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COLONIAL DISEASES & CURES

|A| |B| |C| |D| |EF| |G| |HIJK| |L|
|M| |NO| |P| |QR| |S| |TUV| |WXYZ|

  • ABLEPSIA - blindness

  • AGLUTITION - inability to swallow, frequently found on death certificates

  • AGUE - recurring fever and chills of of malaria

  • AGUE-CAKE - a hard tumor or swelling on the left side of the abdomen, lower than the false rib, resulting from enlargement of the spleen or liver, and supposed to be the effect of intermitting fevers

  • ANCOME - [whitlow] an ulcerous swelling, a boil

  • APOPLEXY - stroke

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  • BARREL FEVER - sickness produced by immoderate drinking

  • BILIOUS FEVER - fever caused by liver disorder

  • BLACK DEATH - typhus

  • BLACK LUNG - disease from breathing coal dust

  • BLOODY FLUX - dysentery

  • BLOODY SWEAT - a sweat accompanied by a discharge of blood

  • BRIGHT'S DISEASE - inflamation of the kidneys - in its acute form, it is called nephritis

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  • CAMP FEVER - typhus

  • CATARRH - inflammation of the mucous membrane which caused profuse running of the eyes and nose

  • CHILBLAIN - an inflammatory swelling of the hands and feet caused by exposure to cold

  • CHIN COUGH - [WHOOPING COUGH] characterized by breathing difficulties, and in its worst stage, convulsions

  • CONGESTIVE FEVER - malaria

  • CONSUMPTION - tuberculosis

  • CRAMP COLIC - appendicitis

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  • DAY FEVER - a fever of a day's duration or coming on in the daytime; the sweating sickness

  • DIPHTHERIA - an infectious disease which could be spread by infected milk, characterized by the production of a systemic toxin and the formation of a false membrane on the lining of the mucous membrane of the throat and other respiratory passages, causing difficulty in breathing, high fever, and weakness

  • DOCK FEVER - yellow fever

  • DROPSY - an abnormal collection of fluid in the tissues and cavities of the body

  • DROPSY OF THE BRAIN - encephalitis

  • DYSENTERY - inflammation of intestinal membrane

  • DYSPEPSIA - bad digestion usually involving weakness, loss of appetite, and depression

  • DYSURY - difficulty in discharging urine, accompanied by pain and a sensation of heat

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  • EDEMA - swelling of tissues

  • ENTERITIS - Inflammation of the intestines, could also take the form of enteric fever (typhoid)

  • ERYSIPHELAS - [Saint Anthony's Fire] a skin disease caused by strep infection which devastates the blood

  • EXCRESCENCE - an unnatural or disfiguring outgrowth of the skin

  • FALLING SICKNESS - epilepsy

  • FLUX - the drainage or discharge of liquid from a body cavity

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  • GALLOPING CONSUMPTION - pulmonary tuberculosis

  • GOITER - [struma] a noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as a swelling at the front of the neck, that is often associated with iodine deficiency

  • GOUT - a disturbance of uric-acid metabolism occurring predominantly in males, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, especially of the feet and hands

  • GRAVE'S DISEASE - disorder of the thyroid gland

  • GREEN SICKNESS - [CHLOROSIS] anemia; a disease of young women giving the complexion a greenish tinge

  • GROCER'S ITCH - a cutaneous disease caused by mites in sugar and flour

  • GRIPE / LA GRIPPE - influenza

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  • HEAT SICKNESS - a condition marked especially by cessation of sweating and extremely high body temperature, caused by a loss of salt from the body

  • HEMATEMESIS - vomiting blood

  • HEMATURIA - a discharge of bloody urine

  • HEMIPHLEGY - a palsy or paralysis that affects one side of the body

  • JAUNDICE - a condition caused by obstruction of bile and characterized by yellowness of the skin, fluids and tissues, and by constipation, loss of appetite, and weakness

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  • LUES VENERA - venereal disease

  • LUMBAGO - a pain in the loins and small of the back, such as precedes certain fevers

  • LUNG FEVER - pneumonia

  • LUNG SICKNESS - tuberculosis

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  • MANIA - insanity

  • MARASMUS - progressive emaciation, usually due to severe malnutrition or protracted intestinal disorders

  • MEMBRANOUS CROUP - diphtheria

  • MILKSICK - not actually a disease, but a form of poisoning caused by cows ingesting the leaves of the white snakeroot plant and passing along its toxin in their milk

  • MORSAL - Gangrene

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  • NEPHRITIS - inflammation of the kidneys

  • NEURALGIA - an affection of one or more nerves causing intermittent but frequent pains

  • NEURASTHENIA - neurotic condition characaterized by worry, disturbances of digestion and circulation and attributed to emotional conflict and feelings of
  • inferiority

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  • PALSY - the loss or defect of the power of voluntary muscular motion in all or part of the body; paralysis

  • PHRENITIS - formerly infammation of the brain, with acute fever and delirium; infammation of the diaphragm

  • PLEURISY - inflammation of the membrane that covers the inside of the thorax, accompanied with fever, pain and cough

  • POX - syphilis

  • PUERPERAL FEVER - [childbed fever] septic poisoning which sometimes followed the birth of a child

  • PUTRID FEVER - diptheria

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  • QUINSY / QUINCY - severe attack of tonsilitis which resulted in abscess near the tonsils

  • RHEUMATISM - a painful disease affecting muscles and joints, chiefly the larger joints

  • RICKETS - a disease of the skeletal system resulting from a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D in the diet, or from lack of sunlight

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  • SCARLATINA - scarlet fever, commonly referred to as the canker rash

  • SCARLET FEVER - a disease in which the body is covered with a red rash first appearing on the neck and breast, and accompanied by a sore throat

  • SCIATICA - rheumatism in the hip

  • SCOTOMY - dizziness or nausea, with dimness of sight

  • SCRIVENER'S PALSY - writer's cramp

  • SCROFULA - a disease, called the King's Evil, characterized by tumors in the glands of the neck; tuberculosis of lymph glands

  • SCRUMPOX - [impetigo] a pustular disease of the skin

  • SCURVY - a disease characterized by great dibility, a pale bloated face, and bleeding spongy gums, usually suffered by people living confined or on salted meats without fresh vegetables

  • SEPTICEMIA - blood poisoning

  • SHIP'S FEVER - typhus

  • ST. VITUS DANCE - [Chorea] the dancing madness; an epidemic characterized by contortions, convulsions and dancing

  • SWEATING SICKNESS - an acute, infectious, rapidly fatal disease epidemic in Egland in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries

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  • TYPHUS - an acute infectious fever, characterized by high fever, dizziness, and headache [also Black Death]

  • ULCERATION - loss of the surface covering, such as of skin or the mucous lining, of the intestine

  • VENESECTION - the opening of a vein for letting blood; phlebotomy

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  • WHITLOW - an ulcerous swelling, a boil [Also ancome]

  • WHOOPING COUGH - [PERTUSSIS or CHIN COUGH] a highly contagious disease of the respiratory system, usually affecting children, that is characterized in its advanced stage by spasms of coughing interspersed with deep, noisy inspirations

  • WINTER FEVER - pneumonia

  • YELLOW JACKET - yellow fever
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Here Are Some Of The Cures Or
"Aren't You Glad They Don't Do This Anymore?"

The following medical recipes, except where otherwise indicated, are from a manuscript left by Dr. Zerobabel Endecott of Salem, printed in Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by George Francis Dow.

For ye Bloudy Flux

Stone horses Liuers dried in an ouen being heat for houshould bread, made into powder & giuen a spoonfull at a time in milk.

For a Spraine

Take stronge bere este & honye, of equall quantyty & boyle them to the Consistanty of honye & so apply it hott to ye place greeued.

For ye Dropsie Often Proud & Especially Vpon One Man,
Other Means Vsed By Men of Skill Fayled This Was Affectually

Take good store of Elder roots wash them & make them very Cleane then splitt & steepe them in strong ale wort & Lett them stand together while ye Ale is working then when it is 2 days old drinke of it morning Noone & at night till leath be obtained Lett there be as many of ye Roots as Can well be steeped in the Ale. The flowers are of the same vse & more powerfull.

For Paine in ye Eare

Take a mithredate & put it into the eare with a Litle wooll & Keep it warme

For Ye [J]andis

Take ye Juce of Planten and Camomell 3 or 4 spoonfuls in warme Posset ale morning & Euening it helps in a few days. Mir Turmarik & safron made into fine powder & drank twice or 3 times a day in Possett ale is Excelent good Dose or Lett the sik Person drink their own Vrin twice a day or ye Volatile fat of Vrin morning & Euening in Posset ale.

Jaundice - Another Cure - from English Dispensatory (Quincy) London, 1742

Take Hog-Lice [i.e. Wood lice or Sow bugs], half a pound, put them alive into two pound of White Port Wine, and after some Days Infusion strain and press out very hard, then put in Saffrom, 2 drams, salt of Steel, a dram and Salt of Amber, 2 scruples, and ater 3 or 4 Days strain and filter for Use.

For Sharpe & Dificult Trauel in Women with Child

Take a Lock of Vergins haire on any Part of ye head, of half the Age of ye Woman in trauill. Cut it very smale to fine Pouder then take 12 Ants Eggs dried in an ouen after ye bread is drawne or other wise make them dry & make them to pouder with the haire, giue this with a quarter of a pint of Red Cows milk or for want of it giue it in strong ale wort.

For the Shingles

Take howse leeke Catts blod and Creame mixed together & oynt the place warme or take the moss that groweth in a well & Catts blod mixed & so aply it warme to the plase whare the shingles be.

To Stench Bleeding in a Wound

Take a peec of Salt Beef & Rost it in the hott Ashes then make it Cleane & put it into the wound & the blood will stop imediatly.

Bleeding at Nose - from Compendium of Physick (Salmon), London, 1671

If the flux be violent, open a vein on the same side, and cause the sick to smell to a dried Toad, or Spiders tyed up in a ragg...the fumes of Horns and Hair is very good, and the powder of Toads to be blowed up the Nose...in extremity, put teats made of Swines-dung up the nostrils.

For Ye Plurisie

Take the Leaues of wild mallows & boyl them in Oyle & being taken out bray them in a morter & put them into a peece of Lining Cloth & applie it to the greue and presently it will Cause the paine to Cease.


There were many herb remedies as well, many of which were published in Nicholas Culpepper's The English Physician Enlarged in 1653.

Anemone - the juyce snuffed up the nose purgeth the head, it clenseth filthy ulcerts, encreaseth milk in Nurses, and outwardly by oyntments helps Leprosies.

Bedstraw - stancheth blood; boyled in oyl is good to annoynt a weary traveller; inwardly it provokes lust.

Burdoc or Clot-bur - helps such as spit blood and matter, bruised and mixed with salt and applyed to the plae, helps the biting of mad dogs. It expels wind, easeth paines of the teeth, strengthens the back...being taken inwardly.

Cottonweed - boyled in Ly, it keeps the head from Nits and Lice; being laid among Cloaths, it Keeps them safe from Moths; taken in a Tobacco-pipe it helps Coughs of the Lunges, and vehement headaches.

Dittany - brings away dead children, hastens womens travail, the very smell of it drives away venemous beasts; it's an admirable remedy against wounds made with poysoned weapons; it draws out splinters, broken bones, etc.

Fleabane - helps the bitings of venemous beasts. It being burnt, the smoke of it kills as Gnats and Fleas in the chamber. It is dangerous for women with child.

Hellebore - the root of white Hellebore, or sneezwort, being grated & snuffed up the nose, causeth sneezing, Kill Rats and Mice, being mixed with their meat. Doctor Bright commends it for such as are mad through melancholly. If you use it for sneezing, let your head and neck be wrapped hot for fear of catching cold.

Lovage - cleers the sight, take away redness and Freckles from the Face.

Mugwort - an herb appropriate to the foeminine sex; it brings down the terms, brings away birth and afterbirth, easeth pains in the matrix.

Penyroyal - strengthens women's backs, provokes the Terms, staies vomiting, strengthens the brain (yea the very smell of it), breaks wind, and helps the Vertigo.

Savory - winter savory and summer savory both expell wind gallantly, and that (they say) is the reason why they are boyled with Pease and Beans and other such windy things; 'tis a good fashion and pitty it should be left.

Wood Bettony - helps the falling sickness, and all headaches comming of cold, procures apetite, helps sour belchings, helps cramps and convulsions, helps the Gout, Kills worms, helps bruises, and cleanseth women after their labor.


Other Curative Terms of the Day

  • ABLUENT - a substance which thins, purifies, or sweetens the blood, commonly used in nineteenty-century England and colonial America

  • ACONITE - a medicine made from the dried root of the monkshood used to reduce fever, as a sedative, and as a painkiller

  • CATHARTIC - a purgative or strong laxative

  • LAUDANUM - any of various pain killing preparations in which opium was the main ingredient

  • LEECHES - used by physicians for letting blood

  • PANACEA - a universal remedy for all diseases

  • PHLEBOTOMY - the act of opening a vein for letting blood

  • POULTICE - a soft, hot, moist substance as of flour, meal, bran, flax seed, or similar substances, applied to sores, or inflamed parts of the body

  • QUININE - a bitter, crystalline alkaloid, extracted from cinchona bark, used especially in the treatment of malaria

  • SAXIFRAGE - a medicine that has the property of dissolving stones in the bladder

  • SNAKEROOT - any of a variety of plants supposedly good for snakebite, the most widely known being the Virginia snakeroot

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