Friday, 14 May 2010

Take four or five swallows....16thC Medicine

I recently discovered a book called A rich store-house or treasury for the diseased printed in 1596 (and again throughout the 17th Century) It was written for those who were unable to visit a physician and who would be presumably self medicating. I thought I would share some of the recipes, not all are as brutal as this first one. I don't think I'll be trying it anytime soon due to its use of many crushed up swallows. 

Approved medicine for an ache or swelling
One handful knotty strawberries
One handful of thyme
One handful of lavender cotton
4 or 5 Swallows
Half a pound fresh unsalted butter

Take the thyme, lavender cotton, Knotty Strawberries, cut them and beat them in a morter, and when you have so done, then take 4 or 5 swallows out of a nest, and beat them in the morter with the herbs, untill you cannot perceive the feathers, and then take the butter and mingle them altogether. Then let them stand for the space of 24. hours, then seeth and strain them into a gally pot, or into some earthen vessell. And so use it twice a day, in anointing of the place where the grief is, and in five or six days it will be whole.

The book contains many remedies for various ailments most of which contain a lot less swallow. Here is one for women who have sore breasts:

Take red sage, chamomile and whitewine vinger, and apply it often to the womans breast that is sore and it helpeth her. Probatum est.

Sure of the remedy's capabilities it ends probatum est or 'it is proved'. Chamomile is still often used today in a lotion  to sooth the skin and also as a relaxing herbal drink.
I particularly like this next medicine which uses pig foot marrow for a clear and glowing complexion :

A Medicine for to make ones face cleare, and to shine.
Take a good quantity of the Marrow of Swines feete, Cow-milke, and Rosewater, and mingle them well together, and anoint your face therewith lukewarme, and it will make it very faire.

Apparently pigs feet contain a lot of collagen believed to be good for keeping the skin looking young (although this is debatable) so there could be something in this one!

'A.T: A rich store-house or treasury for the diseased', 1596, at Early English Books Online

Copyright © 2010 Elaine Hunter


  1. hmmm seems interesting, I would love to read it in it's entirety...

  2. Wow that first one is quite vicious! Sounds like an interesting book.

  3. African or European swallows?

    Seriously though, sounds fascinating!

  4. If the first recipe didn't call for swallows, I would have found it delicious. AS for the third recipe,(I've heard) that whole milk contains a lot of good stuff for the skin. Apparently milk maids used to be highly regarded because of their flawless complexions.