In Louisville, Ky., the children are afraid to kill the common sow-bug (Oniscus), which they call "mad dog," believing that the disagreeable-looking little crustacean can give one the hydrophobia. In my own mind there is a faint recollection of having heard that a poultice made from these creatures possessed great remedial powers of some kind. The genuineness of my half-obliterated reminiscence of the therapeutical value of the sow-bug lately received an unexpected confirmation from the pages of a copy of The Complete English Dispensatory, by John Quincy, printed not far from the middle of the eighteenth century. This rare old book, which had long lain among the unconsidered rubbish in the garret of an old-fashioned New Hampshire farm-house, contains a vast amount of curious medical lore. Not a few of the remedies which it describes are so alchemistically compounded as to seem to have come straight down from the later adepts in that pseudo-science. Other preparations, again, are unpleasant enough in their composition to satisfy an ancient Roman or a modern Chinese practitioner, as witness the following (by no means one of the most objectionable):
"Expressio Millipedum Simplex (A Simple Expression of Millipedes).—Take live millipedes and white sugar ana ℥ iij, beat them well together in a marble mortar, and pour upon them lb. j of white wine, which strain out again by hard squeezing."
This formula is quoted by Quincy from Dr. Fuller's Pharmacopoeia Extemporanea as a diuretic. Among other synonyms for "millipedes" as here used, Quincy gives "sows" and "onisci." I find that Pliny recommends "millipedes" (which the editor of the translation of the Natural History in Bohn's series identifies with onisci) for pains in the ear. Holland is quoted in a foot-note in the above-mentioned translation, as sanctioning the use of woodlice (sow-bugs) for pains in the ears; and the editor also states that English school-boys swallow them alive, and that old women advise their use in consumptive cases.
Perhaps every one has noticed the club-shaped, whitish mass at the proximal end of a freshly pulled human hair. This root of the hair, together with the attached connective tissue and adipose material, is often absent, from the fact that the hair frequently breaks off near the opening of the follicle, instead of coming out entire from the interior of the latter. So it has come about that the root of the hair is in different localities mistaken for an animal parasite, called a hair-eater. In many places in Maine and Massachusetts, if these bulbs are noticed among combings, people will say that the scalp is infested with hair-eaters, and that the latter must be killed, or they will certainly ruin the hair.