16th cent Medical Recipe Book
July 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the formation of the National Health Service in 1948. Perhaps nowadays we take much of our Health Service for granted. Here we take a look at what people had to put up with centuries earlier. There was a wide range of medicinal cures based mainly on herbs, plant extracts and other natural substances. These cures could be supplied by apothecaries, but many households compiled and passed on their own recipe books. The women of the house had to learn and acquire as much knowledge and practice so they could administer to their households and estate workers. Some of these recipe books also contain equally important veterinary cures.
The recipe book illustrated here is from the archive collection of the Earls of Bradford of Weston Park in Staffordshire, and it dates from the late sixteenth century.
Further remedies from this and from other Staffordshire documents of the seventeenth century, are available in the Archive Service publication "Kill or Cure".
© Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service
A notable water for the dimnes of the sight
Take the iuse of fenell, of scelladine, of rue, of enfragey an ii [ounces] of honey i [ounce] of aloes, & sarscolle i [ounce] and the galle of a cocke or of a caponn [ounces] ii nutmixes Cloves saffron of every ech 1 [ounce] suger Candy six ounces put all these in a limbicke of glasse and still yt and put of this watter into your eyes once a daie and yf you Could gett the lyver of a hee gott and mingle yt with the thinge afforesaid in the deslationn of the water the water will be of great vertue and very good.
For deene & noyse in the head
whether yt bee blod or winde
Re[cipe] the iuse of mynt smaleage & betony and therto as much viniger & laie you to rest, & put thereof into your eare, but warme the licker and lie with the whole eare downeward; barr & openn and bynde the dreise that bee left onn the yearbes onn the sore eare and in four o[r] 5 times you shall bee whole for one the lift thou shall heare the winde com possing out, at thie neyther eare.
scelladine: celandine, its thick yellow juice used for weak sight
rue: also called Herb of Grace
enfragey: probably an original copying error for eufragia or euphrasia (also called Eyebright because of its use in eye treatments)
aloes: a bitter purgative derived from the juice of aloe
sarscolle: probably sarcolla or sarcocolla, gum-resin from Arabia or Persia
a limbicke: alembic, apparatus for distilling
iuse (as above)
smaleage: smallage, varieties of celery or parsley
betony: one of the Stachys family used for healing wounds (as in Woundwort)
Staffordshire Record Office : D1287/20/2