Cherry ripe

CherriesWe have five cherry trees in the garden here, and at the moment we’re positively deluged with plump, sweet fruit. Cherries are touted today as something of a wonder food, full of antioxidants, Vitamins A and C and melatonin. Nowadays it’s the tart version that seems to be preferred for its medicinal properties, but in the eighteenth century it was black cherries that were used, often as black cherry water.

Hester Combe’s fairly straightforward recipe for cherry water runs:

Take 2 quarts of whit[e] wine or sack, steep in 4 ounces of sinemon [cinnamon], and 6 pound of black cherries stoned, for 3 or 4 days then [di]still them in a cold still: you may sweten it with a little fine sugar, this water may be drunk in burning fevers when other cordials ar[e] to[o] hot.[1]

Another, anonymous recipe for black cherry wine to be used for convulsions is less simple:

Take what quantity of black cherrys you please[,] put them into a bason stalked[,] break them with your hand, & put them into a cotton bag and hang them up over a bason … squeezing them often untill all the juce be drained: then let it stand a while and settle. but scum of[f] the froth, then let it stand 12 hours at the least then strain it of[f] gently from the bottom and to every part of juice put in 3 quarters of a pound of fine lofe sugher be[a]ten fine[,] keepeing it stiring till it tis all dissolved so that it may not settle then let it stand uncovered an hour and then bottle it up for your use. Leave some roome for it will worke[,] when it hath done working [fermenting] tye it doune close[,] set it in a coole seller [cellar] in glase bottles. When you take of this cherey wine for fitts put to it a little whit[e] wine or ordinary cherry water.[2]

Black cherry water was also said to be good for melancholy and ‘for the passion or tremblinge of the heart’,[3] for ‘a surfeit or any stopping in the stomach’[4] and for the gout (consumption of cherries is recommended for gout sufferers today, to reduce the level of uric acid in the blood and lessen inflammation).

Or if you have a cold, you might want to try this rather pleasant sounding remedy:

Half an oun[ce] of Spanish liquorish, half an oun[ce] of black sugar candy, half a pint of pennyroyal water, half a pint of black cherry water: stir all together over the fire till it’s disolved. Take a spoonfull any time when your cough is troublesome.[5]

[1] MS 45198, British Library.

[2] Add MS 49373, British Library.

[3] MS 3712, Wellcome Library.

[4] MS 4054, Wellcome Library.

[5] MS 2767, Wellcome Library.

 

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Caroline Powys

This is a modified version of the paper I gave at the Centre for the Study of the Home workshop today.

If you lived during the eighteenth century and you were ill, what did you do? Assuming that you were at least of middling rank so you had money to spend, you had a number of choices. You might call in a physician or surgeon, who would visit you at home, although in country areas he – and it always was a he – might be some hours’ ride away. You might visit an apothecary for some pills or potions. Apothecaries not only dispensed medicine but prescribed it and conducted simple operations, and can be seen as the forerunner of the modern GP. You might purchase a proprietary remedy from a peddler or travelling quack, or you might resort to your medicine chest, stocked with proprietary remedies such as sal volatile or smelling salts and tincture of rhubarb, used as a purgative. Another alternative was what might be considered, after Sara Pennell, a virtual medicine chest: the family remedy book.

Manuscript recipe books have survived from many periods and in many forms. In addition to culinary recipes, in the days before one could easily obtain medicine for almost any complaint off the shelf, people kept recipes for medicines that they could manufacture at home. Some remedy books are beautifully bound, meticulously written out and indexed, and so pristine that they barely appear to have been used; others are little more than scraps of paper or notebooks written in different hands and at different times, with crossings out and markings in the margins. Unfortunately many of these manuscripts have become divorced from any other information about their compilers, so what we have are little more than hints about how they might have been used and why particular recipes were kept, sometimes several for the same complaint.

Most of the work that has been done on manuscript recipe collections has focused on the 17th century or earlier. The 18th century was a time of transition in healthcare, with a greater availability and use of physicians and apothecaries, as well as patent medicines. Nevertheless, many recipe books exist that can be dated to that time, and the aim of my research is to trace their role and usage in the domestic context at a period when there was both greater professionalisation and commercialisation of medicine.

In order to help compile a fuller picture of the use of medical recipe collections, I have identified a number of manuscripts where biographical information and family papers also exist. One such was compiled by Caroline Powys. Caroline was born in 1738, the daughter of John Girle, who was Surgeon in Chief at St Thomas’s Hospital. In 1762 she married Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House in Oxfordshire, who became a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of the county. Caroline was friends with Cassandra Leigh, who became Jane Austen’s mother, and one of Austen’s biographers describes Caroline as ‘short, plump [and] jolly’ and Philip as ‘tall [and] handsome’. They had four children, one of whom died at nine months, and nineteen grandchildren.

Caroline PowysThirteen volumes of Caroline’s journal have survived; a 19th-century edited version contains extracts from a further seven volumes and various family papers, which have since been lost. There is also a bound and carefully handwritten recipe book, which gives us a fascinating snapshot of an 18th-century gentlewoman’s life. The first page of the index includes cookery, especially pastries and preserving; small-scale medical preparations, such as calves’ foot jelly, often served to invalids, and saline draughts; domestic maintenance, for example recipes for grease removal and paint; and decorative arts, including shell work and Japanning. There is no definitive evidence that Caroline herself made up any of these remedies, although there are occasional additions indicating omissions or improvements, one recipe marked ‘most excellent’, and a complicated recipe for lavender drops with the annotation: ‘I have a little of these lavender drops now of my father Powys made by the above receipt which are far superior to any one buys.’ The rest of the recipes are quite simple, so it is feasible that either Caroline or her housekeeper did manufacture them. Most of them are for a limited range of conditions, a number of which are noted in the journals; this contrasts with some other recipe collections that have multiple remedies for every condition imaginable.

The sources of most of Caroline’s recipes are listed. There is a note at the beginning that ‘All the following receipts I had either from the Ladies themselves or from old family manuscript ones’. With the exception of one attributed to her cousin, Mrs Wheatley, the earlier recipes are from people not mentioned in the diaries or a published source (Sir William Temple), while the later ones, most of which are dated, come mainly from friends or relatives whose names occur in the journals. This suggests how the book may have been compiled: Caroline copied out older family recipes first, then added to the book on later occasions as she developed her own social network and was given recipes by other people. Both culinary and medicinal recipes constituted a form of social currency, used for bestowing favours and as gifts.  The origins or donors of the recipes also situate the manuscript socially, among what Caroline calls ‘our most agreeable and sociable Neighbourhood‘ of gentry and minor aristocrats on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire border, where there was ‘a constant repetition of dinners at each mansion within 7 or 8 miles round’.

Reading the journal and the recipe book together enriches the picture of domestic medicine we can obtain. For instance, smallpox was the most dreaded illness at the time: it could be fatal and there was a risk of disfigurement. Philip Powys showed the marks of smallpox, which his wife describes as giving him ‘a good rough manly face’, and in the recipe book there is a ‘Cold Cream for Childrens faces after small pox’.

2 ounces best spermaceti 4 oz (viz 8 tablespoonfulls) Trotter oyl (oyl of almonds much sweeter) 20 grains of Camphire pounded, put these in a silver saucepan when melted pour it into a bason of water, and beat it in different waters full 3/4 of an hour, when it will be a nice cream, pour off the common water and beat it in 4 spoonfuls of orrange flower water put in a deep gallipot leave the orrange flower water at top it keeps it tie it down with a blader and do it over the skin every night with a soft Napkin.

NB never wash childrens faces of a day, but going to bed a soft piece of dry flanel is excellent to clean if hot or dusty. 1/2 oz virgins wax omited above.

Spermaceti is wax from a sperm whale’s head cavity, in contrast to ambergris, also used in medicines, which was from the intestines. Trotter oil is obtained by purifying the shin bones and feet of cattle, and was for dry skin. Camphire is camphor, used to soothe itching. I think the orange flower water was just for perfume, although neroli oil is obtained from the same plant and was used to relieve stress.

Inoculation against the disease was possible from 1718, when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu introduced the practice from Turkey, and had become widespread by the 1740s, although smallpox remained endemic in urban areas. All Caroline’s surviving children and at least three of the grandchildren were inoculated; there is no mention of whether the family switched to vaccination when that was introduced at the very end of the century.

The journal also notes illnesses suffered by various members of the family, including whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles, gout and consumption. Caroline also mentions several times suffering from rheumatism, saying she was ‘so bad with the Rheumatism in my right hand had hardly any use of it for many weeks’ and towards the end of her life it was so bad she was unable to write. The evidence from the diaries thus allows us to be sure that some of the remedies in the manuscript were collected for conditions or illnesses that the family experienced, for instance the various recipes for rheumatism, ranging from mustard whey – made by boiling mustard seeds in milk – to a tablespoon of mustard seeds in wine or water (mustard is anti-inflammatory), or mouthwashes made from guaiacam chips (to stimulate circulation) or bugbane (snakeroot) tea (another anti-inflammatory).

Furthermore, the journal illustrates that given the prevalence of illnesses of all kinds, the predominant concern was to avoid being ill in the first place. In Roy Porter’s apt phrase, ‘People took care before they took physic.’ The proverb ‘Prevention is better than cure’ dates back at least to the seventeenth century and there was a growing tradition of preventive medicine to avoid what might be called dis-ease, including attention to diet, exercise and a healthy environment. That Caroline, herself the daughter of a medical man, was aware this was important is indicated in her description of her father-in-law on his death: ‘he lived to seventy-five years of age without knowing what illness was till that which carried him off, for by great temperance and great exersise, he was certain of a great share of health.’

Caroline’s most frequent complaint was a cold, sometimes described as ‘violent’ and lasting for weeks or even months. She noted down a number of recipes for colds and fevers, coughs and sore throats, one in particular still familiar to us today: ‘a large spoonful of Honey to a pint of water a little lemon juice (& a little rum if liked)’. Mrs Floyd’s remedy for a cold or hoarseness is rather more unpleasant:

two oz of Kidney suet of a weather Sheep shred very fine, put it into a pint of Cold Milk, let it boil a good while, then strain it thr’o a Lawn Sieve, take a few large spoonfulls now & then stirring it, always take some going to Bed.

Caroline did consult physicians, although she was careful to choose one she knew socially: ‘Dr Mapleton who had formerly been a near neighbour to us’. He recommended various treatments, including bleeding and cupping, the latter drawing blood from a particular area. Phlebotomy was a standard and fashionable treatment for many conditions, including fever, headaches and inflammation. Caroline also resorted to blisters, using a hot plaster to cause a blister on the skin, which would then force the illness from the body and could be drained. She writes: ‘I who have terrible Rheumatics was seized with such a violent pain in my face, I could get no sleep for many nights, but at last by a Blister was perfectly cured of the most dreadful I think of all pains.’ However, she most often consulted the family’s apothecary, Mr Coulson, whom she also knew socially, noting in her journal dinners with him and his wife. Coulson inoculated at least one of the grandchildren against smallpox, helped with childbirth and was summoned in emergencies to various family members. Coulson was even taken from Oxfordshire to Southampton when one of the sons-in-law fell ill, because ‘we thought Mr Powys taking the apothecary who he had a high opinion of was the best thing we could do’.

Thus we can see that taken together, Caroline Powys’s journal and her manuscript recipe book offer a glimpse into domestic medicine in a genteel family in the last few decades of the eighteenth century. The journals paint a picture of a woman who evidenced what Amanda Vickery calls ‘loving domesticity’, who ensured that her family and their health were taken care of, who for instance respected her husband’s choice of apothecary but also took an active part in managing both their regimen and their illnesses. The ailments meticulously noted in the journals and the commentary on daily life give us evidence that correlates with the type of remedies that she chose to note down and preserve, in a way that breathes life into what might otherwise be a more mundane document.

Cough, cough

Someone said to me at a conference yesterday, ‘Oh, are you the one that writes that blog.’ My answer should have been, ‘Well yes, occasionally’… Writing a chapter has rather got in the way recently.

But surrounded as I seem to be today by people coughing, I thought I’d follow up my previous post on colds by a companion one on coughs. What were the eighteenth-century equivalents of Benylin or Covonia?

Lady Ellis recommends:

Take 3 ounces of oyle of almonds new drawn, one ounce & half of syrrup of jujubs,1 one ounce half of the syrrup of Maiden haire2; grinde these together in a marble mortar with a little white sugar candy till it look’s very white, take it often upon a licorise stick.3

Many remedy books advise turnip water:

Take halfe a pack of Turnips, one quarter of a pound of Elliocompain Root, ten pippins. Pair them and slice them and put them into a Rose still and still them altogether. Tak the Water and boyl it to a surrup and drink of it for a Cough, in the boyling of the surrup you may put in a litle liquorish and sweet Fenel seeds.4

If the cough is ‘violent’, Dr Dell’s remedy was:

Two spoonfull of sweet Oyl, Four spoonfulls of Penny Royal5 Water and 20 Drips of spirits of Hartshorn.6

And for children one recipe was this:

Take of Syrrup of violets7 of Jujebes & popys of each an ounce popy water 3 ounces, Aqua mirabilis8 & small cinamon water of each 1 Dram, mingle all these together & take 2 or 3 spoonfulls 3 or 4 times a day when the cough, & at night going to bed, grown persons more.9

That sounds quite pleasant, and was presumably sleep inducing – although perhaps not a good idea to take too much of it, since syrup of violets was also employed as a laxative!

1 Jujubes secrete a plant gum that is soothing to the throat.

2 G. Smith tell us that this was a sweet syrup made from maidenhair fern and was ‘frequently, in the summer season, called for by gentlemen at the coffee-houses’ (G. Smith (1799), The Laboratory, or, School of Arts, London: C. Whittingham, p. 236).

3 Liquorice is still used in cough syrups today. Wellcome Library, MS 7892.

4 Wellcome Library, MS 144.

5 Pennyroyal is a kind of mint, used for breathing problems, but presumably not for pregnant women, since it was a common abortifacient.

6 Spirits of hartshorn was a distillation of horn shavings that produced ammonia. Wellcome Library, MS 7851.

7 Syrup of violets was used to soothe inflammation.

8 Aqua mirabilis was a medicinal water made, according to Samuel Johnson, from cardamom, cloves, cubeb galingal, ginger, mace and nutmeg soaked in spirit of wine.

9 Wellcome Library, MS 1320.

The oh-so-common cold

Since everyone seems to have a cold at the moment, I thought I’d delve into the archives for some remedies. Imagine the misery of snuffles and sneezes without our modern pain relief and decongestants. Colds were much more debilitating in the past and remedy books are full of suggestions for alleviating them.

The first is a staple of folk wisdom and comes from the eighteenth-century recipe book of Caroline Powys1:

For a bad cold, Mrs Saunders – a large spoonful of Honey to a pint of water a little lemon juice (& a little rum if liked) well boild & scum’d till clear, a spoonful now & then or a Bason full as a sweat.

From the same source is one that’s not quite so pleasant:

For a cold or hoarseness, Mrs Floyd – two oz of Kidney suet of a weather Sheep shred very fine, put it into a pint of Cold Milk, let it boil a good while, then strain it thr’o a Lawn Sieve, take a few large spoonfulls now & then stirring it, always take some going to Bed.

A more complicated variation is given in ‘A Booke of Physicke & Chyrurgerie’ from the end of the seventeenth century2:

An Excellent Posset for a Cold

Take a quart of new milke Set it on a fire in a Skillet, & when it boiles turn it with 3 pints of the best Aile or Beer, then take it off the fire & let it stand till the curd be lavined, when the curd is taken off set the posset drink over the fire againe & put in these ingredients following.

Sweet fennell seeds anniseeds of each one ounce bruised in a morter 10 figgs & 6 Dates sliced, 2 ounces of English Licquorish well washed wiped dry & then sliced, 20 reasons [raisins] of the sunn stoned, boile all these togather about half an howre when the time is almost expired put in a sprig or 2 of Rosamary, then it from the fire & straine it through a fine sive then sweeten it with Sugar or Sugar Candy take a pritty quantity of this in the morning fasting the like at night going to bed after a light super or rather noe super.

I think ‘lavined’ here means leavened, the yeast in the beer causing it to ferment, but if anyone knows different please let me know.

The Revd Mr Weems makes this suggestion3:

Take lemon juice oil sweet almonds Virgins honey of each one ounce let them be well mixed in a marble Morter with one syrup of squills this Quantity may be taken in the course of the Day

Virgin honey is that taken from a single comb that has only been used once for honey, so is purer. Syrup of squills is an expectorant made from the bulbs of the sea squill flower or Urginea maritima; it is still used in cough syrups today, such as Buttercup, and it makes a twenty-fourth century appearance poured on breakfast cereal in Star Trek!

And if you have a sore throat as well, you may want to try this charming little number4:

Take 4 ounces of the fat of mutton Put it into a stone or silver saucepan melt it over a slow fire, then strain & return it into the saucepan again, & put to it three ounces fresh butter (before salted) When that is melted put in three ounces of yellow rosin, & when that is disolved add to it one ounce and half common yellow bees-wax melted, put it into a gilly pot stir it the whole time it is making tye it down when cold in the pots, when applied let it be spread on a linen rag the width of the throat, reach from ear to ear & changed every 12 hours covered

It will keep for years, an excelent & invaluable receipt

A ‘gilly pot’ or gallipot was a glazed earthenware jar used by apothecaries. I wouldn’t have thought anyone trying that approach would have wanted to leave the house!

  1. British Library, BL 42173.
  2. British Library, BL 69970.
  3. British Library, BL 49373.
  4. Staffordshire Record Office, D641/3/H/3/3.

The delights of Daffy

Daffy’s Elixir, also called the Elixir Salutis or elixir of health, is one of the most famous proprietary medicines and was in manufacture until the twentieth century. It has been described as the first branded product, although its origins are somewhat obscure. It is most associated with Anthony Daffy of London, but was probably invented in the late seventeenth century by a relation who was most likely his uncle, the clergyman Thomas Daffy from Leicestershire, whose daughter Katherine was still advertising it for sale in the early eighteenth century, in rivalry with Anthony’s son Elias and other manufacturers.

It was said to ‘exceed all the medicines yet discovered’ and to be applicable for innumerable ailments, including rheumatism, gout, scurvy, green sickness (a form of anaemia common in young women that was believed at the time to be ’caused’ by celibacy) and even the King’s Evil (an infection in the lymph nodes which was popularly believed to be capable of cure only by the royal touch). A rather more alarming use is recorded in a letter from the poet Elizabeth Carter to the ‘queen of the bluestockings’, Elizabeth Montagu:

In eating the bread at different times, some pins were discovered… There were two rolls, and a quartern loaf; in each of which were found pins of various sizes, some pretty large. It was some days after the children had eat the bread, before they were seized with internal pains and prickings. Mrs. Nixon gave them Daffy’s Elixir, which brought away pins from them all: I have forgot the number from each, but the whole amounted to about sixty pins and one needle.

The exact formula for the Elixir was initially kept a secret, the remedy was not patented and no recipe survives that can be traced to either Thomas or Anthony. Indeed, their versions may not have been the same, one of Anthony’s pamphlets commenting that his experience had led him to

add a considerable number of Ingredients unto that Receipt… and did also much vary from the said Receipt, both in the Quantities and Qualities of those Ingredients… And I do further affirm, that neither my said Friend, himself, (from whom, at first, I had the said Receipt) or any other man (my self only excepted) either doth, or at any time did know all the Ingredients, (much less, their quantities).

This, of course, was nothing unusual for manufacturers of proprietary medicines, particularly at a time when the manufacture of remedies at home was still quite common. However, it means that we cannot now be sure which of the numerous varieties that have come down to us is the most accurate or authentic. Hannah Woolley published a version in 1696 that she claimed was given by Daffy to Sir Richard Ford when Lord Mayor, which if true would date it to 1670–71; although given that the first advertisement for the Elixir only dates from 1673, that seems unlikely. What is also interesting is that despite the claimed secrecy and the availability of the remedy to buy, numerous recipes appear in manuscript collections.

Daffy’s Elixir was made by infusing various ingredients in alcohol, including one or more purgatives with spices and sweeteners. The most common recipe that Haycock and Wallis identified in their research into Anthony Daffy’s account book was written down by Elias Ashmole in the seventeenth century and consisted of the following ingredients:

Aniseed
Aqua vitae
Caraway seeds
Coriander seeds
Elecampane roots
Guiacum
Liquorice
Raisins
Senna

The same ingredients were used in the recipe included in the Pharmacopeia Londinensis of 1721. However, an eighteenth-century manuscript recipe titled ‘Dr Daffys Elixar from his owne hand’ is quite different, incorporating rhubarb, saffron and cochineal but no elecampane, guiacum or caraway. Although it would undoubtedly have been colourful, the omission of elecampane (an antiseptic) and guiacum (which was often used to treat syphilis) would have meant that the ingredients were rather less active. My own research has so far identified over 50 recipes with the number of ingredients varying between 4 and 13. The four ingredients were most commonly raisins, senna, carraway seeds and a spirit (most often brandy), but one recipe contained merely senna and jalap (both purgatives), coriander seeds and gin, which must have been both revolting and explosive.

The Ladies’ Friend, and Family Physical Library notes: ‘This is an agreeable Purge [if there is such a thing!], and nothing more can be useful than to keep it ready made for family use.’ If it was taken after overindulgence in alcohol – since, as one source has it, ‘It is a proper purge for drunkards, and is a great formula to old women habituated to drams’ – the effect was presumably akin to a hair of the dog, given the amount of alcohol it contained.

Dr Allen’s Synopsis Medicinae notes the ubiquity of recipes for the elixir by the 1730s, claiming: ‘There are yet some Medicines mightily cried up… amongst which of late the most famous are Daffy’s Elixir, now public enough.’ The fact that recipes were circulating from the late seventeenth century makes it all the more surprising that a marriage settlement between Daniel Austin and Anne Sandford in 1747 featured the recipe for Daffy’s Elixir as a valuable piece of property, stating ‘Daniel Austin was in possession of a receipt for making a composition liquor called Daffys Elixir, the profits from the sale of which had over the several years past amounted to £100 and more.’ This recipe was given to Anne’s brothers in exchange for £300 and the undertaking that after Daniel’s death the profits would pay for an annuity for his wife of £60.

Daffy’s Elixir is thus an interesting example of the intersection and interplay of the domestic and the commercial in the eighteenth-century medical marketplace. It is just one of many proprietary and patent medicines that were recorded in recipe form in manuscript collections, others including Lucatelli’s Balsam and the Lady Alleyn’s Water. There were also remedies for such problems as the bite of a mad dog, which were not only used domestically but also sold in small cottage industry initiatives. The very number of recipes indicate at the very least curiosity about the ingredients in the medicines people were taking so enthusiastically at this time, as well as an active market in ingredients and information.

This is an edited version of a paper given at the Medicine at the Margins conference, University of Glamorgan, 15 April 2011.

How to stop bleeding

Here are a variety of suggestions for staunching bleeding, taken from an early eighteenth-century ‘book of phisick’. The one with a key is interesting – I remember being recommended something similar for stopping a nose bleed. Not sure I’d try the hog’s dung or the toad, although we do have plenty of cobwebs…!

Take sheepherds pouch1 & put into the nostrils
Let Blood in the arm for all Bleedings
Drink water instead of Bear [beer] or tost & water
wear Bloodstones2
Eat peas potage & buterd Wheat for spiting Blood
put Hogs dung up the nostrils or on the wound
or Bloodwort3 leaves
Lay a large Key on the nape of the neck4
put their hands in cold water
set an egg shell over a chafing dish of coals, & bleed into it
Boyle the Blood in a porenger over the fire
Drop a Drop of Blood in simpathetick powder,5 let it be kept warm in another pocket
apply some Hares wool to the part or put up the nostril
Moss powderd & aplyed, stanches Bleeding of wounds & helps cure
Tye the great Toes
Scrap [scrape] a quil, & put up the shavings into the Nostrils
Tye a cork, or hold the thumb just between your Eyebrows
Cuping [cupping] Glases to the Leggs & thighs
Cut a peice of a young Ashe & aply to the Wound
Cobwebs
Note if you Aply Leaches the Blood will not often stop till the Sun goes down, therfore lay them not on till about 4 in the afternoon
Take a lock of the Greasiest hair you can get cut out of the nape of the neck, scorch it in the fire, till it frisles, then lay it to the wound
a most effectuall remedy is to set the Leggs & feet in hot water not too hot, but warm
Dry a Toad & hang about the neck in a Tifany or Gause bag
Stiptick water is excellent
make a poultice of a good quantity of suger & lead & aply it to the stomack, excelent to stop Bleeding at the Nose

  1. Capsella Bursa-pastoris, otherwise delightfully known as Clappedepouch, used since the Middle Ages as an astringent.
  2. Green jasper, a stone with red spots that look like drops of blood, said in Middle Ages to be the blood of Christ. Believed to be able to stop bleeding with the merest touch.
  3. Sanguinaria canadensis, a plant with red roots which is high in tannin, probably responsible for its use in stopping bleeding.
  4. Apparently this works because the shock of the cold key brings on the mammalian dive reflex and constricts the blood vessels.
  5. Sounds like something out of Harry Potter – an alchemist’s powder relying on the power of sympathetic magic. Supposedly if you put some of this powder on a sword, any wound caused by it would be cured.