HAVE begun to research the varied natures of coughs on behalf of our beloved Maggie Delaney in an attempt to better diagnose her particular distempter. To that end, I shall make available some of my findings from a pamphlet entitled, "Every Man His Own Doctor: OR, The Poor Planter’s Physician, Plain and Easy Means for Persons to cure themselves of all, or most of the Distempers, incident to this Climate, and with very little Charge, the Medicines being chiefly of the Growth and Production of this Country."
The following excerpts are from the 1734 copy & the 4th ed., 1751.
A warning to you fair reader, graphic medical language follows. Those with weak stomachs or of a sickly constitution should read no further.
An INDEX of Diseases mentioned in this Book:
Bite of a Rattle Snake
Bite of a Mad Dog
Bleeding at the Nose
Epilepsy, or Falling Sickness
Fever, with violent Purging and vomiting
Fever, Pain in the Head, Eye, or Ear
Film on the Eyes
Flux immoderate of the
Gleet, or Running of the Reins
Pissing of Blood
Spitting of Blood
Stone in the Bladder
Stone in the Kidneys
Suppression of the Courses
Suppression of Urine
Swelling to break
Swelling to discuss
Vapours, or Hysteric Fits
Vomiting and purging
I SHALL begin with a COUGH, which is the Foundation of many bad Distempers and therefore should be taken Care of as soon as possible. It may be cured in the Beginning with riding moderately on Horseback every Day, and only taking a little Ground Ivy Tea sweeten’d with Syrup of Horehound at Night when you go to Bed. But in case it be violent, it will be proper to bleed Eight Ounces and be constant in the Use of the other Remedies. In the mean while, you must use a spare and cooling Diet, without either Flesh or strong Drink. Nor should you stove yourself up in a warm Room, but breathe as much as possible in the open Air. And to prevent this Mischief, don’t make yourself tender, but wash every Day in cold Water, and very often your Feet.
The Whooping Cough, (often fatal to Children,) is attended with a stronger Convulsion than ordinary, which causes the Whooping.
For this, boil Hysop and Elicampane, a Handful of each, in 2 Quarts of water, strain it off, and adding 1 Pound of clean Muscovado Sugar, boil it again, amd give the Patient 2 Spoonfuls every 3 hours.
This same Remedy is good for a shortness of Breath and Hoarseness, only in those Cases, Linseed Tea sweeten'd with Honey, should be a constant Drink, and a spare and cooling Diet punctually observ'd.
A Common Consequence of a violent Cough is a Pleurisy; which discovers it self by a brisk Fever, and sharp Pain, pretty low in one of the Sides, shooting now and then into the Breast, and sometimes quite back into the Shoulder-Blades: It is uneasy every Time the Patient draws his Breath, and more so when he coughs; which is generally the Case in this Disease.
The Moment any Person finds these Tokens upon him, he must, without Loss of Time, take away 10 Ounces of Blood, and repeat the same 3 or 4 Days successively, if the Pain go not away before. On the Third Day, he may vomit with 80 Grains of Indian Physick (Virginian Ipecoacanna,) and every Night, drink 7 Spoonfuls of Pennyroyal Water, or the Decoction of it, moderately sweeten'd. In the mean Time, let him, every Three Hours, take Half a Spoonful of Honey and Linseed Oyl mixt together. He should also strew Indian Pepper, upon Pennyroyal Plaister, and apply it very hot to the Place where the Pain lies, and be sure to keep himself warm, and abstain from cold Water: Tho' if the Distemper should prove obstinate, you must apply a Blister to his Neck, and one to each Arm, on the fleshy Part above the Elbow.
The Patient's Diet should be light, and cooling; and his constant Drink, either Linseed, or Balm Tea, a little sweeten'd.
The best Way to prevent this Distemper, will be, to bleed in the Beginning of any great Hoarseness, or Cough, and also to forebear swilling great Quantities of Water, or Small Beer, in ordinary Life.
21st Century definitions for 18th Century medical terms,
another warning fair reader, more graphic medical language follows:
Ague- Fever and chills; malarial fever when severe.
Bloody flux- Bloody stools; dysentery [flux: diarrhea].
Bloody piles- Hemorrhoids.
Cachexy- Malnutrition, weight loss, weakness.
Dropsy- Swelling, edema, especially when related to heart or kidney disease.
Dry Gripes- Severe “lead colic”: intestinal affliction, including constipation, due to lead poisoning.
Flooding- Excessive uterine bleeding.
Gleet- Discharge from a wound, especially related to chronic gonorrhea.
Gravel- Calcified matter in the kidneys (stones).
Green Wound- Infected wound, with pus.
Griping, Gripes- Colic; sharp bowel pains.
King’s Evil- Tuberculosis of the lymph glands in the neck.
Looseness- “Summer complaint”: diarrhea occurring in the summer.
Suppression of the Courses- Cessation of menstruation, due to pregnancy, ill health, or other causes.
Vapours, or Hysteric Fits- Emotional affliction, “nervousness,” with symptoms similar to clinical depression.
Worm Fever- Physical discomforts from intestinal worms.
Disclaimer: I do not intend any of these "cures" to be taken as REAL medical advice... they are solely for your enlightenment and amusement. It serves to help us better understand the dangers these early Americans faced at home as well as abroad in the wilderness... and that a visit from the Doctor in the 18th century could often be more hazardous than the ailment which necessitated his call. In other words, DON'T try this at home kids!