May 272014

Regina Scott, whose latest print book is The Husband Campaign, shares with us some fads in medicine which held sway during the Regency. As she points out, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Regina’s article makes an interesting follow-up to Angelyn Schmid’s article on Sir Henry Halford, a fashionable Regency doctor, posted last week.

After reading this article, do you think you prefer medical fads from the Regency or those from modern times?

*         *        *

South Beach Diet. 30-minute workouts. Eat more vegetables. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. There’s always some new wisdom on the best way to stay healthy.

It’s nothing new.

Painting of a lady holding a baby on a pillow on her lap while she feeds it.

In the nineteenth century, a number of advances in medicine were made, including vaccinations, x-rays, and even washing hands before surgery! But among the general population, medicinal cures changed as quickly as the fashions.

According to La Belle Assemblee, in February 1807, somewhat facetiously: "It would be a mark of extreme vulgarity to make use of a medicine which is out of fashion; and those who have had the misfortune to commit such an error, may, indeed, congratulate themselves on their cure, but they must not boast of it."

Some of the fads said to cure all ills included:

  • Hot baths
  • Cold baths
  • Bleeding
  • Wine
  • Purgatives
  • Emetics
  • Electricity
  • Magnetism
  • Galvanism
  • Bark
  • Indian Chestnuts
  • Phosphorus
  • Ice
  • Gelatin

And 48 glasses of water a day!

Did we mention that for a good part of the century, most people didn’t have indoor plumbing? I don’t want to know where those 48 glasses of water came from.

Or where they went.

But God bless the Denver Airport for putting in WiFi! Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this (she said as she waited 8 hours after missing a flight home). Where’s that carriage and four when you need them!

© 2008 – 2014 Regina Scott
Originally posted at Nineteen Teen
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

  One Response to “Fashionable Medicine   by Regina Scott”

  1. Harriett Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was treated with “blue pills” a popular remedy of her time. They were actually mercury and the effect on her health was so bad she nearly lost her vision and control of her hands. It was the “water cure” that saved her. Another health fad, which had her soaking in the springs of Saratoga. Treatments included cold enemas and having her limbs wrapped in wet sheets until boils formed–proof that the cure was moving toxins to the surface instead of proof that the sheets were sour with bacteria. However, the water cure saved her life, allowing her to write one of the most important books in American history.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>