Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Today the winds are up in the desert, and I am suffering a terrible headache, as Spring has brought blooms of all sorts to our area, and the March winds are stirring the pot!I just took some sinus-relieving medication, and am waiting for a change to the knitted brow that has taken over my face. It has gotten me to thinking about 18th Century medications. There was no aspirin, or antibiotics. Even colds were considered quite serious, and were cause for alarm.

Medical science was not as advanced as today, and the body and its functions were still a mystery. Doctors had their own simplistic versions of the ills of the human body, and though those ills were due to maladjustments of the body systems. They based their diagnosis of illness of ancient beliefs of "humors", or body "tension". The practice of "bleeding" with leeches, or cutting the patient and just draining off blood into a bowl (at left) were to relieve the body of ill humors. This often did more harm than good, as doctors did not wash their hands, nor sterilize instruments. Ouch!

There was also the mixing and making of drugs from odd herbs, minerals, metals, oils, etc. In Europe, everything was tried, where in America, a more common-sense approach was implemented. Most American medicines of the times were "botanical", and documented in charts as to their use. We know the benefit of these today, and the ones to avoid, but back in the day, alot of this was trial and error. Many plants are poisonous, or can produce extremely harsh effects when overdosed.

Mark Catesby was persuaded by eminent English physicians to document many therapeutic plants during his travels from 1710-1719. He researched may apple, snakeroot, ginseng and witch-hazel. He wrote about them in his "Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas Islands".

The use of vaccinations began in the 18th Century, with the hope of eliminating small pox, a disfiguring and often fatal disease. Scurvy, that plagued sailors, was also researched with the finding that the use of fruits, expecially citrus, improved health.


  1. Interesting. I have never seen a blood letting bowl. I have never seen blood letting either, lol, but I have seen someone doing the cups you heat with the candle and then put them on the sick persons back - fire cupping. Apparently it releases the ill humors and rebalances the body.

  2. The cup-on-the-back thing is bizare, indeed. Forget the ill humors, the back is left with large, red, swollen half-domed marks. I imagine they must take a long time to go away, let alone the black and blue that takes weeks to disapate. Ouch!