January 26, 2013

Medicine in the Nineteenth Century: Cookbooks

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons
I was surfing the web looking at cookbooks from the 1800's when I discovered not only recipes, but cures for everything from diphtheria to drunkenness.  Before now, I didn't realize that cookbooks also served as a medical guide for the home in the nineteenth century.

Last week, we talked about chilblains.  I paged through several cookbooks to see what they had to say about this mysterious disease.  Here are two suggested remedies:

From The "76", A Cook Book, published by the Ladies of Plymouth Church, Des Moines, Iowa, 1876.
"Mrs. J.P. Foster offers this treatment for chilblains:  Place red hot coals in a vessel and throw upon them a handful of cornmeal.  Hold the feet in the dense smoke, renewing the coals and meal till the pain is relieved.  This has been known to make very marked cures, when all other remedies have failed."

From The New Dixie Cook-book and Practical Housekeeper by Estelle W. Wilcox, 1889.
"Chilblains - Are the result of a chilling of the part.  To cure, keep away from the fire, and at night, before going to bed, wash in cold water, or rub in snow, and apply resin ointment ,made by all druggists, with a little oil of turpentine added to it."

The first one makes some sense in light of what we know today.  But the second one - yikes!  Rub the part in snow?

Old cookbooks courtesy of Chowhound.Chow.com

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