Stuff bread in sore ears, ashes clean teeth - antique book's bizarre remedies

A Friend To The Sick - The Englishman's Preservation, reveals age-old secrets to good health, such as eating burnt birds and drinking liquor.Photo / Thinkstock
A Friend To The Sick - The Englishman's Preservation, reveals age-old secrets to good health, such as eating burnt birds and drinking liquor.Photo / Thinkstock

From rubbing watercress on the gums to stuffing bread into the ear, there is a cure for virtually any ailment.

These bizarre remedies date back almost 350 years and are found in an antique book to be auctioned off later this month.

The remarkably well-preserved tome, titled A Friend To The Sick - The Englishman's Preservation, is expected to sell for more than £500 ($NZ800) and reveals age-old secrets to good health, such as eating burnt birds and drinking liquor.

It was written in 1673 by Royal Physician, William Sermon, who was a physician of Charles II.

In the book, Dr Sermon states: "Sickness is a convulsion which will most commonly deprive the patient of reason and sense, caused by tough flegm which doth obstruct the passage of the spirit of the brain."

Another suggested cure is to: "Take young swallows, burn them in their feathers, altogether in a new earthenware pot, covered very close, add thereto as much castor and beat them well together and put in to a glass vessel and let it stand three days after which distill it in a glass for patient to take.

With earache, take a loaf made with one part of caraway seeds, and cut it through the middle and apply it to the ears."

Dr Sermon was apparently a great believer in alcohol to combat illness.

For "pain in the head through cold", he suggested: "Abstain from taking milk which is cool in operation and drink thin wine or such liquors."

And for a patient suffering from toothache, Dr Sermon writes: "To make rotten teeth sound, take the juice of water cresses and white wine in equal measure, mix them together and rub the teeth and gums therewith."

He adds that "the ashes of tobacco is of excellent use to cleanse the teeth and to make them white."

He also set out detailed treatment for ulcers, dropsy, scurvy and yellow jaundice as well as "occult and dangerous diseases".

Dr Sermon, who first gained medical experience in the Army and went on to become a physician for King Charles II, died six years after his book was published at the age of 50.

He was described by 17th century historian Anthony Wood as "that forward, vain and conceited person."

The medical journal was a hidden treasure until it was discovered in a box in a routine house clearance in Derbyshire.

Auctioneer Charles Hanson, a regular on BBC1's Bargain Hunt, will oversee the sale of the book.

"At the end there are some letters to Dr Sermon, who at the time was referred to as a 'noble' and 'honoured' doctor. indeed, he was doctor to Charles II," Hanson said.

"However, I suspect if Dr Sermon was alive now and had noted the advances in modern medicine, he may withdraw some of his advice.

"It was uncovered in a box of assorted items in routine house clearance. It is surprising what history from homes can still be unearthed."

"(This book) offers a fascinating snapshot into medical advice in the 17th century.

"It is a wonderful find because, despite almost being 350 years old, it is still in its original leather binding and is extremely well preserved."

The book will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers in Derby on October 24.

- DAILY MAIL

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