Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ypsilanti's 1845 Pharmacopoeia

Huh? That thing in the driveway? Oh, that's Dusty Diary's time machine. Looks nice, doesn't it? I just polished it with my Sham-Wow. Like the bumper sticker? It's right there; it says "Historians Did It Yesterday." Just the right amount of tacky.

Yeah, it works--the only reason I'm not using it is because I'm a bit under the weather, and I'm not thrilled about medicine in 1845 Ypsilanti. You step on a nail back then, or even drink a glass of water in some houses, and you're out of commission with tetanus or typhoid. There's a reason life expectancy in Ypsi in the '40s was under 60.

Well, I know, the big general store in town, Samson's, carried dozens of herbal and chemical preparations. But I have no idea what half of them are. There sure isn't any Tylenol.

But for pain, there's plain old morphine, and quinine for malaria. Samson's offers a number of things regarded as emmenagogues, including oil of tansy, ergot, chamomile, digitalis, and oil of pennyroyal. You can also buy quicksilver (elemental mercury), or its derivative, calomel. There's the opium-based laudanum as well, for sleepless nights. And a number of seemingly harmless things such as rosewater and lemon syrup.

I guess I could take my first aid kit. But I'm not thrilled about the prospect of contracting malaria or cholera. Dusty Diary feels bad for the city's '40s residents, whose only medical resources were a weird mixture of herbs, heavy metals, and dubious concoctions.

1 comment :

Dusty D said...

Dusty D adores the word "pharmacopoeia." Don't you? 4 vowels in a row there and another one only a "p" away.

And yes I spell it encyclopaedia, just out of cussedness mostly.