Tuberculosis, or ‘consumption’ as it was commonly known, caused the most widespread public concern in the 19th and early 20th centuries as an endemic disease of the urban poor. In 1815, one in four deaths in England was of consumption; by 1918 one in six deaths in France were still caused by TB. After the establishment in the 1880s that the disease was contagious, TB was made a notifiable disease in Britain; there were campaigns to stop spitting in public places, and the infected poor were “encouraged” to enter sanatoria that resembled prisons; the sanatoria for the middle and upper classes offered excellent care and constant medical attention. Whatever the purported benefits of the fresh air and labor in the sanatoria, even under the best conditions, 50% of those who entered were dead within five years.*
Martha Lloyd’s recipe for a “Consumption Cure” no doubt refers to the more common defintion of consumption– a wasting disease and in particular a lingering chest cough. The following instructions are for a strong cough syrup, not so dissimilar from what is available today in pharmacies around the world.
An Easy but Certain Cure for Consumption
Two ounces of the express juice of Hore-hound, mix’d with a pint of fawn’s milk and sweetened with honey.
From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book
White Horehound is a perennial herbaceous plant, found all over Europe and indigenous to Great Britain. Like many other plants of the Labiate family, it flourishes in waste places and by roadsides, particularly in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, where it is also cultivated in the corners of cottage gardens for making tea and candy for use in coughs and colds. It is also brewed and made into horehound ale, an appetizing and healthful beverage, much drunk in Norfolk and other country districts.
The plant is bushy, producing numerous annual, quadrangular and branching stems, a foot or more in height, on which the whitish flowers are borne in crowded, axillary, woolly whorls. The leaves are much wrinkled, opposite, petiolate, about 1 inch long, covered with white, felted hairs, which give them a woolly appearance. They have a curious, musky smell, which is diminished by drying and lost on keeping. Horehound flowers from June to September.
The flavor can be described best perhaps, as an almost berry flavored rootbeer. To some it might be an acquired taste. Horehound flavored “Stick Candy”, as well as candy “drops” can be found and purchased at various locations.
White Horehound has long been noted for its efficacy in lung troubles and coughs. John Gerard says of this plant:
‘Syrup made of the greene fresh leaves and sugar is a most singular remedie against the cough and wheezing of the lungs . . . and doth wonderfully and above credit ease such as have been long sicke of any consumption of the lungs, as hath beene often proved by the learned physitions of our London College.’
And Nicholas Culpeper said:
‘It helpeth to expectorate tough phlegm from the chest, being taken with the roots of Irris or Orris…. There is a syrup made of this plant which I would recommend as an excellent help to evacuate tough phlegm and cold rheum from the lungs of aged persons, especially those who are asthmatic and short winded.’
Preparations of horehound are still largely used as expectorants and tonics. It may, indeed, be considered one of the most popular pectoral remedies, being given with benefit for chronic cough, asthma, and some cases of consumption.
Horehound is sometimes combined with hyssop, rue, liquorice root and marshmallow root, 1/2 oz. of each boiled in 2 pints of water, to 1 1/2 pint, strained and given in 1/2 teacupful doses, every two to three hours.
For children’s coughs and croup, it is given to advantage in the form of syrup, and is a most useful medicine for children, not only for the complaints mentioned, but as a tonic and a corrective of the stomach. It has quite a pleasant taste.
Taken in large doses, it acts as a gentle purgative. The powdered leaves have also been employed as a vermifuge and the green leaves, bruised and boiled in lard, are made into an ointment which is good for wounds.
For ordinary cold, a simple infusion of horehound (horehound tea) is generally sufficient in itself. The tea may be made by pouring boiling water on the fresh or dried leaves, 1 OZ. of the herb to the pint. A wineglassful may be taken three or four times a day.
Candied horehound is best made from the fresh plant by boiling it down until the juice is extracted, then adding sugar before boiling this again, until it has become thick enough in consistence to pour into a paper case and be cut into squares when cool.
Two or three teaspoonsful of the expressed juice of the herb may also be given as a dose in severe colds.
Historical information from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia
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