10 Treatments for Your New Year’s Hangover: the Renaissance Edition

In light of tomorrow’s celebrations I have decided to compile a list of ten treatments for drunkenness or the after effects courtesy of two medieval sources.  One is a from the 14th century and the other from the 15th.  This list is complied just for fun.  I do not recommend that you try any of these.  I will not be testing anything this week, simply because getting drunk on purpose does not appeal to me at all.  However, feel free to read down the list and laugh (or be repulsed as the case may be).  Happy New Year!

1.  In order to be delivered from intoxication, drink saffron digested in spring water.Physicians of Myddfai #142, 14th century

2.  For vomiting.  Drink milfoil digested in warm wine, til a cure is obtained.  Another plan is to immerse the scrotum in vinegar (not specifically for drunkenness, but vomitting will rid your body of that excess alcohol)–Physicians of Myddfai #133, 14th century

3.  Another (for headache that cometh out of the stomach) Take an egg and roast it well in the coals and when it is hard, cleave it in two and, as hot as thou mayst suffer it, lay it to the head and it shall take away the aching–A Leechbook or Collection of Medieval Recipes from the Fifteenth Century #17
4.  To void drunkenness.  Drink the juice of leeks and it will void both drunkenness and lechery.–A Leechbook…Century, #270.
5.  To purge the head.  Take the juice of milfoil and saffron, and seethe them in sweet barley-wort; and give it to the sick to drink.–A Leechbook…Century, #458
6.  Another.  Take an apple that is called red steer or ricardon, and take out the core, and fill in the hole with saffron and ivory powdered, even portions; and eat such apples first and last.–A Leechbook…Century, #462
7.  An ointment for headache.  Mingle the juice of rue, oil of roses and vinegar,  and annoint therewith thy temples.–A Leechbook…Century, #663
8.  Another powder for the stomach.  Take powder of ginger, galingale, and mint, of each equally much; and use them each with a quantity of wine or ale at morn, and in sage at even.—A Leechbook…Century, #705.  *This might actually be of some value
9.  For filthied stomach.  Take four apples or crab(apples) suitable for medicine, and take out the cores, and fill the hole with powder of nutmeg and with mastic and of cloves, or with powder of pepper and of cumin.–A Leechbook…Century, #858
10.  For the liver.  Take four spoonfuls of water of roses and a spoonful of white wine, and half a spoonful of sanders.  And mingle these together, and lay it on a double-cloth of linen of the breadth of the hand, and lay it on the right side of the liver.–A Leechbook…Century, #1027
In closing I will leave you with some advice from The Physicians of Myddfai;
Seven Things Injurious to the Eyes–#47.  There are seven things hostile to the eye; weeping, watching, feasting, drunkenness, impurity, a dry film, and smoke (gee, thanks 13th century Welsh doctors, you have robbed New Year’s Eve of a lot of fun).

Helpful hints from the German Housewife: Stiffening Velvet

Earlier this week I started a velvet gown to ring in the upcoming SCA Twelth Night celebrations.  This gown gave me an oppurtunity to try a laundry hint from a 1523 housekeeping manual.  This manual is known as the Allerley Matkel.  I have referred to this manual before, notably for my artificial pearls and a stain removal solution.  You can look up those prior entries for more information if you wish. 

The trick to making a nice looking, properly fitting gown from this era is twofold.  First, you need proper underclothes.  Secondly, you need a stiff bodice.  Here is a painting of the gown I am inspired by.  It is a portrait of the artist’s mother, by Sofonisba Anguissola, circa 1550’s.


How do you get stiff velvet?  One way to do it is to use this recipe. 

To Make Velvet Stiff and Strong

Take four parts tragacanth and one part gum arabic,  Grind each separately, then mix in a bowl, add clear water, and let stand for one day and one night.  Then turn upside down the even side of the velvet, moisten a sponge with this liquid, and brush this side of the velvet, let dry.–entry 12, Allerley Matkel, 1523/4.


My Interpretation

I put four teaspoons of tragacanth, (which you can buy from incense retailers, pastry suppliers, and leather crafters, and Amazon) in my mortar and ground it to powder.  I added it to the bowl which already had one teaspoon of powdered gum arabic in it.  You can find gum arabic at Amazon and shops which sell pigments for paint.  After mixing my powders, I added 1/2 cup of water and stirred until the powders dissolved.  I stayed true to the text and let it sit for a day and a night (24 hours).  Finally, I took a sponge and applied my starch to the wrong side of my velvet bodice pieces.  After it dried overnight, this is what it looked like


The white, blotchy spots are the starch.  Suprisingly, this recipe worked.  My velvet is stiffer, and now strongly reminds me of the freshly ironed, starched shirts that my father always favored for work.  This will not replace proper undergarments of course, but it is perfect for those of you who might want to stiffen your hats, fans, and bodice for a more complete 16th century look.  Just be sure to apply it to the wrong side of your velvet.  You don’t want to ruin your nice fabric with unsightly white spots.  A further note; this is water soluble, so you might need to periodically reapply it to your garment.

Fifteenth Century “Confections for Phlegm”, aka Cough Drops

Tis the season for coughing and phlegm.   We are just getting over a nasty cold in my house but I still have a lingering cough.  I found this in MS 136 of the Medical Society of London.  I thought it might be fun to try, so here it goes.

Take a quart of clarified honey and melt it on the fire, and skim it fair; and look that thy fire be easy and soft (gentle) or else it will wax black; and seethe it till it be hard, and thus shall thou prove it; drop a drop upon a cold platter and anon it shall be hard.  And when it will do so, strew in it a pound of rye, little by little, till it be so thick you may not stir it; and then let it cool, and when it is cold, grind it to a powder and strew in it other good powders as thou see fit.  And strew them all this powder on a fair smooth board.  And then make thou batter of bean flour and wort; then take the seed of coriander or anise or anethe (dill); choose of these three which one thou wilt, and put into the batter the weight of the seed that thou likest; and then lay it on the board with the powder aforesaid.  and roll the seed upon the powder with a palmer (rolling pin) until it be round, and of the size of peas, or more, as thou wilt them.  And this confection is full good for the phlegm and for the breast.–A Leechbook or Collection of Medical Recipes of the Fifteenth Century, transcribed by Warren R. Dawson, 1934

Here is my redaction.  I reduced the recipe slightly.

1 cup of honey

rye flour (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 tbsp. of flavoring of your choice (anise seed, coriander, or dill)

I cooked my honey over low heat in a pot until it reached what candy makers refer to as “soft ball stage”.  Than means that you should be able to drop a bit in a glass of cold water and have the honey form a tiny ball.  It took about fifteen minutes on my stove for the honey to reach this point.  Nest I started mixing in the rye flour.  It took about 1 1/2 cups of flour before it formed a very thick paste.  I set it aside to cool for about ten minutes.  The recipe allows you to choose a flavor at this point, but I chose to divide my base mixture into thirds and flavor each third with a different flavor.  To make my confections (or drops)  I sprinkled my pastry board with powdered sugar and !tablespoon of flavoring.  I mixed the two ingredients together on the board and then rolled my honey/flour mixture in this coating until it was no longer sticky.  I pinched of small portions and shaped each peice before putting them on a lightly greased cookie sheet to dry.  Here is what they look like.  The flat disk shape is anise flavor, the cube is coriander, and the round shape is dill.  I will be bringing these guys (this reduced version made 11 dozen) to the fight practice/business meeting tomorrow so they can be sampled.  Here’s to hoping they have some effect!


P.S.–the results of my last poll have been tallied.  It looks like i will be translating and redacting a tooth powder recipe for next week.