He blew smoke where?

Sassafras albidum (with butterflies!)

Sassafras albidum (with butterflies!)

Snippets 92. Today’s quote is taken from The New British Jewel, or Complete Housewife’s Best Companion, published in 1788. It is a collection of cookery and other practical information, such as the following medical advice, not to be recommended nowadays!

A method has been lately found out to recover such persons as have been drowned, or in any other manner suffocated, provided they are not totally dead, which may not be for many hours after the accident happens. In the first place they suspend them with their head downwards near a fire, till such time as the body begins to warm, and throw out water by the aspera arteria. Then they foment the whole breast and seat of the heart with spirits of wine, elixir vitae, or bread dripped in strong wines. By such methods, if they are not quite dead, motion is again restored to the heart, which receives by degrees, the blood, which it afterwards repels to the arteries, till at length life entirely returns…

A young fellow about twenty-one years of age, a waterman in Passy in France, fell into the river about ten o’clock in the morning of the 24th of July, 1767, as he was then near the shore, he received a blow on his head in the fall, which stunned him, and the tide immediately carried him into the middle of the stream, where he was stopped by a great stone in about seven or eight feet water. The people who saw the accident immediately called for help, but it was half an hour before he was taken out, being brought to shore with a boat hook, without any signs of life; he was carried into a neighbouring house, and supposed to be dead; but a physician happening to come by at this time, blew up a great quantity of tobacco smoke by the anus, with a straw, and blew also the same smoke plentifully into his mouth and nostrils; the man very soon gave signs of life…

One only hopes he didn’t use the same straw! Passy is a commune (a sort of district) in south-eastern France. The “aspera arteria” is the windpipe. “Elixir vitae”, or “Elixir of Life”, is a term that is commonly used to refer to a mythical potion that prolongs life. However, elsewhere in The New British Jewel there is an explanation as to what exactly is being referred to here:

Take gum guaiacum eight ounces; balsam of Peru half an ounce, rectified spirits of wine one quart, digest them in a sand heat four days, then strain off the tincture, and add to it two drachms of distilled oil of sassafras; though this last article is often omitted.

So that poses more questions! Firstly, guaiacum is a flowering plant from subtropical and tropical regions of the Americas. Balsam of Peru has similar origins, produced from the myroxylon tree from Central America. A “drachm” is an obsolete unit of weight, equivalent to an eighth of an ounce. Finally, sassafras is a tree from North America and Asia.


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About Windows into History

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyardview.wordpress.com Administrator of frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com
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