Back in January, I posted about a Korean fecal wine named Tsongsul, which is drunk as a remedy for all manner of ills. But it turns out there's a long tradition of drinking fecal wine in the UK as well.
Over at the Recipes Project, a blog about early modern recipe books, Jonathan Cey describes finding an unusual concoction in the 17th century medicinal recipe book of Johanna St. John.
As I read I couldn't help but assume that the addition of spices, or the use of wine, sugar, and brandy might have best served to make some of the recipes more palatable. But then something caught my eye that all the cinnamon, saffron, and distillation could not possibly conceal. To put it lightly, it was, well, poo. Precisely, for smallpox, "a sheep's dung, cleane picked". Clearly you would want to make sure you were getting pure, uncontaminated crap. The recipe goes on to instruct the user to mix a handful of the stuff into a pint of white wine, "mash it well" and after leaving it to stand a full night, to serve a spoonful or two at a time. But wait, there's more! A note tucked into the margin recommends this smelly recipe for gout and jaundice. Fecal wine, if you will: good for what ails you.
And apparently Sir Robert Boyle, of the Royal Society, recommended human excrement "dried into powder, and blown into the eyes as a treatment for cataracts."
Imagine what you'd smell like if you applied all three of these topical treatments at once! Probably pretty pungent. Not offensive exactly. But hungry street people with a hankering for curry would be following you and licking their lips. You might just as well roll around in your vegetable crisper and spice cabinet.
It is now possible to print human stem cells. Advances in organ transplantation and treatments for diseases like Parkinsons will surely be positively affected by this in time. Replicator technology coming true once again.
Alvin Chase was a successful 19th-century peddler of dubious medical remedies, but his name kept being used to sell medicine throughout the 20th century. His "nerve food" contained arsenic and strychnine (and other good stuff). The Lake Country Museum has a short bio of him:
Born in New York State in 1817, Alvin Chase came to Ann Arbor in 1856 to pursue a medical degree after a career as a traveling peddler of groceries and household drugs. While taking classes at the University of Michigan, he supported his family by selling home medical remedies and household recipes that he had picked up in his travels, starting with a single page of hints and cures.
Chase only audited classes at the U-M, since Latin was required to complete the program and had not been taught at the "log school" he'd attended in New York. He earned the title "doctor" in 1857 after spending sixteen weeks in Cincinnati at the Eclectic Medical Institute.
After returning to Ann Arbor, Chase practiced medicine and continued to expand his book of recipes. To the modern reader, many of his remedies seem very quaint. Besides cures for five kinds of "apparent death," they included tinctures, teas, and ointments made from plants, tree bark, and–in one case–cooked toads. But at a time when doctors were still bleeding patients or poisoning them with mercury, his cures may have been as much help as anything the local doctor prescribed.
The take-home from the article is that a) pubic hair grooming injuries are on the rise, mostly because more people are watching porn, inspiring them to want to look like porn stars down there, so they start grooming, sometimes with bad consequences; and b) razors were responsible for most of the injuries. The authors recommend using clippers instead.
An ad in the News and Courier, July 10, 1910. Nowadays many women pay quite a bit of money to add fat where it's showing most conspicuously on the woman shown.
The product being hawked was Marmola, whose history is described over at quackwatch.com. The main ingredient was dessicated thryoid (on the theory that obesity is caused by an under-active thyroid) and various laxatives. The federal government eventually banned the sale of Marmola, insisting that it was useless and potentially dangerous. But this only happened in the 1940s, because the maker of Marmola kept managing to win the court cases brought against it in the 20s and 30s.
Urine Flavor Wheels were once a standard tool used by doctors. Doctors would either sniff or taste a patient's urine to make a diagnosis. But by the 19th Century, urine tasting had fallen out of favor, replaced by the use of various chemical tests. Though some doctors resisted the change, believing that the taste test yielded more information than any chemical analysis could. More info at ediblegeography.com.