Magazine article The Spectator

Knowing Your Onions

Magazine article The Spectator

Knowing Your Onions

Article excerpt

Having fried your leeks in butter, form them into a poultice and apply it to your backside. No, not Heston Blumenthal's latest wheeze: instead the cure for piles advocated by William Buchan, 18th-century author of Domestic Medicine, now republished as Can On ion s Cu re Ea r-a ch e? (Bod leian Library, £14.99). The new title gives you a clue to Buchan's general style (poultice again). He also recommended holding burns near a fire and rubbing salt on them, while mere bruising called for the application of cow dung.

Gonorrhoea ('the fruit of unlawful embraces') could be defeated by rubbing mercury on the inner thigh. Bleeding was a particular favourite among Buchan's armoury - he championed it for measles, jaundice, ear-ache (before the onions, that is), and even after resetting a dislocated neck. …

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