Medieval Remedies

A Remedy for Chilblains

I’m sure all your mothers have told you many times not to put your cold feet too close to the fire. You will be sure to get chilblains and those itchy bumps will drive you crazy. But if you are foolish and ignore her advice, you might like to try a herbal remedy for them. So here it is:

Adder’s Tongue Ointment

Visit your local forest and gather the leaves of the Adder’s Tongue Fern when the moon is waning. The plant will be found in a dark, damp place, often near water. You will know you have found it by the spike in the centre of the plant which is thought to look like the tongue of a snake. Pound the leaves with your mortar and pestle until you have extracted a quantity of greenish oil. Mix the oil with a little hog’s grease to make an ointment. Coat a large broad leaf such as a dock leaf with the ointment and bind it about the chilblain to ease the itching and take away the inflammation.

And next time your toes are freezing cold – keep them away from the fire! Jump up and down to warm them up or rub them between your hands. It’s much safer!

Cowslip Expectorant – a decoction

If, like me, you had a bad cold over Christmas, you might be left with a blocked up nose or catarrh. Here’s a remedy using cowslips which you will soon see springing up everywhere in the countryside. In medieval times cowslips were called Saint Peter’s herb because of a legend that when Saint Peter dropped the keys to heaven a clump of cowslips sprang up where the heavenly keys touched the earth!

Take a clump of cowslips, preferably from your own garden as it is not environmentally friendly to pick them from the countryside. I have some in my garden, so if you can’t find any, you can email me and I will send you some! A decoction is made by simmering herbs or flowers. Put the cowslip flowers and a few cowslip leaves in a cauldron over a log fire and allow them to simmer gently for twenty or thirty minutes. The liquid result will be a greenish yellow fluid. Pour the hot liquid into a bowl and place a thick flannel cloth over your head and inhale deeply from the bowl. The fumes from the decoction should clear your head in no time at all.

Agnes Ferret’s cure for colds

Those of you who have read The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk will know that Agnes Ferret is Charlie Ferret’s mother. She is a village Wise Woman and has acquired a fine reputation for curing ailments. People come from miles around for her cures. Until she is suddenly accused of witchcraft, that is. If you want to know whether Agnes succeeds in evading the cruel witch-hunters of the sixteenth century you will have to read my book! But meanwhile, you might be suffering from a bad cold, like me, and might like to try her herbal ‘cure’ for yourself. I have tried it out and think it is very good. If you don’t have the ingredients in your garden or if you don’t have a garden at all, you can buy them in pots from a garden centre or in the dried form from your local supermarket. You can buy peppermint oil in most chemists.

Peppermint and Rosemary Inhalant

2 teaspoons of dried peppermint or 4 teaspoons of fresh peppermint

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon of dried lemon thyme or 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon thyme

3-4 drops of peppermint oil

Place the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour boiling water over the herbs. Place the bowl on a table. Breathe in the aromatic fumes with a towel over your head. Remember to breathe deeply and regularly until your head begins to feel clear.