Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
This is a Academic skill, mostly practised by men. Below is a Medical Fact Sheet for 1675
Disease and infections
Forget everything you know about germs. Anton van Leeuwenhoek will claim to see his animalcules in 1676 but no one will really connect bacteria to disease until Pasteur and Lister put forth their theories in the mid-1800s. For example, surgeons don't even bother to wash their hands before operating nor sterilize their instruments. Disease is something spontaneously generated either by an imbalance of bodily humors or the result of miasma in the air.
The humoral theory of medicine states that there four main humors in the body: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Diseases are caused by having too much or too little of one of the humors. For example lung diseases are caused by too much phlegm and that is why one coughs up so much of it during a chest aliment. The body is trying to restore the balance. Thus, bloodletting was a popular treatment for just about everything and any diets or medicines administered was designed to bring the humors back into balance. There was a belief that God placed on earth a cure for every ill and that the appropriate plant would resemble the disease. Skullcap was used to treat headaches for example. However, the latest medical advances are causing the humoral theory to fall out of favor though it is still widely used.
The miasma theory of disease states that dieases is caused by a poisonous vapor or mist that is filled with particles from decomposed matter (miasmata) that could cause illnesses and is identifiable by its nasty, foul smell. This theory basically stems from the observations that sick wards full of diseased people tend to smell bad and that really dirty areas of the city tend to get hit hardest by the disease. Also the diseases tended to go away when an effort was made to remove the source of the smell. Ergo, polluted air caused disease. Doctors that believe in this still don't wash their hands because they believe miasmata were strictly airborne and wouldn't be lying about on his hands. From time to time, this belief would spark public health programs that cleaned up the streets.
Once again there were two prevailing schools of thought.
Galen, the ancient Greek doctor whose ideas dominated medicine up to this time, wrote of the theory of laudable pus. Namely, he felt that the development of pus was an important even vital step in the healing process and that wounds should be left open until it developed some. Compresses and bandages soaked in medicines were used to both prevent bleeding yet allow for pus development. Then the wound could be closed and allowed to heal. To prevent severe bleeding, such as that caused by gunshot or amputation, cauterization of the wound by hot irons or boiling oil to sear the flesh closed was used.
Ambroise Paré, a French battlefield surgeon, discovered that a balm of egg yolk, oil of roses, and turpentine healed gunshot wounds more effectively than boiling oil after he ran out of oil one day. He also introduced the process of ligature (tying off) to prevent severe bleeding to replace hot irons. His writings for wound care were as follows.
Five things to heal a wound:
1. Remove foreign bodies.
2. Join the lips (wound edges)
3. Keep them closed.
4. Preserve the temper of the wounded part with a slender cold moist diet.
5. Correct if accidents occur.
Still, both styles of medicine are still commonly practiced.
- Plague Water
Take a pound of Rue, of Rosemary, Sage, Sorrel, Celandine, Mugwort, of the tops of red brambles of Pimpernel, Wild-dragons, Agrimony, Balm, Angelica of each a pound. Put these Compounds in a Pot, fill it with White-wine above the herbs, so let it stand four days. Then still it for your use in a Limbeck.
- ANOTHER PLAGUE-WATER
Take Rue, Agrimony, Wormwood, Celandine, Sage, Balm, Mugwort, Dragons, Pimpernel, Marygold, Fetherfew, Burnet, Sorrel, and Elicampane-roots scraped and sliced small. Scabious, Wood-betony, Brown-mayweed, Mints, Avence, Tormentil, _Carduus benedictus_, and Rosemary as much as of anything else, and Angelica if you will. You must have like weight of all them, except Rosemary aforesaid, which you must have twice as much of as of any of the rest; then mingle them altogether and shred them very small; then steep them in the best White-wine you can get, three days and three nights, stirring them once or twice a day, putting no more wine then will cover the Herbs well; then still it in a Common-still; and take not too much of the first-water, and but a little of the second, according as you feel the strength, else it will be sower. There must be but half so much Elicampane as of the rest.
- Vinegar of the Four Thieves
Perhaps the most famous story regarding the use and protection of herbs against this illness, concerns the four thieves of Marseilles who, during the 17th century plagues of Toulouse, France, were caught robbing the dying and the dead without succumbing to the illness themselves.
"During the great plague, four robbers were convicted of going to the houses of plague-victims, strangling them in their beds and then looting their dwellings; for this they were condemned to be burned at the stake, and in order to have the sentence mitigated they revealed their secret preservative; after which they were hanged." -- Parliament of Toulouse archives 1628-1631
The original formula for the Four Thieves Vinegar is found in The Practice Of Aromatherapy by Jean Valnet, a physician who has devoted his life to the study of herbs and essential oils for therapeutic use and is credited for the modern term aromatherapy. It appears in his writings as follows:
- Vinegar of the Four Thieves
3 pints strong white wine vinegar a handful each of wormwood, meadowsweet, juniper berries, wild marjoram and sage 50 cloves 2 ounces of elecampane root 2 ounces of angelica 2 ounces of rosemary 2 ounces of horehound 3 g camphor
Steep the plants in the vinegar for 10 days. Force through a sieve. Add camphor, then filter. Rub on face and hands and burn in room. Additionally, keep in small bottles for the vapors to be sniffed. Avoid contact with eyes.