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    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Medieval gallstone remedies

    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:

    hawberries or
    haw flowers
    beane coddes
    maidon leeke
    puleol montaine

    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.
    I 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?

    Now here's one that might just work:
    A Drinke to clense the gall & lykewise the lyver & the Splene

    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
    Dock 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.

    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!

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