If you overindulged at a barbecue over the weekend, you’ll probably emphasise with the sickly soul for whom today’s ‘stomachic tincture’ was intended.
This home-made medicine includes Peruvian bark. Its source is the cinchona tree, from which bitter-tasting quinine is also produced. Catholic missionaries to South America were introduced to its medicinal properties by the indigenous peoples of Peru, and so by the 18th century it was also widely referred to as ‘Jesuit’s bark’.
Like so many of the active ingredients used in Georgian home remedies, it was believed to cure any number of ailments. Well known for its sobering, tonic and astringent properties, it was also given to patients to bring down a fever.
In this Regency recipe from Dr William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle, it is made into a concentrate with orange peel and brandy, and then taken with water to settle the stomach.
Peruvian bark bruised, an ounce & a half; orange peel [bruised], one ounce; brandy or proof spirit, one pint. Let these ingredients steep for ten days, shaking the bottle every day. Let it remain quiet two days and then decant the clear liquor. Dose, a teaspoonful in a wine glass of water twice a day, before dinner & in the evening.
Kitchiner refers to this medicine as an ‘agreeable aromatic tonic’, but, with no sugar to offset the bitterness of the bark, it doesn’t sound too palatable to us. However he does offer an alternative stomach calming remedy, which is somewhat more appealing :
“Tea made with dried and bruised Seville orange-peel, in the same way as common tea, and drank with milk and sugar, has been taken by nervous and dyspeptic persons with great benefit“.
Maybe an orange tea like this before bed would see off the stomach cramps? We’ll bear it in mind next time we feel the worse for wear…