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 Daft advice on health matters in history

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Daft advice on health matters in history   Thu 16 Jul 2015, 19:06

From my Daily Rant posts you will understand that modern advice is not doing me much good. I expect there were even worse things in the past - know any?


Last edited by Priscilla on Thu 16 Jul 2015, 19:07; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Keyboard not up to speed with my typing.)
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Fri 17 Jul 2015, 21:27

So much for the current advice to eat one's five-a-day and cut down on sugar ... according to the medieval doctrine of humours raw vegetables and fruit were excessively "cold and moist in the first degree", prone to "putrifie" in the stomach, and so were positively dangerous to one's health. Indeed until the early 17th century fresh fruit in particular was often avoided like the plague, literally, since their consumption was thought to so weaken the constitution that they could actually cause the plague, and hence the sale of fresh fruit was banned throughout London during the plague year of 1569.

Expert opinion advised that fruit could be made safely palatable only if it was cooked for a very long time and liberally coated with refined sugar (sugar's humour was warm and dry which counteracted the cold and moist of the fruit). But even at the time the excessive use of sugar was understood to have a deliterious effect on the teeth. Visiting the court of Elizabeth I in 1598, the German lawyer Paul Hentzner noted the poor state of the queen's "black'nd teeth", adding that this was "a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar." Receding and bleeding gums, and the resultant loss of teeth, might also have been a result of vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) due to the abscence of fresh fruit and veg' in the diet. The poor generally had better teeth than their betters as they could rarely afford sugar and of necessity ate a lot of seasonally available fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains. They did however increasingly suffer from rickets, then known on the continent as the English disease, particularly from the mid 16th century onwards as the countryside started to become enclosed with a shift to grazing sheep (for wool) rather than cattle. At the same time desserts based on butter, milk and cream became fashionable and so the prices of dairy produce, which had formerly been rural staples, rose alarmingly and out of the price range of the poorest.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Sun 19 Jul 2015, 11:28

Based on the theory that "bad drove out bad" one 14th century school of thought maintained that to imbibe foul odours was a useful if not infallible protection against the miasmas that caused the Black Death.  John Colle in 'De Pestilentia' stated, "Attendants who take care of latrines and those that serve in hospitals and other malodorous places are nearly all to be considered immune." Accordingly it was not unknown for apprehensive citizens of a plague-struck city to spend hours each day over a latrine absorbing the foetid smells with apparent relish.

Other plague prevention advice was to never sleep by day or directly after meals. Gentile of Foligno believed it was best to keep steady the heat of the liver by sleeping first on the right side and then on the left. To sleep on one's back was just courting disaster since this would cause a stream of "superfluidities" to descend on the palate and nostrils, from whence these would flow back and submerge the brain. Fresh fruit and vegetables were generally considered extremely dangerous, but the Arab writer Ibn Khatimah disagreed and recommended aubergines in particular as a plague preventative. Gentile of Foligno recommended fresh lettuce: the Faculty of Medicine in Paris forbade it. Simon of Covino came to the not unreasonable conclusion that the undernourished were particularly susceptible, while the Paris Medical Faculty, again never prone to go with the obvious, maintained that the well fed, "whose bodies are replete with humours" were the most vulnerable. Ibn Khatimah agreed that people of "hot, moist temperament" were the most at risk: so the ultimate in peril was to be a stout young woman with a taste for lechery. The only thing every expert did agree on was the need for prayer, prayer and more prayer.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Sun 19 Jul 2015, 12:53

When Elizabeth Tudor was ill during her teens, Dr William Turner warned against "rich or roasted meats" and advised:

"...let Her Grace touch nothing but a sow pig boiled with cinnamon, celery, dates and raisins; a hedgehog stewed in red wine and rosewater; and jelly coloured purple by Scorpion's Tail, as the vulgar call Turnsole (heliotrope). And take two calves' feet and a shoulder of veal for the jelly, boiled in a gallon of claret."

Sounds dreadful.

MM wrote:
Simon of Covino came to the not unreasonable conclusion that the undernourished were particularly susceptible, while the Paris Medical Faculty, again never prone to go with the obvious, maintained that the well fed, "whose bodies are replete with humours" were the most vulnerable.


The sweating sickness, however, seems to have attacked the well-fed rather than the poor. William Butts, Henry VIII's physician, thought it might be linked to cattle murrain and advised his patients to avoid beef.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Sun 19 Jul 2015, 14:18

And of course for centuries it was recommended that one be regularly bled ... even if one was in good robust health.

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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 09:25

It wasn't so long ago ... certainly well into the 20th century ... that young adults were often advised to have all their teeth extracted, good and bad alike, and have them replaced with dentures to avoid a lifetime of dental problems and dental charges.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 09:31

Not so daft advice at all, according to today's Guardian newspaper.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 12:36

@Meles meles wrote:
It wasn't so long ago ... certainly well into the 20th century ... that young adults were often advised to have all their teeth extracted, good and bad alike, and have them replaced with dentures to avoid a lifetime of dental problems and dental charges.


Rather more serious procedures - and not so "daft" if you are found to be carrying a rogue gene:

Bilateral prophylactic mastectomy has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by at least 95 percent in women who have a deleterious (disease-causing) mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene and by up to 90 percent in women who have a strong family history of breast cancer (2-5).

Bilateral prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by approximately 90 percent and the risk of breast cancer by approximately 50 percent in women at very high risk of developing these diseases (1).


I wonder what future generations will make of such surgery? Awful choice for a woman - especially one of child-bearing age.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 16:16

Which begs the question re whether or not future generations will look back or give a damn. Is history a thing of the past. I had better go.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 17:34

If prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy becomes general, surely there will be no future generations?
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 18:03

Designer babes in test tubes? And at supermarkets one for the price of three for  reluctant parents.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Mon 20 Jul 2015, 18:26

Not if some ova are frozen first for later IVF, Gil.

I wish I still had all of my father-in-law's old herbal books, there were some crackers in them, but I do have a 1916 version of an early 19th c. Herbal. It's a joy since it not only contains a materia medica but also wondrous general advice.

Young ladies, if you want to preserve your health, do not go with those young men who want to take you to dancing parties and those receptions where supper is served at 12 at night, composed of those fancy things that ought never to enter the human stomach. Do not accept from any one those candies that are only calculated to destroy the health of  those who are foolish enough to think they are great enjoyment. If you only knew how many young persons had to go down to the grave before their natural lifespan was past, you would never allow any morsel of it to pass your lips; but my poor young ladies, if you have indulged in all these things and are now married, and suffer all sorts of pains caused by these indulgences and following fashions of wearing corsets and tight shoes to please your sweetheart, remember there is a way for you to get rid of these sufferings

The cure appears to be:

Cold sitz baths

sleeping with a cold, wet cloth over your bowels

and prayer - apparently if you repent the Lord will renew your strength, you shall run and not faint, without the use of poisonous drugs or the surgical knife.

So tell me your ailments and I can provide not just a treatment but useful moral guidance to keep you on the true path.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Tue 21 Jul 2015, 08:08

Luke 2:6
"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

I'm rather assuming the practice is now frowned upon by modern midwifery, but tightly binding new-born infants was de rigeur for centuries and in cultures as diverse as mediaeval Europe, pre-Columbian Americas, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. This was presumably done to encourage the child's limbs to grow straight or possibly in a miss-guided idea that an unbound child might injure itself. The practice was so widespread that maybe there was/is some benefit in reducing the infant to a convenient static bundle. Does anyone much still turn babies into mummies?

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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Tue 21 Jul 2015, 09:07

Sorry, MM, but you're way out of touch here, 'baby wrapping' is a technique recommended by most maternity hospitals these days, not for limb straightening but as a security thing, mimicking to some extent the constriction the infant experiences in utero.



It is not, however, recommended that, on completion of the wrapping, a stamp and label is affixed and the infant returned to sender, much though the new mum might sometimes feel like it.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Tue 21 Jul 2015, 10:15

Ah well my experience of newborn babies is limited to being one myself, but that was over 55 years ago and my recollection of things is now somewhat hazy.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Tue 21 Jul 2015, 13:13

My grandson at 3 suggested at sundown  the day his brother arrived home that as it was getting dark we ought wrap hi up and take  him back to the hospital now. Then came the dawning light of silent understanding thatngs ain't wot they uster be.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Tue 21 Jul 2015, 20:03

I wonder if others here have seen the superb film, Regeneration, based on Pat Barker's 1991 novel?

The film looks at the treatment of shell shock at the Craiglockhart War Hospital where both Sassoon and Owen were patient, and contrasts the gentle "talking", Freudian-based therapy offered by W.H.R. Rivers with the electro-shock treatment of Doctor Lewis Yealland. Yealland's speciality (in the film) was getting mute soldiers to talk again: his methods may be seen here, beginning at 3.55:





I wondered if Yealland's apparent terrible brutality with his patients had been exaggerated: an academic assessment of his work is offered here:


http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/02/04/brain.aws331

EDIT: "Daft" is hardly the word here - apologies if post not appropriate to topic.


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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Wed 22 Jul 2015, 00:22

Horrendous is the  word, Temps and those first treatments were. Fainting when alarmed seems less common than used to happen - or were most of those dramatic devices in lierature that have become history in my mind? Years ago many women carried smelling salts to allay it, that I have seen. Panic and fear are difficult to handle - and I have had experience of people in more than a muck-sweat in tense situations; some lips are not so stiff in  circumstances where respite may be a distant prospect.


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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Wed 22 Jul 2015, 07:37



The cure for drowning in Holland was obviously designed primarily to make one think twice before going near water again.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Wed 22 Jul 2015, 07:39

I wonder if the prevalence of fainting and "attacks of the vapours" amongst refined Edwardian ladies wasn't largely due to over-tight whale-bone corsetry, worn in the hope of attaining the visually perfect, narrow-waisted, hour-glass shape.

Crossed posts with Nordy ...

... but yes tobacco in all its various uses has swung back and forth between universal panacea and insidious evil. Weren't the schoolboys of Harrrow school ordered to smoke every morning and afternoon during the 1665 plague and fined if they didn't comply?
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Thu 23 Jul 2015, 06:48

I bet the usual suspects all congregated behind the horse sheds not smoking.


 "Don't try lying to me, boy: I can't smell it on you."
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Thu 30 Jul 2015, 21:23

An old Jersey recipe for cough syrup involved filling a muslin bag with sugar, adding live snails and letting the little colînmachons work their way into the sugar overnight. The resulting goo that dripped through the bag was supposedly wonderful for coughs (I can't say if it was wonderful for the snails). Given the use of sugar, it must have been a pretty pricey remedy, but then for many centuries sugar was purchased as much for its alleged medicinal properties as its culinary potential.

Apparently medieval surgeons liked going on campaign because it gave them ready access to patients they could experiment with (without fear of getting sued), plus - in the armourers and smiths - expert metal-workers to make instruments. John Bradmore famously invented a device to extract an arrowhead from the future Henry V's face after the Battle of Shrewsbury, but I wonder how many experiments went disastrously wrong?
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Thu 30 Jul 2015, 21:27

@nordmann wrote:
An attempt at resuscitating an apparently drowned person using the modified Dutch method

Well, that's what they told the authorities they were doing, anyway...
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Wed 26 Aug 2015, 11:22

Was there any merit in the "vinegar and brown paper" that Jack of the "Jack and Jill" nursery rhyme mended his head with?  I know vinegar is acetic acid and that sometimes white vinegar is used as a cleaner - though cleaning one's window or mirror and cleaning one's head are somewhat different.
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PostSubject: Re: Daft advice on health matters in history   Sat 21 Apr 2018, 22:28

@Meles meles wrote:
So much for the current advice to eat one's five-a-day and cut down on sugar ... according to the medieval doctrine of humours raw vegetables and fruit were excessively "cold and moist in the first degree", prone to "putrifie" in the stomach, and so were positively dangerous to one's health. Indeed until the early 17th century fresh fruit in particular was often avoided like the plague, literally, since their consumption was thought to so weaken the constitution that they could actually cause the plague, and hence the sale of fresh fruit was banned throughout London during the plague year of 1569.

15 years after it was adopted by the UK government even the '5-a-day' slogan is now being brought into question. It was officially adopted in 2003 but had been doing the rounds for over 10 years before that. Here's an interesting article on the history of the slogan:

https://health.spectator.co.uk/the-greatest-slogan-in-nutrition-means-much-much-less-than-you-think/

What even that article doesn't point out, though, is that the word 'fruit' is commonly put before the word 'veg' when it really should be the other way around. The best advice I ever got from any educator while growing up was not from a parent or even from a teacher but was from the dinner lady at primary school who every day told us to "Eat your greens!". And to think that we used to make fun of her at the time.
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