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 Old Colonial Cures


"Aren't You Glad They Don't Do This Anymore?"

The following medical recipes, except where otherwise indicated, are from a manuscript left by Dr. Zerobabel Endecott of Salem, printed in Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by George Francis Dow.

For ye Bloudy Flux

Stone horses Liuers dried in an ouen being heat for houshould bread, made into powder & giuen a spoonfull at a time in milk.

For a Spraine

Take stronge bere este & honye, of equall quantyty & boyle them to the Consistanty of honye & so apply it hott to ye place greeued.

For ye Dropsie Often Proud & Especially Vpon One Man,

Other Means Vsed By Men of Skill Fayled This Was Affectually

Take good store of Elder roots wash them & make them very Cleane then splitt & steepe them in strong ale wort & Lett them stand together while ye Ale is working then when it is 2 days old drinke of it morning Noone & at night till leath be obtained Lett there be as many of ye Roots as Can well be steeped in the Ale. The flowers are of the same vse & more powerfull.

For Paine in ye Eare

Take a mithredate & put it into the eare with a Litle wooll & Keep it warme

For Ye [J]andis

Take ye Juce of Planten and Camomell 3 or 4 spoonfuls in warme Posset ale morning & Euening it helps in a few days. Mir Turmarik & safron made into fine powder & drank twice or 3 times a day in Possett ale is Excelent good Dose or Lett the sik Person drink their own Vrin twice a day or ye Volatile fat of Vrin morning & Euening in Posset ale.

Jaundice - Another Cure - from English Dispensatory (Quincy) London, 1742

Take Hog-Lice [i.e. Wood lice or Sow bugs], half a pound, put them alive into two pound of White Port Wine, and after some Days Infusion strain and press out very hard, then put in Saffrom, 2 drams, salt of Steel, a dram and Salt of Amber, 2 scruples, and ater 3 or 4 Days strain and filter for Use.

For Sharpe & Dificult Trauel in Women with Child

Take a Lock of Vergins haire on any Part of ye head, of half the Age of ye Woman in trauill. Cut it very smale to fine Pouder then take 12 Ants Eggs dried in an ouen after ye bread is drawne or other wise make them dry & make them to pouder with the haire, giue this with a quarter of a pint of Red Cows milk or for want of it giue it in strong ale wort.

For the Shingles

Take howse leeke Catts blod and Creame mixed together & oynt the place warme or take the moss that groweth in a well & Catts blod mixed & so aply it warme to the plase whare the shingles be.

To Stench Bleeding in a Wound

Take a peec of Salt Beef & Rost it in the hott Ashes then make it Cleane & put it into the wound & the blood will stop imediatly.

Bleeding at Nose - from Compendium of Physick (Salmon), London, 1671

If the flux be violent, open a vein on the same side, and cause the sick to smell to a dried Toad, or Spiders tyed up in a ragg...the fumes of Horns and Hair is very good, and the powder of Toads to be blowed up the extremity, put teats made of Swines-dung up the nostrils.

For Ye Plurisie

Take the Leaues of wild mallows & boyl them in Oyle & being taken out bray them in a morter & put them into a peece of Lining Cloth & applie it to the greue and presently it will Cause the paine to Cease.


There were many herb remedies as well, many of which were published in Nicholas Culpepper's The English Physician Enlarged in 1653.

Anemone - the juyce snuffed up the nose purgeth the head, it clenseth filthy ulcerts, encreaseth milk in Nurses, and outwardly by oyntments helps Leprosies.

Bedstraw - stancheth blood; boyled in oyl is good to annoynt a weary traveller; inwardly it provokes lust.

Burdoc or Clot-bur - helps such as spit blood and matter, bruised and mixed with salt and applyed to the plae, helps the biting of mad dogs. It expels wind, easeth paines of the teeth, strengthens the back...being taken inwardly.

Cottonweed - boyled in Ly, it keeps the head from Nits and Lice; being laid among Cloaths, it Keeps them safe from Moths; taken in a Tobacco-pipe it helps Coughs of the Lunges, and vehement headaches.

Dittany - brings away dead children, hastens womens travail, the very smell of it drives away venemous beasts; it's an admirable remedy against wounds made with poysoned weapons; it draws out splinters, broken bones, etc.

Fleabane - helps the bitings of venemous beasts. It being burnt, the smoke of it kills as Gnats and Fleas in the chamber. It is dangerous for women with child.

Hellebore - the root of white Hellebore, or sneezwort, being grated & snuffed up the nose, causeth sneezing, Kill Rats and Mice, being mixed with their meat. Doctor Bright commends it for such as are mad through melancholly. If you use it for sneezing, let your head and neck be wrapped hot for fear of catching cold.

Lovage - cleers the sight, take away redness and Freckles from the Face.

Mugwort - an herb appropriate to the foeminine sex; it brings down the terms, brings away birth and afterbirth, easeth pains in the matrix.

Penyroyal - strengthens women's backs, provokes the Terms, staies vomiting, strengthens the brain (yea the very smell of it), breaks wind, and helps the Vertigo.

Savory - winter savory and summer savory both expell wind gallantly, and that (they say) is the reason why they are boyled with Pease and Beans and other such windy things; 'tis a good fashion and pitty it should be left.


Wood Bettony - helps the falling sickness, and all headaches comming of cold, procures apetite, helps sour belchings, helps cramps and convulsions, helps the Gout, Kills worms, helps bruises, and cleanseth women after their labor.


Other Curative Terms of the Day


 The main source for this document is Sam (Susanne Lucretia) Behling [ visit her web site]