18 Annotations

Lynne  •  Link

Sam mentions having an oral sore which he treated with "ahlum"-I believe he called the sore a "canchre".I think he meant what we now call an oral canker sore.I got those oral sores between cheek and gum in the mouth when I was a child and they are painful.Our parents kept a tin of alum which we knew to place on the sore and hold it there as long as we could stand the bitter taste
of the alum.This anesthesized the sore and helped to heal it.Apparently,Sam thought initially at least, that the "ahlum" would do the job to heal his sore.I wonder if this is a folk remedy?

vincent  •  Link

"Hemeroids" "being afflicted with Hemerhoids very much... so ill,that I was not far from death, &...when being let bloud in the foote, it pleas'd God to restore me after some time ; Blessed God " 21 April 1658.
There are many occassions when J.Evelyn was let of bloud.

vicente  •  Link

Ramsons (allium ursinum, fl. albo): tast like garlick: they grow much in Cranbourn Chace. A proverb: - "Eate leekes in Lide,* and ramsins in May, And all the yeare after physitians may play". * March. [I have seen this old proverb printed, "Eat leekes in Lent, and raisins in May, &c." - J. B.]


Nix  •  Link

Dropsy --

Better known today as edema.

"Generalized edema (also called dropsy, or hydrops) may involve the cavities of the body as well as the tissues with the excessive accumulation of fluid.

"Edema is most frequently a symptom of disease rather than a disease in itself, and it may have a number of causes, most of which can be traced back to gross variations in the physiological mechanisms that normally maintain a constant water balance in the cells, tissues, and blood. Among the causes may be diseases of the kidneys, heart, veins, or lymphatic system; malnutrition; or allergic reactions. The treatment of edema generally consists of correcting the underlying cause, such as improving kidney or heart function. Edema may be a purely local condition (e.g., hives), or it may be a general one (e.g., nephrotic edema). A swelling of the limbs, face, or some other region of the body is sometimes referred to as anasarca.

"The term dropsy is somewhat archaic, and edema has come to be the preferred term."

-- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The full text of John Evelyn's F U M I F U G I U M:
or The Inconveniencie of the
By J.E. Esq;
To His Sacred MAJESTIE,
AND To the PARLIAMENT now Assembled.
Published by His Majesties Command.
LONDON, [... 1661]


Allen  •  Link

Pepys' eye trouble ---
From Vol X "Companion" to the "Diary" by Latham and Matthews (1983): "It is generally agreed that the nature of Pepys' eye trouble was a combination of long sight [farsightedness or hyperopia] and astigmatism." Both of these problems are easily corrected today by eye glasses. Such glasses were not really available in Pepys' day.

GrahamT  •  Link

Tuberculosis - Consumption - TB - The King's evil - the White Plague.
TB is one of the most ancient of diseases, evidence of it being found in neolithic graves dating back to 5000 BC
Currently, one in three of the Earth's population carry the TB bacteria (WHO estimate 2004), and it was probably more in 17th century London. We, and the 17th century London population, only survive this because our immune system has evolved to hold the infection at bay, though it doesn't kill the bateria. It is only when the immune system is suppressed by, for instance, malnutrition or an immuno-deficiency (like HIV/AIDS in modern times) that the consumption can take hold. Hence its reputation as a disease of poverty. Having said that, one in 5 deaths in mid 17th Century London were caused by consumption - the white plague, as recorded in the Bills of Mortality.
It is a very virulent disease because the bacteria can be spread through the air from coughs, sneezes and evaporating spittle, and through consuming infected food and drink. Milk from TB infected cows was a very common vector before pasteurisation. The bacteria is also resistant to being frozen, so can lay dormant in frozen spittle on the ground to flare up again once a thaw arrives. Once this was realised, it led to anti-spitting laws in 19th century Britain, still evidenced by "No Spitting" signs on the buses, though there is little sign that it is now upheld in the streets.
Poor Tom Pepys died of consumption on 15th March 1663/4, and Samuel Pepys' description of his demise -
"About 8 o'clock my brother began to fetch his spittle with more pain, and to speak as much but not so distinctly, till at last the phlegm getting the mastery of him, and he beginning as we thought to rattle ... and at last his breath broke out bringing a flood of phlegm and stuff out with it, and so he died."
- is fairly typical of a TB death. Because the tubercules reduce the efficiency of the lungs to absorb oxygen, cause the lungs to produce phlegm, and also often cause bleeding, in effect the sufferer drowns in his own phlegm and blood. The symtom that gives it its common name consumption, is the wasting away of the body of the sufferer and the skin pallor. Pepys doesn't report these symptoms with Tom, so maybe his infection was particularly virulent and fast acting.

Terry Foreman  •  Link


1. (obsolete) An acute fever.
* Brenning agues. —P. Plowman.
2. (pathology) An intermittent fever, attended by alternate cold and hot fits.
3. The cold fit or rigor of the intermittent fever; as, fever and ague.
4. A chill, or state of shaking, as with cold.
5. A former name for malaria.


San Diego Sarah  •  Link

What is scurvy?
 A condition caused by a lack of vitamin C.
 Most animals can manufacture their own vitamin C in their bodies - exceptions include humans, monkeys and guinea pigs
 A lack of vitamin C means that collagen, a protein found in body tissue such as skin, cannot be replaced, leading to tissue breakdown
 A diet with no vitamin C could lead to symptoms within four weeks
 Adult patients may suffer from fatigue, bleeding gums, joint pain, shortness of breath, slow-healing wounds and potentially-fatal heart problems
 Guava, chillies and red peppers contain much more vitamin C than citrus fruit
(Source: British Dietetic Association)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In the 17th century, Bishops granted licenses to midwives and for the practice of physic. To show the extent to which astrology was recognized as a “hand-maid" or associate of medicine, it is interesting to note that in 1670 Archbishop of Canterbury Sheldon, at the request of Elias Ashmole (who was an acknowledged devotee of astrology), granted a license to practice physic to William Lilly (who for over 25 years had been famous as an astrologer and almanac-maker, and the subject of extensive gossip) as compiler of the "nativities" of celebrities in Church and State.

For more info see https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tbhs/02-2_110.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The desire to eradicate ague, AKA malaria, and the methods used, are intimately connected with British history, medicine and the goal of developing trade and colonies in the tropics.

As we know, the first effective malaria prophylaxis was quinine. First encountered by Europeans through the treatment of fevers by indigenous healers in South America, powdered cinchona bark was initially used to help treat malaria.

But since those Europeans were Jesuits, quinine was shunned by many 17th century people in England, like Oliver Cromwell, as being untried and suspect. (Sound familiar?)

When quinine was finally isolated from cinchona tree bark by French researchers Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou in 1820, it was found to also work as a preventative measure and so was adopted by the British army for use on their troops in 1848.

The British government spent a fortune importing the bark from South America, until the British introduced it to India in 1861.

The ability to grow their own supply of quinine was hugely significant for Britain. Quinine enabled colonialism, allowing agents of empire to successfully control malarial areas for the first time, leading to a series of expeditions inland to claim vast swaths of Africa.

Malaria prophylaxis enabled imperial expansion, and, as part of the burgeoning field of tropical medicine, and it also provided its own moral justification.

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