The English Housekeeper/Chapter 31

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In almost every family little illnesses are likely to occur, which may require medicine, though not, perhaps, the aid of a Doctor; it is, therefore, convenient to keep a small supply of common medicines in the house, especially in the country. The list I give was written by a medical gentleman; but while I am induced to insert it in this work, from a belief that it may, in some cases, be found of use, I cannot refrain from observing that it is far from my desire to lead any young housekeeper to adopt the fatal error that Doctors may be dispensed with, when anything approaching to serious illness betrays itself. Too many instances have occurred wherein life has been lost, for the want of timely medical skill, which might, perhaps, have arrested the progress of disease at its feeble commencement, and before it had acquired sufficient strength to baffle opposition.

The following receipts have all been tried by the persons who gave them to me; many of them may be old fashioned, but some I can assert to be good. That for the croup has been resorted to, several times in our own family, and always with success. The complaint is a violent one, its attacks are sudden and the progress of the disease is so rapid that there ought not to be an instant of delay in administering the remedies. The croup is of common occurrence in America, and the following receipt came from that country.

For the Croup.

The healthiest children are the most liable to this complaint, which is caused by sudden changings in the atmosphere, draughts of cold air, and checking of the perspiration. It betrays itself by a hoarse croaking cough, something like the hooping cough.—Put the child into a warm bath placed opposite the fire; cover it all over with flannel, or a blanket; in the meantime chop an onion or two, squeeze the juice through a piece of muslin, mix it in the proportion of 1 tea-spoonful with 2 table-spoonsful treacle; get the child to swallow as much of this, from time to time, as you can: when it has been in the bath ten or twelve minutes, take it out in a blanket, and as quickly as you can, rub the stomach and chest with a mixture of rum and oil, or goose grease, wrap the child in a flannel and put it to bed, or keep it in the lap by the fire; if the child go to sleep, it will be almost sure to awake free from the disorder. These remedies may not succeed if there be delay in applying them.

For Weakness of Stomach.

1 drachm of prepared Columba root, and ½ drachm of rhubarb root, infused in ½ pint of boiling water, one day: add 1 oz. tincture of Columba, and a little sugar. 2 table-spoonsful, twice a day.—Or: put about 25 camomile flowers into ½ a pint boiling water, with 3 cloves, and 2 hops, cover close and let it stand all night: a tea-cupful first in the morning, and again an hour before dinner. If giddiness ensues, the camomile does not agree with the patient, and must not be continued. Where it does agree, this will be found to restore the appetite.

Camphor Julep.

Rub ¼ oz. of camphor in a mortar, with a few drops of spirits of wine, and a few lumps of sugar; add, by degrees, a quart of water, boiled, and cold. Let it stand twenty-four hours, then strain through muslin, and bottle it.

For Bilious Complaints and Indigestion.

Pour over twenty grains each of rhubarb and ginger, and a handful of camomile flowers, a pint of boiling water. A wine-glassful the first in the morning, and an hour before dinner.

A Mild Aperient. (To take in the spring.)

Put 1 oz. of senna into a jar, and pour 1 quart of boiling water over it; fill up the vessel, with prunes and figs; cover with paper, and set it in the oven, with household bread. Take every morning, one or two prunes, and a wine-glass of the liquor.—Or: dissolve 3 oz. of Spanish liquorice in one pint boiling water, add 1 oz. socotrine aloes in powder, and 1 pint brandy. Take 1 tea-spoonful in a wine-glassful of water, either in the morning, at night, or both.—Or: a large tea-spoonful of magnesia, a lump of sugar, a dessert-spoonful of lemon juice, in ½ pint of spring water.

Gout Cordial.

Rhubarb 1 oz., senna, coriander seeds, sweet fennel seeds, cochineal, saffron, and liquorice root, of each, a ¼ oz., and of jar raisins 4 oz. Let the raisins be stoned, and all the ingredients be bruised. Put them into a quart of French brandy. Shake well every day for a fortnight. Take 1 table-spoonful, with peppermint, or plain water.

Hallett's Gout and Bilious Cordial.

Infuse in a gallon of distilled aniseed water, 3 oz. Turkey rhubarb, 4 oz. senna leaves, 4 oz. guaiacum shavings, 3 oz. elecampagne root, 1 oz. fennel seed, 14 oz. saffron, 14 oz. cochineal, 1 lb. sun raisins, 1 oz. aniseed; shake it every day for a fortnight; strain and bottle it.—A table-spoonful (or two) an hour after dinner.

For Nervous Affections.

Take a small wine-glassful of the following mixture: a tea-spoonful of sal volatile, of tincture of hops, and an equal portion of infusion of orange peel and of gentian.

Mustard Whey, for Dropsy and for Rheumatism.

Boil 1½ oz. bruised mustard seed, in a quart of milk and water, till the curd which forms is separated. Strain it and take a tea-cupful three times a day. Another for Rheumatism.—A handful of scraped horse-radish, and a table-spoonful of whole mustard seed, infused in a bottle of Madeira; the longer the better. A wine-glassful in bed at night, and another before the patient rises.

An Embrocation for Rheumatism.

Dissolve 1 oz. of gum camphor in 6 oz. of rectified spirits of wine; add by degrees, shaking the phial frequently, 2 oz. spirits of sal ammoniac and 2 drachms oil of lavender. This has been used with success.—Another: (known to mitigate the tic douloureux), is the caja peeta oil, but it must be genuine. It is also good for strains, bruises, and chilblains.—Or: a mixture of 6 drachms French soap, 6 drachms ether, and 1 oz. spirits of wine.

For a Sore Throat.

At the beginning of a sore throat, get fresh ivy leaves, tack them together, warm them, and put the shady side to the throat.—Or: wet bread-crumbs with brandy, and tie them round the throat. Make a gargle of 2 carrots, sliced and boiled, and use it often.—Or: dissolve 4 oz. camphor in a pint of rectified spirits of wine. Dip a piece of new Welsh flannel into this, and apply it to the throat. Be careful to wet frequently.

A remedy for a Common Cold.

3 grains compound extract of colocynth, and 3 grains of soap, in 2 pills, taken at going to bed. The following night, take 16 or 18 grains of compound powder of contrayerva, and ½ a pint vinegar whey.—Breakfast in bed the next morning.

Syrup for a Cough.

Boil 1 oz. balsam of tolu, very gently, two hours, in a quart of water; add 1 lb. white sugar candy, finely beaten, and boil it half an hour longer. Strain through a flannel bag twice; when cold, bottle it. You may add 2 oz. syrup of red poppies, and the same of raspberry vinegar. A spoonful when the cough is troublesome.—Or: 2 oz. honey, 4 table-spoonsful vinegar, 2 oz. syrup white poppies, and 2 oz. gum arabic: boil gently to the consistency of treacle; a tea-spoonful when the cough is troublesome.—Or: 1 table-spoonful treacle, 1 of honey, 1 of vinegar, 15 drops laudanum, and 15 drops peppermint. Simmer together a quarter of an hour. A dessert-spoonful to be taken at going to bed.—Or: mix together in a phial, 2 drachms of compound tincture of benjamin, 6 drachms ethereal spirits of nitre, 3 drachms of compound tincture of camphor, and 5 drachms of oxymel; a tea-spoonful in a wine-glass of warm water, when the cough is troublesome.—Or: mix 1 oz. gum arabic, 1 oz. sugar candy, and the juice of a lemon; pour on it a pint of boiling water; a little when the cough is troublesome.

Extract of Malt, for a Cough.

Over ½ a bushel of pale ground malt, pour hot (not boiling) water to cover it, let it stand eight and forty hours; drain off the liquor, without squeezing the grains, into a stew-pan large enough to boil quickly, without boiling over. When it begins to thicken, stir, till it is as thick as treacle. A dessert-spoonful three times a day.

For a Cold and Cough.

To 3 quarts of water, put ¼ lb. linseed, two pennyworth stick liquorice, and ¼ lb. sun raisins. Boil it, until the water be reduced half; add a spoonful of rum and of lemon juice. A ¼ pint at bed time, and in smaller quantities, during the night, if the cough be troublesome.

For the Hooping Cough.

Dissolve 1 scruple of salt of tartar in 1¼ pint of cold water: add 10 grains of pounded cochineal, and sweeten with lump sugar.—The dose increased in proportion to the age of the patient; for a child five years old, a table-spoonful is sufficient; for adults 2 table-spoonsful 3 times a day.—Abstain from all acids.

Garlic Syrup, for Hooping, or any other Cough.

Put 3 roots of garlic, sliced thinly and transversely, with 4 oz. honey, and 4 oz. vinegar, into a ½ pint bason, and set that into a large wash-hand bason; let it infuse half an hour, then strain it. Take the first in the morning, and the last at night, a tea-spoonful of the syrup, in an equal quantity of brandy and water; put the water in the glass first.

Almond Emulsion for a Cough.

Beat well in a marble mortar, 6 drachms of sweet almonds blanched, and 2 drachms of white sugar, add 1 pint cold water, by degrees; strain, then add 2 table-spoonsful of sweet spirits of nitre. Cork, and keep it in a cool place, or in cold water. A tea-spoonful three times a day.

For a Hoarseness.

Sweeten a ¼ pint of hyssop water with sugar candy, and set it over the fire; when quite hot, stir in the yolk of an egg well beaten, and drink it off; this may be taken night and morning.—Or: put a new laid egg in as much lemon juice as will cover it: let it stand twenty-four hours, and the shell will be dissolved. Break the egg, then take away the skin. Beat it well together, add 2 oz. of brown sugar candy pounded, ¼ pint of rum, a wine-glassful of salad oil, and beat all well together. A table-spoonful the first in the morning, and the last at night.

Plaster for a Cough.

Beat together 1 oz. each, of bees-wax, white Burgundy pitch, and rosin, ¼ oz. coarse turpentine, ½ oz. oil of mace; spread it on white leather, the shape of a heart; when it flies off, renew it, two or three times.

Bark Gargle.

Boil 1 oz. powdered bark and 1 drachm myrrh, in 1½ pint of water, over a slow fire, till one third is wasted; strain, then add a table-spoonful of honey, and a tea-spoonful of spirits of lavender.

An excellent Gargle for a Sore Throat.

Half fill a teapot with dark red rose leaves, pour boiling water over; when cold strain it into a 6 oz. bottle, add a tea-spoonful of tincture of myrrh, and 25 drops of elixir of vitriol: if the throat be ulcerated, a tea-spoonful of tincture of cayenne.


Make a liniment, of 1 oz. of palma oil, 1 oz. of expressed oil of mace, and 2 drachms of camphor.

For Burns or Scalds.

Keep in a bottle, tightly corked, ½ oz. of trefoil, and the same of sweet oil; apply with a feather, immediately that the accident has occurred. Linseed or olive oil, applied instantly, will draw out the fire; treacle will have the same effect, and is recommended by some persons, in preference to anything else. Others say that fine flour, applied instantly, is the best thing; as soon as it becomes warm, replace it with fresh. Wadding also laid on the part instantly is good to draw out the fire.

For Bruises, Cuts, or Wounds.

Keep in the house a bottle containing a mixture of ¾ oz. of scented trefoil, of rum, and of sweet oil.—Or: have a bottle three parts full of brandy, fill it quite full with the white leaves of the flowers of the garden lily, and cork it close. Lay some of the leaves on the wound, and keep it wet with the liquor. The root of the same lily is used to make strong poultices.

For a Sprain.

Stir the white of an egg with alum, until it curdles; rub the part affected often.

Vegetable Ointment.

A small handful of smallage, red pimple, feverfew, rue, and pittory of the wall; simmer them in 1 lb. of unsalted butter, over a slow fire, half an hour: stir and press well, then strain it.


Put a pint of rectified spirits of wine in a bottle, with 1 oz. camphor, and 6 oz. soft soap; shake it three times a day for three days, and it is ready.

Elder Ointment.

Melt 3 lbs. of mutton suet in 1 pint of olive oil, and boil in it 4 lbs. weight of elder flowers, full blown, till nearly crisp; then strain, and press out the ointment.—Another: take 4 oz. each, of the inner bark of the elder tree, and the leaves, boil them in 2 pints of linseed oil, and 6 oz. of white wax. Press it through a strainer.

A Carrot Poultice.

Boil washed carrots, and pound them to a pulp with a wooden pestle; add an equal quantity of wheaten meal, and 2 table-spoonsful yeast, and wet it with beer or porter. Let it stand before the fire to ferment. The soft part to be made into a poultice with lard.

An Excellent Bitter.

Cut ½ oz. of gentian in thin slices into a stone jar, with the same quantity of fresh orange peel and sliced ginger. Pour over them 1 quart of boiling water, and let it stand ten hours. Strain it, add a gill of sherry, and bottle it. For a weak stomach, a wine-glassful the first thing in the morning will create an appetite.

For Weak Eyes.

(Dr. Bailey's.)

Boil 2 quarts of water, and stir into it ¼ oz. camphor, pounded in a mortar with a bitter almond, 1 oz. bolalmanack, and ½ oz. copperas; when cold, bottle it. Bathe the eyes often.—Or: dissolve in spring water, 10 grains of white vitriol, and 10 grains of sugar of lead. Wash the eyes four or five times a day.—Or: boil in spring water five minutes, ¼ oz. white copperas and ¼ oz. of common salt. Put a drop in the eye with a feather the last thing at night. The bottle to be marked poison.—Another, and very good: put 10 drops of laudanum and 6 drops of goulard into a ¼ pint of elderflower water: bathe the eyes with it.

For the Tooth-ache.

Each of the following remedies have been known to alleviate suffering. Turn up a wine-glass, put a little powdered alum on the round part, rub it to a paste with sweet spirits of nitre, and apply it directly to the cavity of the tooth, if there be one, if not, on the gum round it. Repeat this often.—Or: mix 2 drachms of alum, in impalpable powder, and 2 drachms of nitrous spirits of ether.—Or: 2 drachms of alum powdered very fine, with 7 drachms of nitrous spirits of ether.—Or: a drop of ether and of laudanum on cotton: this will also relieve the ear-ache.—Or: 1 oz. tincture of myrrh, 1 oz. tincture of gumlac, ½ oz. tincture of bark: mix the two last, shake well, add the myrrh by degrees, and shake well together. 1 table-spoonful to 2 of hot water; wash the mouth frequently, holding it in for some time.—For an intermitting pain in the Teeth: boil ½ oz. bark, grossly powdered, in a pint of cold water, till it wastes to a pint; then strain through muslin and bottle it. When the teeth are free from pain, put 2 table-spoonsful of laudanum, then gargle and wash the mouth well with it. Repeat it several times in the day.

Peppermint Water.

Pour 5 drops of oil of peppermint on a lump of sugar. Put the sugar into a ½ pint phial, with a tea-spoonful of brandy, and fill up with water.

Soda Water.

To 40 grains of carbonate of soda, add 30 grains of tartaric acid in small crystals. Fill a soda bottle with spring water, put the mixture in, and cork it instantly, with a well fitting cork.

Medicinal Imperial.

Useful in the Spring, or in slight Fevers, or Colds.

Pour 3 quarts of boiling water over 1½ oz. of cream of tartar, 1 oz. Epsom salts, ¾ lb. lump sugar, the peel of 3 lemons, and the juice of 1; cover close half an hour, then boil up, skim and strain it through thin muslin, into decanters.—A wine-glassful before breakfast.

Lime Water.

Mix 4 oz. quick lime in 6 pints of soft water, and let it stand covered an hour; then pour off the liquid.

Seidlitz Powders.

Put into one tumbler, 2 drachms of Rochelle salts, and 2 scruples of carbonate of soda; into another tumbler put 2 scruples of tartaric acid, fill each tumbler rather more than a quarter part, then pour the two together.—Or: mix carefully 2 drachms of sulphate of magnesia in fine powder, with 2 scruples of bicarbonate of soda, and mark the packet No. 1; in another packet, marked No. 2, put 40 grains of tartaric acid in fine powder. Mix in two different tumblers, each a quarter part filled with water, and drink in a state of effervescence.

Medicines to keep in the House.

Camomile Flowers.
Camphorated Spirits.
Castor Oil.
Epsom Salts.
Jalap Powder.
Magnesia Calcined.
Peppermint Water.
Sal. Volatile.
Salt of Wormwood.
Senna Leaves.
Soda Carbonate.
Spirits of Lavender.
Sweet Spirits of Nitre.
Tincture Rhubarb.
Tincture Myrrh.