Phlegm, blood, and bile…oh my!

Never felt so happy to be a twenty-first century woman as after a visit to the Hugh Mercer Apothecary in Fredericksburg, Virginia and being dipped into bits and pieces of colonial medical trivia. It was terrifying to listen to the “nurse” explain how teeth were extracted against the background of giant jars of the biggest living, wriggling leeches I have ever seen.

Leeches

As much as I am always fascinated by the “olden times” I can’t imagine having to live in a time when the doctors coated pills with soap and thought the best way to cure you from just about any serious illness was to make you poop, vomit, sweat and bleed from every orifice—sometimes all at the same time.

Medicine in colonial times was a hit or miss. Many of the herbs and roots they used are still pretty common today and—for the most part—beneficial. However, others like cutting you with tiny little blades and allowing the wounds to open themselves to…well, just about anything, is just crazy scary. It’s a miracle anyone survived to tell the tale.

vein

Even then there were the charlatans—according to our friendly nurse, that included anyone of French descent—and the real trained professionals. If you saw a charlatan to extract a rotten tooth, for example, and he extracted the wrong one by mistake, you were up the creek with no paddle; you would have just lost a good tooth and kept the one that hurt. However, if a real doctor extracted the wrong tooth, he would gladly extract the correct one for free. This was done with no anesthesia and some funky looking tools, so I think I would keep the nasty ivory and say, the hell with it!

As for issues of the lungs, our good doctor would surely prescribe smoking. Tobacco was the miracle cure for a lot of things. It could be smoked or shoved up your nose for equally beneficial results. I bet there are a lot of tobacco companies that would love a rebirth of these healthy concepts.

tobacco

So the next time you feel a little under the weather instead of spending your money in modern medicine just take a laxative—a lot of it—and stay close to your bathroom. Better yet, combine it with a generous dose of ipecac and that should solve all your problems.

Three_early_medicine_bottles

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Phlegm, blood, and bile…oh my!

  1. Visited there too, and totally agree. It gives you a whole new perspective on curing what ails you! I went to college in Fredericksburg and made sure to take in as much of its historical life as possible. Learning about the past is one of the most interesting fun but it also gives a vast appreciation of the modern world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s