them into a bagge and then
aplye the same unto the naked belly
the sycke lying in his bed one his bake
So in my humble attempts to translate, take the tops (crowns?) of leavened bread, fry them in butter and vinegar, put into a bag (cloth I would assume) and apply to the belly while the patient is lying on his back. I wonder if the mixture should be hot or cold when applied?
Then there's this one:
horehondeI recognize horehound, saxifrage and ginger but the rest of the ingredients baffle me. So I guess you distill the first list of ingredients together, but then you add a gallon and a pint of 'malmesei'. Now I'm not a certified linguist, but doesn't the the word 'mal' mean 'bad'? Maybe it means that it tastes bad. Anyway, two ounces of powdered ginger, ok, but what's a limbecke? A quick online search proves that translates to 'vessel'. Then distill. I think. The rest completely loses me. Something about burning it in a spoon. Was this medieval crack or something?
A presyouse water to breake the Stone
Distel a pint of the water of
everie of these by them selves and
put to them a gallon and a pynt
of good malmesei / that the malmesei
mai be equall in quantitie wth
the other waters then put therto
two ounces of ginger beaten into
fyne powder and Dystill al together
in a limbecke and the firste stillinge
as longe as it will burne well in
a spone kepe it bi it selfe and the
Last by it selfe.
Now here's one that might just work:
A Drinke to clense the gall & lykewise the lyver & the SpleneDock root is a mild laxative. Anise seeds and fennel would sure improve the flavor, but would also have a calming effect on an irritated stomach. Parsley is still used today as a gallstone treatment by herbalists and nutritionists. So I should find red dock root, wash and bruise them, put them in ale (hey, that's never a bad ingredient!) with a spoonful of anise seeds, a fennel root and a parsley root. Ummm. Pick out the pith of them? Then let it work with the yeast (from the ale I assume) and when it is stale drink it morning and night. Drink also during the day if you haven't drunk much else. I think this results in a slightly licorice flavored stale beer. Mmmm...medieval medicine.
Take Docke roote the reddest you can gett
washe them & Bruise them and so put them
into Ale wth a Sponefull of Annys seede
ffennell roote and one Parcelye roote : pycke
out the pythe of them and so lett yt woorcke
wth new east and when yt is stale Drincke
yt evening and morning one draught &
sometymes in the daye when you have lyss to
The rest of this manuscript (sadly it IS only text - I'd love to see the original pages) has remedies for everything to warts, pimples, bloody flux, and the ever-present medieval malady 'evils in the head.'
Had I lived in this time period, I'm guessing that one would have been forced upon me quite a lot. No, I probably would have been uppity enough to get burned at the stake or something. That'll cure you of ALL your ills right quick!