Domestic medicine in eighteenth century Scotland
Hatfield, Vivienne Gabrielle
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Throughout the eighteenth century the majority of the population of Scotland were dependent on their own home remedies for treating illnesses. Early in the century doctors were scarce and the difficulties of travel plus the high fees they charged put their services beyond the reach of most people. Even later in the century when roads improved and an increasing number of medical graduates were trained, in rural Scotland domestic medicine was still the only form of treatment available to many. The sources of eighteenth century domestic remedies were largely the same as the sources of orthodox medicine, namely traditional herbal recipes derived from the ancients, and from the mediaeval herbals. Such remedies were perpetuated by word of mouth, in ballads and songs, and in diaries, letters and kitchen books, as well as in printed books. The present thesis aims to illustrate the type of home remedy used, drawing mainly on primary sources, and using as examples various common eighteenth century ailments, such as scurvy, smallpox, consumption, etc. Home remedies changed little in the course of the century, but orthodox medicine underwent considerable changes meanwhile, with the reform of the Pharmacopoeia and the so-called "rationalisation" of medicine. The result was that home and orthodox remedies diverged and many traditional herbal recipes were discarded by the orthodox medical men, some of which may have been of real therapeutic value. Contrary to expectations, it has been found that home remedies were often less complicated than their contemporary medical counterparts. An attempt has been made to identify botanically the numerous plants mentioned, and to give some indication, in the light of present pharmacological knowledge, of their possible therapeutic value. Future analyses may even show that some of the eighteenth century herbal remedies could prove of clinical value in the future.
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