Cures for Georgian Ailments – well perhaps!

desperate case
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Well, we thought we had heard it all, but seemingly not! We have come across a book from 1745 ‘The Accomplish’d Housewife, or the Gentlewoman’s Companion’  containing the most astounding cures for all illnesses.  Please, please, please do not try these at home; we really will not accept any responsibility for the consequences!

For a Sore Throat

Make a plaister  four inches broad, and so long as to reach from ear to ear, apply it warm to the throat, then bruise houseleek and press out the juice; add an equal quantity of honey, and a little burnt Allum; mix all together, and let the party soften take some on a liquorice stick.

For the Piles

Take Pompilion, flour of Brimstone and Oil of Elder, of each a sufficient quantity, and Mutton suet something more than any of the former, melt them together and anoint the part. If they are inward, cut a piece and put it up.

An Excellent Vomit

Take a quarter of a pound of clear Allum, beat it and sift it a fine as flour; divide it into three parts. Put a quarter of a pint of water into a saucepan and put the biggest paper of Allum in, and let it simmer over the fire, but not boil. Take it off and let it stand till it is blood-warm, drink it off, but take nothing after it, till it has worked once. You may walk about after it has work’d once. Take it three mornings together, or more if occasion requires, till the stomach is clear. This is a very good vomit in all cases.

To know if a child has worms

Take a piece of white lather, and prick it full of holes with a knife, rub it with wormwood and spread honest on it, shrew the Powder of Aloes on it, lay it on the child’s navel when he goes to bed; if he has worms, the plaister will stick, if he has not, it will fall.

To Cure the Cholick

Take the Powder of Yarrow, in a glass of warm wine, and it will give you ease immediately.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

An Opening Drink

Take Red-Sage, Liverwort, Horehound, Penny Royal, Hyssop, Maiden- hair, two handfuls of each, one pound of figs, one pound of raisins stoned, half a pound of blue currants, coriander seeds, aniseeds, liquorice, of each two ounces. Put all these in two gallons of Spring water, let it boil away two or three quarts, then strain it and when ‘tis cold put it in bottles. Drink half a pint in a morning and as much in the afternoon, keep warm and eat little.

To Stop Looseness

Take the conserve of marigold flowers about the bigness of a nutmeg for three nights; if it does not stop take it in the morning. Take a pound of marigold flowers to a pound and a half of sugar to make the conserve.

For a Looseness

Boil a handful of bramble-leaves in milk, sweeten it with Loaf sugar and drink it night and morning.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

For the thrush in children’s mouths

Take a hot sea-coal, and quench it in as much spring water as will cover the coal; wash it with this five or six times a day.

For fits of the mother

Take green walnuts and of rue one pound, one pound and a half of figs; bruise the rue and the walnuts, slice the figs into thin slices and lay them between the rue and the walnuts. Distill it off, bottle and keep it for your use. Take a spoonful or two when there is any appearance of a fit.

For the stone in the kidneys

Take oil of olives, two spoonfuls; Daffy’s Elixir four spoonfuls; liquid Laudanum three drops; oil of turpentine twenty drops. Mix them with sugar and take this dose at the beginning of the fit. 

To break a boil

Take some honey and wheat flour, and the yolk of a new laid egg; mix it well together and spread it on a rag and lay it on cold.


Roast a turnip very soft; beat it to mash and apply it as hot as you can bear it to the part affected. Let it lie on two or three days and repeat it two or three times.

doctor turned patient
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

To procure an easy labour

Take half a pound of raisins of the  sun ston’d, half a pound of figs, four ounces of liquorice scrap’d and sliced; aniseeds bruised one spoonful; boil all these in two quarts of spring water till one pint is consum’d  then strain it out and drink a quarter of a pint of it morning and evening, six weeks before the time.

To procure a speedy delivery

Take of borax powder’d half a dram; mix it in a glass of white wine, some sugar and a little cinnamon water; if it does no good the first time, try it again two hours after, so likewise a third time.

To increase milk in nurses

Make a gruel with lentils, let the person drink freely of it, or boil them in posset drink, which they like best.

If our final offering cure works then we’re definitely going to practice our fainting skills!!


May proceed from different causes as excess of joy or sorrow; sudden surprises, worms, stubborn heartburn etc and are always dangerous if they come often, without some apparent cause.  Sometimes they are occasioned by a fullness of blood. Those who are subject to them, and women especially  must carefully avoid all sorts of drams; for they afford but temporary relief and cause the distemper to return. Chocolate is much better for them as it will stay within them recruit their spirits and not burn their stomachs.

1775 Influenza Epidemic

With the ‘flu season’ rapidly approaching we thought it might be interesting to look back at how it was dealt with in Georgian England before the advent of vaccines. Most of us have at some stage suffered from influenza although statistics show that in most years relatively few people died as a result of the virus alone however in certain years for some reason there were epidemics causing far more deaths than was the norm – the winter of 1775-1776 being one such occasion.

Weather reports in the newspapers confirm that the winter of 1775-76 was especially severe. The Thames was frozen for some considerable time, this was followed by severe frosts during January and an intensely stormy February. This cold weather could potentially have made it easier for the pandemic to spread* combined with poor housing, sanitation and lack of appropriate medicines.  During this particular winter, it was reported that somewhere in the region of 40,000 people died from the epidemic.

This report in the London Chronicle dated 19th December 1775, on the other hand, is quite amusing – could it have been a typo?? Whilst we shouldn’t mock, this would be quite an interesting to have witnessed the following day!

…a correspondent says, some Gentlemen in a coffee-house a few days ago speaking of the present fashionable influenza and how generally people throughout the Kingdom were complaining of being affected by it  – a gentleman lately arriving from Tipperary assured them that it raged more violently in Ireland and was attended with much more fatal consequences, for to his knowledge, for many people who went to bed well at night, got up dead in the morning.

How to treat influenza – well, The Public Advertiser in November was recommending the use of Edinburgh Powder as being the most effective cure for influenza but whether or not it was effective in this we couldn’t possibly confirm or deny.  The Middlesex Journal and Evening Advertiser of the 25th November 1775 reported that two-thirds of the city of  Dublin had influenza or ‘epidemical cold’ so presumably it wasn’t working for the people of Dublin.

Edinburgh Powder - Morning Chronicle 4th February 1777

We also came across another remedy in the newspapers –  ‘Daffy’s Elixir’  that was highly recommended as a cure for influenza and was especially beneficial for the nobility and gentry.

This product was regarded as being a ‘cure for all ills‘, the reality was, that it given its ingredients of aniseed, brandy, fennel seed, jalap, parsley seed, raisin and senna amongst other things – it was more likely to cure constipation rather than influenza!

Quacks Confession on death bed
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Weeks later a newspaper that the epidemic was raging across the country, but most curiously that the Isle of Thanet, one of the healthiest places to live in the country was severely suffering, so much so that ‘the parson was sick, the clerk was sick and a large part of the parishioners were also sick, that it was judged expedient to shut up the church for the day and to leave the good people at home to pray for each other.’   Reports also mentioned physician John Fothergill was reported to have seen around 60 patients per day during the epidemic. By the end of February 1776 reports in the newspapers ceased, so presumably, the epidemic was over and Spring on its way.

Dr John Fothergill (1712-1780) by Gilbert Stuart
Dr John Fothergill (1712-1780) by Gilbert Stuart