Eighteenth Century Remedies Involving Tobacco
Being a fan of 18th-century life and general history, I recently came across a book that was written in 1750 by William Ellis (an Englishman) called The Country Housewife's Family Companion (1750). Ellis wrote a number of books about farming, agriculture, and general knowledge he discovered during his travels that might help others with tips, tricks, and home remedies. Below is a compilation of various uses for ailments involving tobacco as an ingredient. It goes without saying that NONE of these should be attempted, but hopefully some of you will find this as amusing as we did!
For those of you who might be interested in picking up a copy of the book, you can find it here, courtesy of Prospect Books.
Tobacco --Is an herb by some accounted wholesome, by others unwholesome. Tobacco, says Dr. Archer, physician in ordinary to King Charles, smoaked in a pipe, is very attractive of moist and crude humours, as water and phlegm out of the head and stomach; and thus it makes a pump of the mouth, for the benefit of some few, and detriment to the health of many others.--It is not good (says he) for those that are of a hot, dry, and cholerick constitution, nor for sanguine people, who are not troubled with rheums distilling upon the lungs. It is bad for the teeth for two causes, from its own heat from a burning oil with the smoak convey'd to the mouth, and from the frequent flux of rheum from the head to the teeth.--It is (says he) bad for the eyes, because the smoak carries such a hot oil with it, that weakens the eyes by its force upon the brain, drawing from the optick nerve.--It is good where cold and famine cannot otherwise be helped, for it heats the body, and defrauds the stomach by offending it, and so there may be the less appetite or craving for food. If chewing it is good for any, it is for those that have cold rheums distilling from the head; on this account I heard a physician say it is excellent, because it alters its cold nature into a hot one, and thus prevents its damaging the stomach and lungs; it is also by its smoak very serviceable in preventing contagious distempers, and therefore is commonly thus made use of by surgeons and others in hospitals, &c. Now to improve this narcotick herb, drop a few drops of oil of anniseeds into an ounce of it, it gives it a pleasant taste, and endues the smoak with several wholesome properties.
A Labourer's Finger stopt bleeding by Tobacco.--One of our day-labourers, that was plashing a hedge, happened to cut his finger with a bill, and was at a loss how to stop its bleeding, till another labourer, working with him, took a chew of tobacco out of his mouth, and by applying thereof stopt the bleeding at once.
The Traveller's Remedy for curing the Itch.--As most of the begging travellers have now and then the itch, they that know the following medicine say nothing exceeds it.--After taking as much flower of brimstone as will lie on half a crown, in a spoonful of treacle, three mornings fasting, they boil salt and tobacco in urine, and rub their bodies over with the same three times in all, and wear the same shirt a week, two, or more.
A very strong Ointment for the Itch.--Beat stone brimstone, then mix it with soap, hogslard, tobacco, and pepper, boil and strain all through a cloth, after taking sulphur inwardly; anoint with this three nights.
How a Man accustomed himself to cure his Tooth-ach with Henbane-seed.--This man named Richards, lying at Rinxsell near Gaddesden, when troubled with the tooth-ach would first put some tobacco into the bowl of a pipe, and some henbane-seed on that, then tobacco, then henbane-seed, till his pipe was full. This he smoaked, and declared it had such virtue as to make worms come out of his teeth, to the cure of the tooth-ach, for that time; for this man never smoaked, but when troubled with the tooth-ach, and then it was in this manner: And no wonder it thus effects a cure, since it is of a stupifying nature like tobacco. It grows in yards and dry ditches, and has pods that hold much small seed.
How a Smith in Hertfordshire cured his Family of the Itch, without Mercury or Sulphur.--This man's family was dreadfully infected with the itch, brought to him by a journeyman, but cured by first taking flower of brimstone inwardly three times, and then anointing twice with a liquor made thus: He boiled two ounces of tobacco in three pints of strong beer, till a third part was consumed, with a piece of allum in the same; and others have since been cured by the same remedy, wearing the same linen for a week.--This remedy I am sure is a very good one, and as it has no mixture of mercury is not dangerous, nor offensive, as it is free of the smell of brimstone.
To cure the Tooth-ach.--Dip a little lint in tincture of myrrh, and put it in or upon the tooth; it is an excellent remedy.--Or stamp a little rue, as much as can be put into the ear, on that side the tooth achs, it will cause a noise, but makes a cure in an hour's time.--Tobacco ashes will clean and whiten teeth well.--A certain cooper burns the rind of ashes, wets them, puts them on leather, and lays it behind his ear, to raise a blister; which cures the tooth-ach, or other pain in the head.
A Wen cured.--Mrs. Roberts, of Shedham, about two miles from Gaddesden, having a wen many years almost under her chin, and as big as a boy's fist, could never get it reduced, till by advice she smoaked tobacco, and from time to time rubbed the wen with the spittle of it; this by degrees wasted the wen, and entirely cured it.
A most potent Remedy for curing the Itch.-- Take tobacco stalks, allum, hogslard, and powder'd salt-petre, the three first must be put into a full quart of strong beer, and when it is warm, the salt-petre must be put into it by degrees, for if it is put in cold, it will lump; the whole must be boiled well into an ointment.--If sulphur in treacle is first taken, I think no itch can resist the remedy; but for a more cleanly one, the following is made use of by some.
How a young Woman lost several of her Teeth.--She tells me, that for curing her tooth-ach she smoaked henbane-seed; secondly, a mixture of tobacco and brimstone; thirdly, gunpowder and salt, in a rag held on the tooth; fourthly, salt and pepper; fifthly, spirits of wine; sixthly, spirit of hartshorn: These at times she smoaked, and applied, to the loss of several of her teeth. Some say, spirit of soot used once a month cures the scurvy in the gums.
The travelling Beggars Way of clearing their Bodies of Nits, Lice, and Fleas.--I believe I may affirm it for truth, that no county in England is so much frequented by beggars as Hertfordshire; and upon asking them of their method of curing the several diseases they are incident to more than others, they tell me that, for clearing their bodies of lice, they boil copperas in water with hogslard, and by rubbing it over their bodies, no lice have power to bite them; on the contrary, it will make them forsake the cloaths they wear, and not damage their skin.--Another says, he is clear of lice by anointing the waistband of his breeches with oil of russel, but this I doubt.--To clear the head of lice, first open and part the hair here and there, then cover the bole of a lighted pipe of tobacco with a linen rag, and blow the smoak into the places, which will make the lice crawl to the outmost parts of the hair, where they may be easily combed out.--To prevent and destroy fleas, boil brooklime, or arsmart, or wormwood, in water, and wash the room.--Or lay the herbs in several parts of the room.
Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector