The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Victorian cold and flu remedies.
Unfortunately, there's a virus going around and I seem to have caught it!  I definitely have a sore throat and sinus congestion, and my modern cold medicine doesn't seem to be helping much.  Victorian household manuals are full of tips for "Invalid Cookery" and remedies, and while some sound horrible and even downright dangerous, this one sounds like it might actually work. Plus, it doesn't use any poisonous ingredients!

355. SORE THROAT.—I have been subject to sore throat, and have invariably found the following preparation (simple and cheap) highly efficacious when used in the early stage; Pour a pint of boiling water upon twenty-five or thirty leaves of common sage; let the infusion stand for half an hour.  Add vinegar sufficient to make it moderately acid, and honey according to the taste.  This combination of the astringent and the emolient principle seldom fails to produce the desired effect.  The infusion must be used as a gargle several times a-day.  It has this advantage over many gargles—it is pleasant to the taste, and may be swallowed occasionally, not only without danger, but with advantage.
-- from Inquire Within for Anything You Want To Know, 1858.

I happen to have a huge bunch of fresh sage leaves, from having pruned my two sage bushes for the first time since they were planted 2 years ago.  Sage is included in the list of herbs that have anti-bacterial properties, and a spoonful of honey -- especially local honey -- is an old-time sore throat remedy anyway.
Garden sage in bloom. 

And for coughs, an old-fashioned equivalent of a humidifier? With aromatherapy?

828. COUGHS.—It is said that a small piece of resin dipped in the water which is placed in a vessel on a stove (not an open fire-place), will add a peculiar property to the atmosphere of the room, which will give great relief to persons troubled with a cough.  The heat of the stove is sufficient to throw off the aroma of the resin, and gives the same relief that is afforded by the combustion, because the evaporation is more durable.  The same resin may be used for weeks.
-- from Inquire Within for Anything You Want To Know, 1858. 

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)