When we look at Osborn’s first 5 formulas for consumption, several things come to mind. First, Consumption is the first disease he mentions in the manuscript, suggesting its importance at the time. Consumption was a term usually used to refer to a state of the tuberculosis disease, a highly infectious and often fatal disease. Consumption cases do at times not lead to death, in which case the organism responsible for the disorder or condition has become dormant and its spread through the lungs no longer such a rapidly worsening toll on day to day living activities.
It is impoirtant to not that the organismal cause for consumption was not known. Rather, it was considered to be a reaction to various internal and external factors in terms of the body. In some cases individual were felt to be conducive to developing this disease, a temperament or heredity proble,. Other times, cases were blamed on the inability of the body to acclimate to the local climate, weather, regional plant growth behaviors, and landforms (which impact winds, humidity, rainfall behavior, etc.). Once the colonial years had passed, scientists came to better understanding geology and soil and many came to speculate that such things a carbon-dioxide or sulphur rich rocks and soils could emit some sort of miasma capable of leading to this severe disease.
Since, during colonial times, the theories for disease often enabled one disease to become another, consumption was often assocaited with other medical conditions like the gout, pleurisy, asthma, etc. This single-cause based theory for disease remained the popular ideology, with differences between cases explained as a consequence of the types of causative agents involved and the differences individual can have with each other. All of these external factors were impacting the body. The reasons why they cause such an impact and the manner in which these agents impacted the body by one disease or another, was also not understood, only speculated upon. For this reason, the common thought about dealing with disease, or preventing it from worsening or impacting you if your family experienced the appropriate disease onsets due to their heredity, it was felt that individual had to find the ideal living situation so as to avoid this possible fate. Thus the emphasis on climate and topographic related studies on diseases during the colonial migration years.
The following summarizes Osborn’s first 5 recipes for consumption.
Electuaries or Linctuses.
Turlington’s Balsam of Life. Turlington’s Balsam of Life was a remedy for the treatment of Consumption (later known as tuberculosis). As a balsam, it was a fairly thick and viscous fluid and could have been rubbed across the chest and back, but the preferred method of administration was by the spoon due to its alcohol content. (Liniments, rubs and plasters would probably be made with thick resinous base, oil, and/or a more vaporous fluid base.)
Pectoral refers to lungs or chest; expectorate means to help eliminate the mucus and phlegm from breathing passages. The purpose of an expectorant is to help facilitate a cough that results in the expectoration of phlegm, which in this case typically included dead and diseased lung tissue, often becoming black over time as the disease progressed.
The aromatic components of this remedy are its gum styrax, gum benzoin and myrrh. The pulverized Angelica would have provided an additional aromatic component to this recipe, one that was both slightly more manageable to take in and one that complemented the overall resinous, semi-earthy nature of the myrrh’s smell.
The addition of allows to this recipe perhaps made it somewhat more palatable in the back of the throat. But this benefit of the aloe was probably second to another reasons for its use—the mucilaginous nature of the inner tissues of the aloe-leaf—this most certainly would meet up with the requirements for a pulmonary problem, one which often results in early onset symptoms including a phlegmatic cough, only to turn more black biliary during its final stages. In the four humours sense, the aloe would have balanced out the blackening of the sputum that occurs with time with this disorder, at least in some traditional sense. There is the like-treats-like philosophy potentially present here (treat white to clear phlegmatic cough with a white to clear gelatinous plant mass) or opposites-treat-opposites approach (balance out the blacked sputum of decaying lung tissue (black because it was tuberculi infected) with the white or clear phlegm pulled from the aloe).
The majority of these herbs have some biblical history or strong religious herbalism association.
Osborn sets this formula in the sun for a reason. The heating induced by the sun is more delicate than that of a fire, even by using the sandheat over a stove or fire. Myrrh is of course a very traditional resin. Gum benzoin has been associated with manna. Angelica is an herb associated with angels. St. John’swort is St. John’s Plant, with uses and possibly European origin of Germanic nature and descent.
There may be a significance to the number 10 for number of days.
Osborn notes this formula does weaken following its first preparation, but the same mash can be used twice again, forming a weaker (half-strength) preparation such that twice the amount has to be used. Osborn allows for this mash to be used a total of three times, not necessarily a trinity sign but certainly symbolic of this to those who believed. Paracelsian Alchemy and Boehmite natural philosophy also make mention of the value of trines in a “modern chemistry” sense for the time.
Developing the Aphorism
Quoted: That may very freely be Given in all astumac Disorders and Consumptions whare Expectrants are wanting as the practioner will Judge most proper
Re-stated: These remedies may be given freely in all asthmatic disorders and consumption when expectorants are needed, and when judged by the practitioner as the necessary treatment.