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Curious home remedies for common ailments revealed in 350-year old book

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"A Friend To The Sick - The Englishman's Preservation," is a folksy and homespun book full of ancient remedies that may - or may not work. The 350-year-old tome recommends eating burnt birds and drinking hard liquor to cure fellow Britons feeling out-of-sorts.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The book is expected to fetch more than 500 at auction. Dating from the 1670s, the well preserved book offers a cure for virtually any ailment.

Written by Royal Physician William Sermon, some common treatments include:

For the common cold: "Taking young swallows, burn them in their feathers, altogether in a new earthenware pot, covered very close, add thereto as much castor and beat them well together and put in to a glass vessel and let it stand three days after which distill it in a glass for patient to take."

For earache: "Take a loaf made with one part of caraway seeds, and cut it through the middle and apply it to the ears."

For  toothache: "Take the juice of water cresses and white wine in equal measure, mix them together and rub the teeth and gums therewith."

To whiten teeth: "The ashes of tobacco is of excellent use to cleanse the teeth and to make them white."

For a headache: "Abstain from taking milk which is cool in operation and drink thin wine or such liquors" - some would drink to that!

Dr. Sermon in his book states that "Sickness is a convulsion which will most commonly deprive the patient of reason and sense, caused by tough phlegm which doth obstruct the passage of the spirit of the brain."

Sermon first gained medical experience in the Army and went on to become a physician for King Charles II, and died six years after his book was published at the age of 50. Described by 17th century historian Anthony Wood as a "forward, vain and conceited person," his medical journal was a hidden treasure until it was discovered in a box in a routine house clearance in Derbyshire.

"At the end there are some letters to Dr Sermon, who at the time was referred to as a 'noble' and 'honored' doctor. indeed, he was doctor to Charles II," Auctioneer Charles Hanson, a regular on BBC1's Bargain Hunt who will oversee the sale of the book says.

"However, I suspect if Dr Sermon was alive now and had noted the advances in modern medicine, he may withdraw some of his advice!"

"[This book] offers a fascinating snapshot into medical advice in the 17th century. It is a wonderful find because, despite almost being 350 years old, it is still in its original leather binding and is extremely well preserved."

The book will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers in Derby on October 24.

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