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Spirit of Bees

12.05.03

Right now I am repairing Salmon's English Physician, or the Druggist's Shop Opened, published in 1693. Of course the contents of this book are far too fascinating to go unexamined.

It's like a drug formulary and physician's reference, perhaps an analog of the contemporary PDR (Physician's Desk Reference). It's an incredible dictionary of information about every possible substance used to make drugs in the late 17th century. It also contains other sorts of chemistry information. For instance how to make pigments for colors; how to make paste gems, and fake gems; how to alloy metals. The didn't call the druggist the chemist for no reason, after all.

We still accept the idea of using herbs as remedies for many conditions, and in this volume are hundreds of entries for every familiar herb or spice, from angelica to yarrow. But apparently every item on earth, every creature, plant and even stone was fair game for pharmaceutical use.

Load stone strapped to the thigh was suggested as an aid in birthing, acting to draw the child out. I can see how they'd come to that conclusion using a weird kind of logic, maybe. Magnets attract things.

Pearls, as you may know were used as aphrodisiacs, but they were also used for indigestion. That actually makes sense as they are made of calcium carbonate, the main ingredient of TUMS. Other stones were either worn on the body, or ground up and made into tinctures. Not so odd you say, because new age sorts are still doing this and believing it works.

But then there were the animals. Here are just a few choice bits.

Bees.

You'd think, sure they'd use honey and beeswax, why not? As you see on this page, there is first a short description of bees with a reference to honey and wax. But, read further and note that the entire bee is also used. How about a nice dose of baked bees with onions and parsley to treat your kidney stones?

Or if that doesn't work you might go right to the heart of the matter and try a little "Spiritus Apum. Spirit of Bees." It seems to be useful for quite a gamut of ailments. It continues:

"This Spirit ...is good against Fainting, and Swoonings, Vapors, and Fits of the Mother, ... as also against the Stone, Gravel and Obstructions of Urine, Cancers, Scirchus, Scurvy..."

However,

"The oil is fetid and unpleasant, and therefore seldom used inwardly..." ( I'll bet!)

Spirit of Bees has such a nice ring to it, but I think I'll take a pass.

Anyone for a little mouse??

Although they recognized that mice procreate in the usual way, they also thought that mice generated "spontaneously, by putrification in the earth, and small Showers of Rain."

There were also couple of formulas for cooking the mouse, and serving it up with onions and parsley, but better than that are the uses for mouse urine and dung. Perhaps Chuck should try mouse urine for his gout. And when those babies are colicky, try a little mouse dung in the formula, that'll cure it.

And, finally, let's not forget about the cat.

It was noted that some cats were domestic, and "neat and cleanly creatures "...and that their flesh was not often eaten. Nevertheless, they do note that the flesh "easeth the pain of Haemmorrhoids..." and that it's"fat dissolves tumors." Pity the fat cat.

And, here's a really useful tip, "The dung and urine of cats cures the Baldness and the Alopecia." So, all you Rogaine using cat owners out there, stop wasting your money, and head for your kitty litter.

I am in love with this book, and I think I may have to own it. Nothing is quite as compelling as an original source. It is fascinating reading, even if a little creepy, and it is truly a wonder that people survived not only the diseases, but the cures.

Surfing the net is nothing compared to surfing the old books.

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