Renovation & Design

Old medicine doesn't age well

Retro home remedies not recommended for modern-day use

Feeling a little under the weather?

No worries. I have for you treatments and advice from two medical books, both written by doctors as a resource for home use. They are, Dr. Chase’s RecipesInformation For Everybody, published in 1881, which includes a substantial medical advice section, and The New Modern Medical Counselor, from 1951.

Let’s begin with some 1881 advice, shall we? Everybody’s whitening their teeth these days. How would you do it at home, back in 1881?

Simple as pie. (Danger! Do NOT try this at home! — Thought I should include this to prevent anyone from actually attempting it.)

"Tooth wash — To Remove Blackness: pure muriatic acid, one ounce each; water; honey. Take a toothbrush and wet it freely with this preparation, briskly rub the black teeth and, in a moment’s time, they will be perfectly white. Then immediately wash out the mouth with water, so that the acid may not act upon the enamel of the teeth."

I might add: "also to prevent your tongue from dissolving and your cheeks from falling off." Good Lord!

A quick Google search warns us: "Muriatic acid is a highly reactive liquid acid, and one of the most dangerous chemicals you can buy for home use." Nowadays they clean masonry with it (among other things) but it is certainly not a toothpaste. By the way, neither is Brylcreem. Been there, done that (accidentally). Pah. Fifty-five years later and I can still taste it.

Got a sore throat? How about we whip up one of Dr. Chase’s liniments, this one specifically designed for a sore throat: "Gum Camphor, two ounces; Castile soap, shaved fine; one drop of turpentine, one tablespoon; oil of origanum, one half ounce; opium, one quarter ounce; alcohol, one pint. In a week or 10 days it will be fit for use, then bathe the parts freely two or three times daily."

Hell, that’d cure anything. I’m in!

Let’s move ahead to 1951 to modern times and treatments. I’m sure they’ll be much more sensible. Or not.

From The New Modern Medical Counselor: "Migraine – What Should Be Done: The disease is incurable, but there are certain measures that are of value in giving some degree of relief. A: Keep the bowels open. (They start with this for just about anything.) B: Eat simple, easily digested food, especially avoiding overeating. C: (In short) Avoid noise and turmoil, move to the country."

Skipping a couple, I take you to: "At the beginning of the migraine attack, clean the bowels with an enema and, if convenient, have a physician wash out the stomach."

A physician? Hey, we’re having trouble finding an emergency department!

"Inhalations of oxygen, injections of ergotamine tartrate..."

Sure. Available over the counter at fine pharmacies everywhere.

Now that we’ve cured your migraine, let’s move along to a couple of the highly used and, therefore I suppose, most effective enemas. There’s the "soapsuds enema" (I kid you not, rinse required); or the more popular "stimulating enema" requiring (and, again, I kid you not) "half a pint of strong coffee." Cream and sugar? Your call. I mean, what the heck, you’re doing this at home.

I’ve spoken to some older nurses who remember administering both these enemas while on the job.

Oh, what a fascinating world we live in.

Oh, 1951! There must be some treatment that seems "modern"! How about bronchial asthma (asthma attack): "Have the sufferer try inhaling the fumes from burning medicated blotting paper."

Now that makes sense. When having an asthma attack, inhaling smoke is always helpful.

"If it does not bring relief in a few minutes (the smoke), discontinue this treatment."

Well no kidding!

"A supply of medicated blotting paper may be prepared by soaking the paper in a strong solution of saltpeter and then drying the paper."

Personally, I’d skip the smoke and opt for a stimulating enema. That’d clear those lungs in a flash. Smoke? Really?

Or, hey, maybe check your cupboards for elixirs and cures your grandparents may have bought a few decades ago and haven’t chucked yet.

Three I keep on hand are: Watkins SARSAPARILLA (gotta be good for what ails ya); the always dependable VIR-VIN (The Wine of Strength); and I’m guessing that an application of Watkins Cream of Camphor (advertised right on the bottle as being suitable "For man or beast") will cure just about anything.

I remember a "treatment" I wasn’t fond of from back when I was a kid, the infamous "Mustard Plaster", consisting of four tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of dry mustard and lukewarm water, mixed together and smushed into a poultice — a soft, moist mass of material — which mom then applies to your chest and leaves there until you burn to a crisp, but your cough is gone. Pain.

I hope this column helps you live yet another day.

Have a great weekend! Pass the coffee!

Comments or feedback, love to hear from you!


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