Peristaltic Persuaders

Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies contains quite a number of home remedies, tackling anything from rheumy eyes to whooping cough. Today’s recipes take on common but uncomfortable ailments. The first up is the wonderfully titled ‘peristaltic persuaders’, Dr Kitchiner’s cure for constipation:

These "peristaltic persuaders" contain a laxative, rhubarb, would have been taken in cases of constipation

These “peristaltic persuaders” contain a laxative, rhubarb, would have been taken in cases of constipation

To Make Forty Peristaltic Persuaders

Take:
Turkey rhubarb, finely pulverized, two drachms
Syrup, by weight, one drachm
Oil of caraway, ten drops (minims.)
Make into pills, each of which will contain three grains of rhubarb.
Two or three to be taken according to the constitution.

Rhubarb was a well known laxative, and was easy to get hold of. It was even sold by itinerant street traders in Regency London. To find out more, check out our ‘Rhubarb Rhubarb‘ post.

The next recipe claims to combat ‘gravel’ – that is, pain experienced when passing urine, sometimes due to crystalline deposits. Ouch!

"For Ye Gravel": an 18th century home remedy from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“For Ye Gravel”: an 18th century home remedy from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

For Ye Gravel

Take two table spoonfuls of syrup of march mallows & one spoonfull of oyle of sweet almonds in half a pint of spring water, every morning before breakfast & every night going to bed for thirty one days & nights without missing a dose. You may warm the water a little if you chuse, but dont boile it.

As with all our Georgian recipes, please don’t try these at home! If you’re suffering from either of the above ailments, best check in with your doctor or pharmacist for modern medical advice.

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Winter remedies

The Georgian cookbook of our unknown ladies was not only used to record recipes for puddings, pies and other dishes for the dining table. The ladies also noted down home cures for a number of ailments. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the medicines they may have turned to when winter started to bite.

As with other the medicinal recipes in the Cookbook, we’d advise you not to try these ones at home!

The first is for watery eyes, a common ailment when out and about in bitter winds. Our ladies advise the following remedy:

A Georgian remedy for watery eyes, recorded in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Georgian remedy for watery eyes, recorded in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

For Weak Eyes That Run Water

A pint of rose water, ten grains of white powder of vitriol. Wash frequently with it.

White vitriol, otherwise known as zinc sulphate, inhibits the production of eye secretions and is still used in eye drops today. The rosewater would have been selected not only for its fragrance, but also for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Our next remedy is attributed to a ‘Dr Mackbride’. The identity of this physician is as mysterious as that of our unknown ladies, but the following recipe shares one of his treatments for a cold:

Remedy for a cold, attributed to a Dr Mackbride

Remedy for a cold, attributed to a Dr Mackbride

Dr Mackbride for a cold

Tow [two] spoonfuls of rum
Tow ditto clarifyed honey
Tow ditto lemmon juice
Tow ditto sweet oyle

This remedy was unlikely to cure the common cold, but the measures of rum and honey may have gone some way to brighten the patient’s spirits!

Unpalatable ‘Pumeatom’

This scented ointment or pomatum is designed for use on the hair and scalp. Would you be brave enough to try it?.

Recipe for a pomade from   The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Eighteenth-century recipe for a pomade from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Pomatum (modernised spelling)

Take one pound of rendered hog’s lard, 3 ounces of mutton suet, 3 ounces of beef marrow, one ounce of virgins wax. These must be melted in an earthen pot with some alkanet root. Strain through some gauze. Put one drachm of oil of thyme, half an ounce of bergamot, one drahm oil of cloves.

Pomades like this one were used widely used for the eighteenth-century’s extravagant coiffures.

In the 1770s, the Duchess of Devonshire pioneered a craze for ‘hair towers’ among aristocratic women.

Heavily pomaded hair for a masquerade, 1773

Heavily pomaded hair for a masquerade, 1773

A thick pomatum was used to ‘set’ hair around cork and horse hair padding, creating wigs up to three feet in height. The waxy ointment also formed a good surface for applying hair powder. Once dressed in this way, the wig could be ornamented with feathers, stuffed birds, or even model ships!

The animal products in pomades – in this case hog’s lard, mutton suet and beef marrow – could attract vermin and insects, and it was not uncommon for pomaded wigs to become infested with mice or fleas.

By the 1790s the fashion had fallen out of favour, and these extravagant hairpieces were rarely seen outside of court presentations. The French Revolution was, in part, responsible for this. The hairstyle had its origins in the fashions of the French court, and in 1789 no one wanted to be associated with the perceived decadence of the French nobility.

The death knell for ladies pomaded and powdered wigs was finally sounded in 1795, with the introduction of a hair powder tax.