John Moncrief, The poor man's physician (1731)

This book, authored by church minister John Moncrief and published in Falkirk, is a compilation of the recipes of numerous physicians and folk-healers.

It was created for a general audience rather than for medical professionals and was aimed specifically at those of a ‘poorer condition’.

Moncrief wrote that: ‘The Reader will observe, they are made up of plain and simple Ingredients, and consequently they may be useful for Persons who have not Access to, nor Money to bestow upon more costly Compositions’.

Because this text was compiled from a wide range of sources many of the treatments either duplicate or contradict one another. This is not a guide to follow page by page, but rather a list of options from which you could pick those that sounded the most promising.

Along with treatments for an array of conditions, from cancer and fevers to headaches and sore feet, it also contains recipes for the treatment of mental health-related complaints.

The below treatment is for a ‘cold distemper of the brain’. In it, tobacco, which was thought to heat the overly-cold brain, was added to the recipe, alongside the more traditional mustard seeds and issue (i.e. blister to the skin).

 

This recipe for 'the frenzy' includes a 'Whelp [puppy] cut up through the Midst of the Belly', water lily and opium.

 

The cure for 'involuntary weeping' includes shaving the head and placing leeches behind the ears.

 

This cure for madness includes honey, herbs and magical amulets. All items which would have been readily available to the text’s poorer readers.

 

Not all recipes were so innocuous, however. This cure for madness, the most extreme of the treatments contained in this volume, recommends to ‘geld [castrate] the patient’.

 

This book is one of many items on display in our exhibition ‘Moonstruck: 500 years of mental health’, which is open until Spring 2020. Find out more.

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