Osborn’s recipes are now beginning to take a more metaphysical approach to defining the cause and effect of disease. In this section, he discusses two conditions that he may have had a hard time finding causes for based solely on humoural philosophy: St. Anthony’s Fire or Erysipelas, and Shingles.
St. Anthony’s Fire is a name attributed to three types of medical conditions–ergotism brought on by fungal infected grains, an acute streptococcal bacteria- induced skin condition also known as Erysipelas,”Ignis sacer” or “Holy fire”, and Shingles or Herpes Zostera. Ergotism was common the parts of Western Europe for the most part, especially France and Germany but has a history of Russian affliction as well. Erysipelas was common to North American and was mostly due to group A strep species Streptococcus pyogenes. Osborn’s diagnosis of this disease may have also been linked to less severe cases in Osborn’s mind, which today we would diagnose as Poison Ivy, eczema, psoriasis, cellulitis, fascitis (bacterial induced skin or subdermal tissue decay), angioedema, and certain viral and skin cancer conditions.
This is one of the first times Osborn enters “in flamd” and “inflamations” into his vade mecum. So he was familiar with this concept, not necessarily as something implied by the humoural theory, but more an outcome induced by some other kind of natural event. In a traditional Boerhaavian sense, this event would have been related to alkalinity–Boerhaave’s claim was that alkaline imbalances in the body could also cause illness to occur aside from simple humoral imbalances.
For “in flamd” this break in the spelling may not have been unintentional on behalf of Osborn–‘flamed’ refers to fire, and Osborn’s treatment imply fire as being the natural substance being dealt with for this disease. Thus the recommendation of cooling purges to calm the heat or fire within. This fire “runs fast over the body” Osborn claims.
There is another aspect of the “fire” that deserves special mention. Like the ens that went out of control with feminine ailments, there is another form of ‘entia’ (for lack of a better Osbornian word) or spiritual entity related to the stench of drugs used to treat this St. Anthony’s Fire. Osborn writes “Take the blood of a cat and besmear the whole in flamd part.” This skin is later stripped off, and replaced with some new skin, “and when the Skin begins to Stink repeat.”
Another recipe for treating this condition with some metaphysical sense is his use of Duck’s Meat” growing in “boyling Springs”. This is the aquatic plant “duck’s meat” (those small green dots you see on the edge of lakes and in large field puddles). This is added to Hog’s Lard and White Lead to make an ointment and foment. The colors represent water or phlegm and cooling. The fact that the duck’s meat is growing in a boiling spring means that it is tolerant of heat; perhaps this gave Osborn the impression that this plant could tolerate the excess heat or fire causing the illness.
For the Shingles he recommends Lime Water and Sal Ammoniac. Sal ammoniac naturally forms in an around volcanic vents by way of the crystallation of Ammonium Chloride that is released (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sal_ammoniac). Again, here is implied the ability of this substance to tolerate heat. Sal ammoniac was considered onje of the four ingredients required in alchemy to make a metal, and is linked to George Starkey’s ens veneris or essence of venus, another ingredient used by Osborn (see the Feminine Remedies section).