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August 20th 1772

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Remedies of nature

Thomas Pennant in his 'Tour of Scotland' lists a number of remedies used in the Highlands of Perthshire as cures for the many ailments of the period.

For the macho or masochist there was the ultimate in cold cures. “Plunging into the river, in the dead of winter; immediately going to bed under a load of clothes and sweating away their complaint.” 

Rather more pleasant was the cough cure. “Two parts milk and one of water, a little treacle and vinegar made into whey and drunk warm.”  The chincough (whooping cough) was alleged to be cured by “a decoction of apples and mountain ash sweetened with brown sugar.” 

A somewhat foul smelling poultice was used for the relief of rheumatism. “Stale urine and bran made very hot and applied to the part freed the rheumatic from his excruciating pains.”  Fluxes were cured by the use of “meadowsweet or jelly of bilberry, or a poultice of flour and suet; or new churned butter or strong cream and fresh suet boiled and drunk plentifully morning and evening.”  Various diseases and infections of the eye were said to be cured by daisy flowers and narrow or broad leafed plantains. Scabious root or the burned bark of the ash tree was used as a cure for toothache.

Finally, there is an interesting note on the qualities of the cor meille (bitter vetch). “Whole roots dried are the support of the Highlanders in long journeys amidst the barren hills, destitute of the supports of life; a small quantity will for a long time repel the attacks of hunger. Infused in liquor it is an agreeable beverage and exhilarates the mind.” 

Seems worth a try.

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