Chapter XLIII, First Published in 1859


The following extract from Mrs. Beeton's book is presented as an example of what middle class households in England might use as home remedies.

"TIME," according to the old proverb, "is money" and it may also, in many cases, and with equal truthfulness, be said to be life; for a few moments, in great emergencies, often turn the balance between recovery and death. This applies more especially to all kinds of poisoning, fits, submersion in water, or exposure to NOXIOUS gases; and many accidents. If people knew how to act during the interval that must necessarily elapse from the moment that a medical man is sent for until he arrives, many lives might be saved, which now, unhappily, are lost. Generally speaking, however, nothing is done - all is confusion and fright; and the surgeon, on his arrival, finds that death has already seized its victim, who, had his friends but known a few rough rules for their guidance, might have been rescued. We shall, therefore, in a series of papers, give such information as to the means to be employed in event of accidents, injuries, & etc.. as, by the aid of a gentleman of large professional experience, we are warranted in recommending. List of Drugs, & etc., necessary to carry out all Instructions. We append at once A LIST OF DRUGS, & etc., and a few PRESCRIPTIONS necessary to carry out all the instructions given in this series of articles. It will be seen that they are few - they are not expensive and by laying in a little stock of them, our instructions will be of instant value in all cases of accident, & etc.

The drugs are: Antimonial Wine, Antimonial Powder, Blister Compound, Blue Pill, Calomel, Carbonate of Potash, Compound Iron Pills, Compound Extract of Colocynth, Compound Tincture of Camphor, Epsom Salts, Goulard's Extract, Jalap in Powder, Linseed Oil, Myrrh and Aloes Pills, Nitre, Oil of Turpentine, Opium, powdered and Laudanum, Sal-Ammoniac, Senna Leaves, Soap Liniment, Opodeldoc, Sweet Spirits of Nitre, Turner's Cerate. To which should be added: Common Adhesive Plaster, Isinglass Plaster, Lint, a pair of small Scales with Weights, an ounce and a drachm Measure-glass, a Lancet, a Probe, a pair of Forceps, and some curved Needles.

The following PRESCRIPTIONS may be made up for a few shillings; and, by keeping them properly labelled, and by referring to the remarks on the treatment of any particular case, much suffering, and, perhaps, some lives, may be saved.

Draught. Twenty grains of sulphate of zinc in an ounce and a half of water. This draught is to be repeated in a quarter of an hour if vomiting does not take place.

Clyster. Two tablespoonfuls of oil of turpentine in a pint of warm gruel. (Used as an enema.)

Liniments. 1. Equal parts of lime-water and linseed-oil well mixed together. [Lime-water is made thus: Pour 6 pints of boiling water upon a quarter lb. of lime; mix well together, and when cool, strain the liquid from off the lime which has fallen to the bottom, taking care to get it as clear as possible.] 2. Compound camphor liniment.

Lotions. 1 Mix a dessert-spoonful of Goulard's extract and 2 tablespoonfuls of vinegar in a pint of water. 2. Mix half an oz. of sal-ammoniac, 2 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, and the same quantity of gin or whisky, in half a pint of water.

Goulard Lotion. 1 drachm of sugar of lead, 2 pints of rain-water, 2 teaspoonfuls of spirits of wine. For inflammation of the eyes or elsewhere. The better way of making Goulard Lotion, if for the eyes, is to add to 6 oz. of distilled water, or water that has been well boiled, 1 drachm of the extract of lead.

Opodeldoc. This lotion being a valuable application for sprains, lumbago, weakness of joints, & etc., and it being difficult to procure either pure or freshly made, we give a recipe for its preparation. Dissolve 1 oz. of camphor in a pint of rectified spirits of wine; then dissolve 4 oz. of hard white Spanish soap, scraped thin, in 4 oz. of oil of rosemary, and mix them together.

The Common Black Draught. Infusion of senna, 10 drachms; Epsom salts, 10 drachms; tincture of senna, compound tincture of cardamums, compound spirit of lavender, of each 1 drachm. Families who make black draught in quantity, and wish to preserve it for some time without spoiling, should add about 2 drachms of spirits of hartshorn to each pint of the strained mixture, the use of this drug being to prevent its becoming mouldy or decomposed. A simpler and equally efficacious form of black draught is made by infusing half an oz. of Alexandrian senna, 3 oz. of Epsom salts, and 2 drachms of bruised ginger and coriander-seeds, for several hours in a pint of boiling water, straining the liquor, and adding either 2 drachms of sal-volatile or spirits of hartshorn to the whole, and giving 3 tablespoonfuls for a dose to an adult.

Aperient Mixture. Dissolve an ounce of Epsom salts in half a pint of senna tea: take a quarter of the mixture as a dose, and repeat it in three or four hours if necessary.

Fever Mixture. Mix a drachm of powdered nitre, 2 drachms of carbonate of potash, 2 teaspoonfuls of antimonial wine, and a tablespoonful of sweet spirits of nitre, in half a pint of water.

Myrrh and Aloes Pills. Ten grains made into two pills are the dose for a full-grown person.

Compound Iron Pills. Dose for a full-grown person: 10 grains made into two pills.

Pills. 1. Mix 5 grains of calomel and the same quantity of antimonial powder with little bread-crumb, and make into two pills. Dose for a full-grown person: two pills.

Pills  2. Mix 5 grains of blue pill and the same quantity of compound extract of colocynth together, and make into two pills, the dose for a full-grown person.

Powders. Mix a grain of calomel and 4 grains of powdered jalap together. In all cases, the dose of medicines given is to be regulated by the age of the patient.


Glossary compiled by Craig Thornber

A Weights and Measures Nightmare

In 1758 only the Troy pound was legal in England but the Avoirdupois pound of 7,000 grains was often in use. When the Avoirdupois pound was adopted at the time of the 1858 Medicinals Act the old Troy system continued in use for many years.

The Apothecaries or Troy scale had a pound of 12 ounces, 96 drachms or 5,760 grains and was equal to 373 grammes. Thus a drachm was 60 grains and an ounce was 480 grains. There was also the scruple, which was 20 grains. Mrs. Beeton's recipes use drachms, so one assumes that the Troy scale was in use.

The Avoirdupois scale of measurement started from the Imperial Pound of 16 ounces, or 7000 grains. The Pound was equivalent to 454 grammes. One ounce was 437.5 grains. There was also a measure of a dram, in use until the end of the 19th century, which was one sixteenth of an ounce or 27.3 grains. Liquid measure was equally complex. An Imperial Gallon had 8 pints and one pint was 20 fluid ounces. Some may remember from school the old saying "a pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter". In addition, one fluid ounce was 8 fluid drachms and a fluid drachm was 60 minims.

The Avoirdupois scale was used in the new British Pharmacopoeia of 1864. The preface explained that the last Dublin Pharmacopoeia had led the way in adopting the Imperial Measures. The Pharmacopoeia decided to abolish the use of the drachm and the scruple for Pharmaceutical use. We must thank the French for the invention of the metric scale!

Notes on the Recipes

Jalap is from Ipomoea jalapa and is a purgative, sometimes used in combination with calomel (mercurous chloride) which was used as a purgative, diuretic, diaphoretic and antisyphylitic. Blue Pill was metallic mercury mixed with rose petals, sugar and powdered liquorice root. Colocynth, from Citrullus colocynthis (Cucurbitaceae) was used as a drastic purgative. Aloes are from Aloe vera (Liliacaea), and also used as a purgative. Myrrh was used as a stimulant and diaphoretic; it was thought to promote fluid secretions in general. Spirits of nitre was ethyl nitrite and was supposed to quench thirst and promote secretions including perspiration. Nitre is potassium nitrate, and was used to diminish temperature and reduce the pulse. Spirits of wine is alcohol and spirits of hartshorn is ammonia. Sal-ammoniac is ammonium chloride. Antimonial powder was antimony oxide and was often encountered in the form of "Dr. James' Powders". It was a diaphoretic and thought to be useful in fevers. In larger doses it was a purgative and emetic. Sugar of lead is lead acetate used externally for skin diseases and inflammations.  Lead, mercury and antimony compounds are toxic.



The Death of King Charles II in 1685 John Wesley's 'Primitive Physic', first published in 1747
Treatment for sanguineous apoplexy
In his final illness King Charles was bled of 34 ounces of blood.
Administered emetics
Administered enemas
Blistered on the head
Pigeon dung plasters on his feet.

Use large bleeding from the arm or neck
Cup on the back of the neck with deep scarification
Bathe the feet in warm water.
Tie the garter tight to lessen the motion of the blood from the lower limbs.
A scruple of nitre in water every three or four hours.
When the patient can swallow give a strong purge if this cannot be done give an enema of salt water and butter.
The Death of George Washington in 1799 Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management 1859
Treatment for sanguineous apoplexy (stroke)
Took ill in the morning with a cold and sore throat.
Bled by his estate overseer.
Molasses and vinegar given but he almost choked with a coughing fit.
Bled twice by Dr. Craik who also blistered his throat.
Bled by Dr. Brown, who also gave him a laxative and an emetic
Dr. Brown blistered him again and performed a tracheotomy.
Washington died "quietly" at 11:00 pm. (See note 1.)
Place in bed with head raised. Bleed freely at once from the arm.
Apply warm mustard poultices to the soles of feet and inside of thighs.
Administer two drop of castor oil and 8 grains of calomel. (purge)
Administer a turpentine enema
Cut off the hair and apply rags soaked in vinegar to the head.
If the blood vessels of the head and neck are much swollen apply eight to ten leeches to the temple opposite the side that is paralysed.

Note 1: 'Fevers, Agues, and Cures: Medical Life in Old Virginia', by Todd L. Savitt, Exhibition 1990-1991. Virginia Historical Society. pp 33-36.


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