Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Apothecary: Only The Lucky Lived

The apothecary shop was the forerunner of the modern drug store. For centuries, villagers and townspeople depending on the local apothecary for remedies of all sorts. In some areas, the apothecary was considered a doctor, despite a lack of medical training. They not only prepared medicine but they also preformed minor surgeries, did amputations and treated wounds.  They also performed bleedings and blisterings. There were no training schools to learn the trade. Like many vocations, it required an apprenticeship.

The available drugs at the apothecary were made from a variety of roots, plants, berries and other herbs.  Often the apothecary grew his own plants. From these plants, a variety of powders, liniments, lotions and ointments were made and sold for a variety of illnesses including everything from a cold to cancer. While some of the remedies had to have helped some patients, advances in science proved most of them to be ineffective in treating disease.

Just so you will appreciate medicine today, here are some of the unusual theories and medical advice given centuries ago:

A plant was supposed to cure the part of the body that it looked like. For example, walnuts were considered brain food because they resembled the brain. Rose petals were good for blood diseases because of their red color. Almonds could improve eyesight. 

Cure for tuberculosis: Smoke dried cow dun. Inhale fumes through pipe.  (That would've killed me right on the spot.)

Cold: Mix goose grease and turpentine. Spread on patient's chest. 

Whooping cough: Father should place head of sick child in a hole in a meadow for a few minutes at dusk.

Ague: Have patient swallow a cobweb rolled into a ball.

Scarlet Fever: Put saffron in an onion, baked onion until juicy and feed onion to patient.

Teething: Hang the foot of a mole around the baby's neck.

Everyone believed the more bitter the medicine, the better it worked.

In closing, I must say that I think it was only the lucky who survived and I'm glad medicine has advanced so much in the past hundred years.  There is just no way I could swallow a cobweb!!  Could you?

Patricia Preston


Pat said...

eeww!Forget the cobweb. I'd hate to have goose grease and turpentine spread on my chest! Great post.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Never remember if this is urban myth or not, but wasn't Coca-Cola once made with cocaine or paregoric or something like that?

Patricia Preston said...

Taryn: It was cocaine.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Gives new meaning to "Classic Coke"! LOL!

Wendy Soliman said...

Glad you didn't mention leaches. That would really give me the creeps. And, yes, it was astonishing that anyone survived. Talk about mind over matter. Interesting post.