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Chap. IV.

Concerning distilled waters, and other preparations to be kept in the house.

I SHALL bring the charitable lady farther in this matter than perhaps she was aware at the first setting out; but it will be with little expence, and little trouble. She will find, that I now intend she should keep a sort of chemist's or at least an apothecary's shop, as well as a druggist's; but it will be founded upon the same materials. No drugs brought from abroad, or to be purchased at a great price, will have place in it; they are all natives of our own country; and the preparation of these medicines from them will cost only a little spirit, a little sugar, and the labour of a servant.

That spirit is best which is called molosses spirit; it is to be bought at a small price at the distillers; and as to the sugar, the most ordinary loaf kind will do for most purposes; where other is necessary, it will be particularly named.

Few families are without an alembic or still, and that will be of material service. With that instrument the simple waters are to be made, with no expence beside the fire; and it will be proper to keep those of the following ingredients.

Mint water, pepper-mint water, and pennyroyal water, are to be made of the dry herbs. Three pounds of each is to be put into the still, with four gallons of water, and two gallons is to be distilled off. Milk water is to be made thus; a pound and half of spear-mint, a pound of rue, half a pound of Roman wormwood, and half a pound of angelica leaves are to be put into the still with five gallons of water, and three gallons are to be distilled off. Common mint water is good in sicknesses of the stomach, pepper-mint water in colics, and pennyroyal to promote the menses. Milk water is good in fevers, and to make juleps. It used to be made with milk, but that answers no purpose. Only one simple water more need be kept, and that for colics: it is best made of Jamaica pepper: a pound of Jamaica pepper is to be put into the still over night, with three gallons of water; and the next morning two gallons of water distilled off.

It has been customary to keep a great many simple waters, but these are all that are necessary or proper. The other herbs are better to be given in infusion and decoction.

As for cordial waters, they are made as the others, only with the addition of spirit. It may be proper to keep the following; and no more are necessary.

1. Cinnamon water; which is made by putting into the still a pound of cinnamon, a gallon of spirit, and a gallon of water, and the next day distilling off a gallon. This is good in sickness at the stomach, and is a fine cordial.

2. Spirituous milk water; made from a pound of spear-mint, half a pound of angelica, and a quarter of a pound of Roman wormwood, all green. To these is to be put a gallon of spirit, and a gallon of water, and a gallon to be distilled off; to which is to be added a pint of vinegar: this is good to promote sweat, and is used instead of treacle water, being better.

3. Strong pennyroyal water, which is used instead of hysteric water, in all hysteric cases, and to promote the menses, is made of a pound and half of dry pennyroyal, a gallon of spirit, and six quarts of water, drawing off a gallon.

4. Anniseed water, which is good in the colic, and is made with a pound of anniseed, a pound of angelica seed, and two gallons of spirit, with one gallon of water, distilling off two gallons. No more of these are necessary: but before I close this article of distilling, I shall add the making of lavender water, spirit of lavender, and Hungary water, which are preparations of the same kind, and very easy.

Lavender water, is made from a pound of fresh lavender flowers, and a gallon of molosses spirit, with two quarts of water; five pints are to be distilled off. Hungary water is made of a pound and half of rosemary tops with the flowers, a gallon of spirit, and a gallon of water, distilling off five pints: and to make the spirit of lavender, or palsy drops, mix three pints of lavender water, and one pint of Hungary water, and add to this half an ounce of cinnamon, the same quantity of nutmegs, and three drams of red saunders wood; these are to stand together till the spirit is well coloured.

This is all the family practitioner will need with distilling: a short account, but sufficient.

As for tinctures, which are a great article with the apothecary and chemist, making a great shew, and really very useful; I would have several of them kept, and they are as easily made as the waters, nay, more easily. Molosses spirit is all that is necessary for this purpose.

It would be well to keep tinctures of all roots and barks, which are said to be good dried in the course of this work, for a tincture will contain more or less of the virtue of every one of these, and be often convenient, where the powder or decoction could not be given. It is needless to enumerate these, and one rule of making, serves for them all: two ounces of the ingredient is to be cut to thin slices, or bruised in a mortar, and put into a quart of spirit; it is to stand a fortnight in a place a little warm, and be often shook; at the end of this time, it is to be taken out, strained off, and made to pass through a funnel, lined with whitish brown paper, and put up with the name of the ingredient.

To these tinctures of the English roots, barks, and seeds, it would be well to add a few made of foreign ingredients. As,

1. The bitter tincture for the stomach, is made of two ounces of gentian, an ounce of dried orange peel, and half an ounce of cardamom seeds, and a quart of spirit: or it may be made in white wine, allowing two quarts.

2. Tincture of castor, good in hysteric complaints, and made with two ounces of castor and a quart of spirit.

3. Tincture of bark, which will cure those who will not take the powder, made of four ounces of bark, and a quart of spirit.

4. Tincture of soot for fits, made with two ounces of wood-soot, one ounce of assafoetida, and a quart of spirit.

5. Tincture of steel, for the stoppage of the menses, made of flowers of iron four ounces, and spirit a quart.

6. Tincture of myrrh, made of three ounces of myrrh, and a quart of spirit, good for curing the scurvy in the gums.

7. Tincture of rhubarb, made of two ounces of rhubarb, half an ounce of cardamom seeds, and a quarter of an ounce of saffron, with a quart of spirit.

8. Elixir salutis, made of a pound of stoned raisins, a pound of sena, an ounce and half of carraway seeds, and half an ounce of cardamoms, in a gallon of spirit.

9. Elixir of vitriol, made of six drams of cinnamon, three drams of cardamoms, two drams of long pepper, and the same of ginger; and a quart of spirit: to a pint of this tincture strained clear off, is to be added four ounces of oil of vitriol: this is an excellent stomachic.

Lastly, to these it may be well to add the famous frier's balsam, which is made of three ounces of benjamin, two ounces of strained storax, one ounce of balsam of Tolu, half an ounce of aloes, and a quart of spirit of wine, such as is burnt under lamps.

This spirit may be made by putting a gallon of molosses spirit into the still, and drawing off two quarts, and this will be useful for spirit of wine and camphire, which is made by dissolving an ounce of camphire in a quart of the spirit.

Lastly, we are to add what is called the asthmatic elixir, made with flower of benjamin and opium, of each a dram, camphire two scruples, oil of aniseed forty drops, liquorice root half an ounce, honey one ounce, and a quart of spirit. This is a gentle opiate, and is much better in families than the strong laudanum.

As to the tinctures made with white wine instead of spirit, a few are sufficient. Steel wine is made of a quarter of a pound of filings of iron, and half an ounce of mace, and the same quantity of cinnamon, put into two quarts of Rhenish.

Hiera picra is made of half a pound of aloes, two ounces of winter's bark, and five quarts of white wine. The first is a restorative cordial and strengthener; the latter is sufficiently known as a purge.

Laudanum is made of two ounces of opium, a dram of cloves, and a dram of cinnamon, and a pint of wine.

Viper wine is made of two ounces of dried vipers, and two quarts of white wine; and the tincture of ipecacuanha for a vomit, of two ounces of that root, half an ounce of dry orange peel, and a quart of sack.

Lastly, what is called elixir proprietatis is made of aloes, myrrh, and saffron, of each an ounce, sal armoniac six drams, and salt of tartar eight ounces, in a quart of mountain wine.

These are all the tinctures and wires that need be kept in a family, whose charity is designed to be very extensive; the expence of the whole is a trifle, not worth naming, and the trouble scarce any thing. Books are full of directions in particular for every tincture, as if every one were to be made a different way; but the best method is to give a good deal of time, and frequent shaking, and that will stand in the place of heat in most things of this kind: nevertheless, I advise that they should stand in a room where a fire is kept while they are making; and those which require heat, that is, those that take a colour most slowly, are to be placed nearest to it.

Easy as these are, they are by far the most difficult part of the task, the rest is as it were nothing. Conserves, syrups, and ointments will be wanting; but in the same manner one direction will serve for the making the whole assortment of each, and the ingredients will be at hand. As to plaisters in general, they do more harm than good. Surgeons at this time make very little use of them; and in the course of this work, many herbs will be named, the bruised leaves of which are better than all the plaisters in the world.

Conserves should be made of rue, mint, scurvy grass, wood-sorrel, and Roman wormwood. As to the four first, the leaves are to be picked off from the stalks, and beaten up with three times the weight of sugar. The tops of the young shoots of the latter are to be cut off, and they are to be beat up in the same manner. In the course of this work, many plants will be named, the green tips of which contain their virtue, these may all be made into conserves in the same manner, or as many of them added to those here named, as shall be thought proper.

Conserves of the flowers of rosemary, mallows, archangel, and lavender, are to be made also in the same manner, and of red rose buds. These last are to be picked from the husk, and the white heels are to be cut off. They are all to be beat up with three times their weight of sugar; and in the same manner may be made conserves of cowslip flowers, and of those of many other plants mentioned in the following pages.

The outer rinds of Seville oranges and lemons, are also to be made into conserves in the same manner, beating them first to a pulp, and then adding the sugar; and to these must be added the conserve of hips and sloes, which are to be made in a particular manner. The hips are to be gathered when fully ripe, afterwards set by in a cellar, till they grow very soft; then they are to be laid upon the back of a large hair sieve, a dish being put underneath; they are to be broke with the hand or a wooden pestle, and rubbed about til all the soft matter is forced through the hair-cloth, the seeds and skins only remaining. This soft matter is to be weighed, and to be beat up in a mortar with twice its weight of loaf sugar, first powdered.

Sloes are to be gathered when they are moderately ripe, and they are to be set over the fire in water, till they swell and are softened, but not till the skin bursts; they are then to be laid upon a sieve, and the soft matter driven through as in the other case, and three times the quantity of sugar is to be mixed with this, that it may make a conserve by beating together.

Syrups are to be made of many ingredients: they may be made indeed of any infusion, with sugar added to it in a due quantity; and the way to add this so that the syrups shall keep and not candy, is to proportion the sugar to the liquor very exactly. One rule will serve for all this matter, and save a great deal of repetition. The liquor of which a syrup is to be made may be the juice of some herb or fruit, or a decoction, or an infusion; which ever it be, let it stand till quite clear; then to every wine pint of it, add a pound and three quarters of loaf sugar, first beat to powder: put the sugar and the liquor together into an earthen pan that will go into a large saucepan; put water in the saucepan, and set it over the fire. Let the pan stand in it till the sugar is perfectly melted, scumming it all the time; then as soon as it is cold, it may be put up for use, and will keep the year round without danger.

This being set down as the general method of making the liquor into a syrup, the rest of the descriptions of them will be easy. They are to be made in this manner.

For syrup of cloves, weigh three pounds of clove July flowers picked from the husks, and with the white heels cutoff: pour upon them five pints of boiling water. Let them stand all night, and in the morning pour off the clear liquor, and make it into a syrup as directed above: in the same manner are to be made the syrups of violets and red poppies: but less of the violet flowers will do, and more of the poppies may be added: thus, also, are to be made the syrups of damask roses, peach blossoms, cowslip flowers, and many others which will be recommended for that purpose in this book.

Syrup of buckthorn, is to be made by boiling the juice down to half its quantity, with a little cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and then adding the sugar.

The syrups of lemon-juice, mulberries, and the like, are to be made with a pound and half of sugar to every pint of the clear juice, which is to be melted as in the former manner.

Syrup of garlic, leeks, orange-peel, lemon peel, mint, and many other things are to be made of strong infusions of those ingredients, made as before directed, with the first mentioned quantity of sugar added to them, when they have stood to settle.

Syrup of marshmallows, and of poppy heads, and some others, are to be made in the same manner with the strongest decoctions that can possibly be made from those ingredients, with the same quantity of sugar as is first mentioned.

Syrup of balsam is made by boiling a quarter of a pound of balsam of Tolu, in a pint and half of water in a close vessel, and then making the water into a syrup, with the usual quantify of sugar: and thus may be made syrups of any of the balsams.

Syrup of saffron is made of a strong tincture of saffron in wine. An ounce of saffron being put to a pint of mountain, and this, when strained off, is to be made into a syrup, with the usual quantity of sugar.

At one time it was a custom to keep a quantity of syrups of a particular kind under the name of honeys. They were made with honey instead of sugar, and some of them, which had vinegar in the composition, were called oxymels. A few of the first kind, and very few, are worth keeping, and two or three of the latter, for they have very particular virtues. The way of making them is much the same with that of making syrups; but to be exact, it may be proper just to give some instance of it.

Honey of roses is the most useful, and it is to be made of an infusion of the flowers and honey in this manner. Cut the white heels from some red rose buds, and lay them to dry in a place where there is a draught of air; when they are dried, put half a pound of them into a stone jar, and pour on them three pints of boiling water; stir them well, and let them stand twelve hours; then press off the liquor, and when it has settled, add to it five pounds of honey, boil it well, and when it is of the consistence of a thick syrup put it by for use. It is good against sore mouths, and on many other occasions. In the same manner may be made the honey of any flower; or juice of any plant thus mixed with honey and boiled down, may be made what is called the honey of that plant.

As to the oxymels, they are also made in a very uniform manner. The following are so useful, that it will be proper always to keep them in readiness.

For oxymel of garlic, put half a pint of vinegar into an earthen pipkin, boil in it a quarter of an ounce of caraway seeds, and the same quantity of sweet fennel seeds, at last add an ounce and half of fresh garlic root sliced thin; let it boil a minute or two longer, then cover it up to stand till cold, then press out the liquor, and add ten ounces of honey, and boil it to a consistence.

For vinegar of squills, put into a pint of vinegar three ounces of dried squills; let it stand two days in a gentle heat, then press out the vinegar, and when it has stood to settle, add a pound and a half of honey, and boil it to a consistence. Both these are excellent in asthmas.

To these also should be added, the common simple oxymel, which is made of a pint of vinegar, and two pounds of honey boiled together to the consistence of a syrup.

Finally, as to ointments, nothing can be so easy as the making them of the common herbs, and the expence is only so much hog's-lard. The lard is to be melted, and the fresh gathered leaves of the herb are to be chopped to pieces, and thrown into it: they are to be boiled till the leaves begin to feel crisp, and then the lard is to be strained off. It will be green, and will have the virtues of the herb, and must be called ointment of such an herb. To these I shall take the opportunity of adding the way of making two or three more, which, though not the produce of English herbs. are very useful, and our charitable shop should not be without them.

1. The white ointment, called unguentum; this is made by melting together four ounces of white wax, and three ounces of spermaceti, in a pint of sallad oil, and adding, if it be desired, three ounces of ceness, and a dram and half of camphire. But it is better for all common purposes without these.

2. Yellow basilicon, which is made by melting together yellow wax, resin, and burgundy pitch, of each half a pound, in a pint of oil of olives, and adding three ounces of turpentine.

3. Black basilicon, which is made by melting together in a pint of olive oil, yellow wax, resin; and pitch, of each nine ounces.

4. The mercurial ointment, which is thus made: rub together in an iron mortar, a pound of quick silver, and an ounce of turpentine; when they are well mixed, add four pounds of hog's-lard melted, and mix all thoroughly together.

The ointment of tutty is prepared with levigated tutty, and as much viper's fat as will make it into a soft ointment: these are only to be mixed together upon a marble, by working them with a thin knife. This is for disorders of the eyes, the foregoing for the itch, and many other complaints, but it must be used cautiously. And those which were before named for old sores.

Of the same nature with the ointments, are, in some degree, the oils made by infusion, of herbs and flowers in common oil. These are also very easily prepared, and an instance or two will serve to explain the making of them all. The most regarded among these is the oil of St. John's wort, and that is thus made; pick clean a quarter of a pound of the flowers of common St. John's wort, pour upon them a quart of olive oil, and let them stand together till the oil is of a reddish colour.

Oil of elder is made of a pound of elder flowers, which are to be put into a quart of olive oil, and boiled till they are crisp, and the oil is to be then strained off.

3. What is called the green oil, is thus made, bruise in a marble mortar three ounces of green chamomile, with the same quantity of bay leaves, sea-wormwood, rue, and sweet marjoram; then boil them in a quart of oil of olives, till they are a little crisp. The oil is then to be poured off, and when cold put up for use.

These oils are used to rub the limbs when there is pain and swellings; their virtues will be found at large, under the several herbs which are the principal ingredients: and after one or other of these methods, may be made the oil by infusion, or by boiling of any plant, or of any number of plants of like virtue.

Lastly, though herbs are now left out of the composition of plaisters, even the melelot being now made without the herb from which it was first named: it may be proper to add the way of preparing a few that are most useful, and ought to be kept in families.

1. The common plaister is thus made; boil together a gallon of oil, five pounds of powdered litharge, and a quart and four ounces of water. When the water is boiled away, the rest will be united into a plaister, but it must be stirred all the time: this used to be called diachylon. To make diachylon with the gums, add to a pound of the last described, two ounces of galbanum, and an ounce of common turpentine, and the same quantity of frankincense. Melt them all together, the gums first, and then add the plaister.

2. For a strengthning plaister, melt two pounds of the common plaister, and add to it half a pound of frankincense, and three ounces of dragon's blood.

3. For a drawing plaister, melt together yellow wax and yellow resin, of each three pounds, and a pound of mutton suet. This is used instead of the old melilot plaister to dress blisters; and the blister plaister itself is made of it, only by adding half a pint of vinegar, and a pound of Spanish flies in powder, to two pounds of it, just as it begins to cool from melting. The quicksilver plaister is thus made; rub three ounces of quicksilver, with a dram of balsam of sulphur, till it no longer appear in globules, then pour in a pound of the common plaister melted, and mix them well together.

To close this chapter, I shall add a few waters made without distillation, which are very cheap and very serviceable, and the family shop will then be quite compleat.

1. Lime water. This is made by pouring gradually six quarts of water upon a pound of quick lime; when it has stood to be clear, it must be poured off. If a pound of lignum vitae wood, an ounce of liquorice root, and half an ounce of sassafras bark be added to three quarts of lime water, it is called compound lime water; and is excellent in foulnesses of the blood.

2. The blue eye water. This is made by putting a dram of sal ammoniac into a pint of lime water, and letting it stand in a brass vessel, till it is of a sky blue colour.

3. Alum water is made by boiling half an ounce of white vitriol, and the same quantity of alum in a quart of water, till they are dissolved.

Thus have we described all the drugs and compositions that need be kept in the charitable shop of the family, which intends to relieve a neighbourhood of poor in their greatest of all distresses, that of sickness. The diseases for which these remedies are to be used will be found enumerated at large under the several heads of the principal ingredients, as described in the succeeding pages. It only remains to say a few words about the manner of putting these things most conveniently together, and we then shall have prepared for all that follows.


The Family Herbal, 1812, was written by John Hill.



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