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December 14th 1767

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The fight against gout

Gout is not an affliction suffered by many in this day and age. It is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood which allows urates to be deposited in the joints and it can be very painful. Our forbears were a good deal more familiar with the disease and the many cures proposed for it. One of the most popular was the tansy plant.

As Mr Cook, one of the correspondents to the Scots Magazine put it. “The plant (tansy) is good to provoke urine, forces away sand and gravel, eases the colic, resists vapours and hysteric fits but above all it gives ease in the gout whether in joints limbs or stomach; and is a singular remedy against the scurvy. The expressed juice from three to six spoonfuls is a specific for gout in the stomach, taken in any fit vehicle, as white wine or brandy and carries off by urine the morbid tarterous matter of that painful disease. I keep it by me all the year preserved in brandy.” 

Mr Cook then indulges in some practical hints for those suffering from the disease. “Gout is catching,”  he says, “I know it to be so for my late spouse, one of the best of women, with whom I lived happily for 35 years was carried off with convulsions from the gout in her head in December last, and which adds to my affliction when I reflect that she caught it from me……I would recommend a separation for a season, by lying asunder as soon as it seizes either party to prevent taking in an atmosphere of gouty vapours that they may ……contaminate the juices of the sound person.” 

Warming to his theme he becomes positively lyrical in speaking of the disease. “Gout is the conqueror, lord and prince of all diseases, and till it kills the patient, protects him from all other disorders; and so far it generally prolongs life and thereby makes some amends for its excessive painfulness.”  Presumably it was some comfort to know that while you were dying of gout you were unlikely to be dying of any other disease at the same time.

Other common complaints were also dealt with by Mr Cook. For those troubled with fleas he suggests that you should “cover the floors of the rooms with the leaves of the alder while the dew hangs on them; for they when budding contain a kind of pinguious, tenacious humour, to which the fleas adhering are surely detained and killed thereby.”  For lice he suggests the seeds of staves-acre “sprinkled in powder on the body or bed, will destroy lice on a sudden and shrink them up like parched leather.”  As an afterthought he adds “It would be worth trying it for bugs likewise.” 

Mr Cook is not afraid to tackle more disorders and suggests with great confidence, remedies for Epilepsy, the Bloody Flux, the Palsy, paralytic disorders, numbness of the limbs, and all decays accompanying old age.

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