toothache drops

Home doctorin’ comes from a long checkered history

“Cyclopedia Compendium,” a late 1800s tomb of enlightened information about home-doctorin’ gives me a chuckle every times I pick it up. This little gem was passed on to me from my great-grandmother. (It pays to be an only child of an only child of an only child.”

It sports the up-to-date (for the mid 1800s) advice on everything from interest rates to home doctoring. I don’t know if any of these remedies really worked or if the folks just got better because of their internal fortitude. But the remedies were followed religiously and surprisingly, some folks even survived the “cure.”

What I wonder is — in 150 years will our descendants look back on us with the same awe at our lack of knowledge. I’m thinking — yeah, they will.

Got a sick child? Slip ‘em a cocaine cocktail. Yeah, they did this. 

Cocaine was legal, even as late as this ad (1885), and was not considered harmful in moderate doses. Many other drugs, now restricted by law, were also legal then, including opium, which was sold under city permit on the streets of Victoria.

In the 19th century many substances were used as medicines, some of which are now known to be harmful over the long term, such as mercury and lead. “Patent medicines,” like these Cocaine Toothache Drops, were very popular and required no prescription; they were indeed “For sale by all druggists.”

 By the 1860s, the practice of medicine was going through many changes. The germ theory of disease was a controversial idea and not yet widely accepted. The first of the general anesthetics, chloroform and ether, had then only recently become available, making surgery potentially life saving rather than life threatening, though the routine use of antiseptics was still some years in the future.

Many medical practitioners still subscribed (at least in some form) to the ancient theory of the “four humors” developed by the Roman physician Galen (131-199 AD). According to this theory, the body is made up of four humors — blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. The relative amounts of each humor in the body determined state of health and temperament (a person with more blood was “sanguine;” with more phlegm “phlegmatic;” with black bile “melancholic;” and if yellow bile predominated, “choleric” or “bilious”). Too much or too little of any humor was said to cause illness, which could be cured by restoring the balance. Many nineteenth century medicines and practices were intended to do this.

According to the “Cyclopedia — this is what you do if you have:

Rheumatism — To a handful of blue flag root add a pint of good spirits; let it stand a week. Dose a spoonful three times a day and increase by degrees to three teaspoons a day. (An Indian remedy). Or apply a poultice of hot potatoes and renew as often as it becomes cool or hard.

Wounds and cuts — Do up a fresh cut in the blood and keep it wet with hot drops and it will soon get well.

Asthma — Number one cure…Dr. Batty’s Asthma Cigarettes.

Also, skunk cabbage root taken in the form of a syrup or dried and smoked through a pipe will give relief or burn a piece of brown paper that has been wet in strong saltpeter water in your room before going to bed will give great relief.

Nosebleed — Soak feet in warm water or pour cold water on the back of your neck and put a ball of rag up the nostril dipped in equal parts of white of egg, sugar and burnt alum.

Colds and Coughs — Pour 1/2 cup of molasses over a hot boiled turnip, let it stand for 15 minutes, turn off the syrup and squeeze the turnip. Take before going to bed.

Croup —  Cut onions into thin slices, put brown sugar on them and let dissolve. Take a teaspoon of the syrup and take goose grease, rubbing the throat with it at the same time until it produces vomiting.

Ear Ache — Put the heart of a roasted onion into the ear.

Lockjaw — Wash the scratch or wound with lye, bind a rind of pork on the wound or use a batter made of strong soft soap mixed with pulverized chalk.

Toothache — Put into the tooth a pill made of camphor and opium.

Oh yes, I can see how the tooth could be settled down with that.

Here’s another jewel of information that you might want to write down and file away: 

How to make leeches take hold — To make leeches take hold on the spot required, take a piece of white paper, cut small holes in it where you wish them to bite, lay this over the place and put the leeches on the paper. Not liking the paper, they will take hold of the skin where it appears through the hole.

Three rules for preserving good health:First. Keep feet warm. Second. The head cool. Third. Keep the bowels open.

Well, I’m just going to fax some of this information to my doctor. He’s a good man and a good doctor but, after all, knowledge is power and you learn something new every day.

DALE LILLY  is Lifestyles Editor (The Gilded Lilly) and may be contacted at 662-429-6397, Ext. 248. 

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