Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
Housewife's Rich Cabinet
Every Housewife Made a Doctor

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Every Housewife Made a Doctor

Home Remedies for Aches and Pains

Sarah Longe. Mrs. Sarah Longe her Receipt Booke. Manuscript, ca. 1610

Leonhart Fuchs. De historia stirpium. Basel, 1542.

"One of the ... principal virtues which doth belong to our English housewife," Gervase Markham declared in The English House-wife (1631), is the "preservation and care of the family." For her "many wholesome receipts or medicines," she used simples (medicinal herbs), fruits and vegetables, and animal products such as innards, urine, and dung.


The housewife doctored headaches, loose teeth, hemorrhoids, worms, bleeding noses, and even melancholy, venereal disease, and the plague. The Family-Dictionary by J. H. (London, 1695) recommended treating hemorrhoids as follows:

Take the sole of an old shoe worn by a man much used to travel; cut it into pieces, and burn it, yet neither to grey or white ashes, but to a friable and tender coal. Reduce it into an impalpable powder. Take then unsalted hog lard, and work it to an ointment, and anoint the afflicted part often therewith.

Picked from her own garden or bought from an apothocary, English housewives used herbs and medicines to care for their families, preserving their health when they were well and doctoring their pains, when they weren't.



Next »
  Additional Information

For A Cough:

"Take 3 spoonfuls of the best salad oil, 3 spoonfuls of vinegar, and sugar candy enough to sweeten it. Take it in the morning [after] fasting, and at night when going to rest."

From J. H., The family dictionary. London, 1695.



To Take Away Hoarseness:

"Take a turnip, cut a hole in the top of it, and fill it up with brown-sugar candy, and so roast it in the embers, and eat it with butter."

From Elizabeth Talbot Grey, Countess of Kent, A choice manual, or, rare and select secrets in physick and chirurgery. London, 1682.



Lemon Balm for Insect Stings:

"Dioscorides wrote that the leaves drunk with wine, or applied outwardly [to the sting] are good against the stings of venemous beasts."

John Gerard, The herball, or, general historie of plantes. London, 1597.

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623