Chap. V.

Concerning the best methods of putting medicines together for present taking.

IN the first place, although these several forms of syrups, conserves, and the like, have been named, as what will be sometimes necessary. The great practice in the country will lie in the infusions and decoctions of the fresh plants and roots.

The strength of these infusions and decoctions is to be proportioned to the taste: for as they are made to be swallowed in quantities, if they be made so strong as to be very disagreeable, that end will be defeated: they may be rendered more pleasant by sweetening them with sugar, about an ounce of which is to be allowed to a quart; and occasionally a little white wine, or a small quantity of some of the cordial waters may be added to them. The dose of either decoction or infusion, will be in general about half a pint, except where they are intended to purge or vomit; there they must be more carefully and exactly proportioned to the strength, than can be told in this general manner.

Of the simple waters, about a quarter of a pint is a dose, and of the cordial waters, less than half that quantity. These may be occasionally given alone; but they are mostly intended for mixing with other ingredients.

The tinctures are to be given in drops, from ten to an hundred, according to their strength and nature: but to name a general dose, it is about five and twenty drops. These, however, will be also more serviceable in mixtures, than singly. Of the purging tinctures in wine, and the elixir salutis, three, four, or more spoonfuls is the dose.

It would be well to keep tinctures of many of the roots recommended in nervous cases, as cordials, astringents, and of many other kinds; and also to keep powders of these roots in readiness: and thus the common forms of medicines, as sent from apothecaries, will be very easy.

For a julep, six ounces of one of the simple waters, two ounces of one of the compound waters, or those made with spirit, two drams of a syrup, and fifty drops of a tincture, make a very agreeable one one. Thus for an hysteric julep, let the simple water be pennyroyal, the strong water the strong pennyroyal, the syrup that of saffron, and the tincture of castor, and it is a very pleasant julep; and so of all the rest. If a pearl cordial be desired, it is only mixing the simple and strong waters without syrup or tincture, and adding two drams of sugar, and half a dram of levigated oyster-shells. The apothecaries will not be pleased with this disclosing the mysteries of their profession, but the public good is of more consequence than their pleasure.

Draughts are only little juleps, with more powerful ingredients added to them. An ounce and half of a simple water, three drams of a strong water, one dram of a syrup, and forty drops of a tincture, make a draught; but to these may be added a simple of some power to increase the virtue. What waters, tinctures, syrups, or powders shall be used will be determined from the case itself.

Boluses are made with these powders in a certain dose. A scruple or half a dram, is made into a sort of paste with syrup. The custom is to cover it with a little leaf-gold, but this is better let alone: some use leaf-brass, which is abominable.

Electuaries are to be made of powders, conserves, and syrups, they differ from boluses in this, as well as in the size, that the dose is smaller, although the piece taken be as large; which is owing to the conserve, that having in general little virtue in comparison of the other ingredients. This is the form most convenient for medicines that are to be taken for a continuance of time, and the dose of which needs not be so very punctually regarded.

Thus for an electuary against an habitual looseness, when it exceeds the proper bounds; mix together an ounce of conserve of red roses, and six drams of syrup of cloves, add to these two drams of powdered bistort root, one dram of powdered tormentill, and half a dram of toasted rhubarb. This makes an electuary, a piece of which, of the bigness of a nutmeg, taken once in two days, will check the abundance of stools, without stopping the customary looseness intirely: it will also be a pleasant medicine. If a draught of tincture of roses, which will be described in the following part of this work, under the article red rose, be taken after this, it will increase the power.

In this manner the charitable lady may supply the place of the apothecary, to those who could not afford such assistance: and experience is so good a guide, that she will be able in most cases to save the expence of the doctor also: and there will be this satisfaction in her own mind, that while she deals principally with those innocent sort of medicines which the fields afford her, she will be in very little danger of doing harm. The galenical physic perhaps will be found effectual in many more cases, by those who stick to it solely, than they are aware who do not use it; as to the mischief of medicine, that is almost entirely chemical. It would be idle to say that chemical medicines do not do great good; but they require to be in skilful hands: when the ignorant employ them, death is more likely to be the consequence, than the relief from the disorder any other way.

One useful observation may serve well to close this introduction. Opiates, and medicines of that kind, to compose persons to rest, and to take off pain, will be often necessary; but as they are the most powerful medicines the charitable practitioner will have to do withal, they are the most capable of doing harm: the great care will therefore lie in the right use of these.

As there are three different preparations described in this book for answering this purpose, beside the opium, and that solution of it in wine, which is called laudanum, I would advise that these two latter be used very seldom. A syrup made of the juice of the wild lettuce, is an excellent medicine; the syrup of diacodium, which is made of a strong decoction of poppy heads, is a little stronger than this; and if something more powerful than these is required, there is the asthmatic elixir. One or other of these may almost on every occasion serve the purpose; and it is almost impossible that the use of them should be attended with danger. I would therefore advise, that opium or laudanum be very rarely used: perhaps it might be well to say, not used at all, for the others will be able in almost all cases, if not universally, to answer the purpose.

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