Cornelius Osborn’s Materia Medica, ca. 1768



Lavendar   (Lavendula spp.; especially L. stoechas)

“Spt Lavend”            A Stoppage of ye Terms: p. 69, 73

                                 (with Hysteria)

Added to a Tea.

Many different species of Lavendar have been in use over the centuries.  Wooster Beach and Estes note the flowers of Stechas Lavendar from southern France to be the most popular Lavendar found in pharmacies during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

      Lavendar was once used as a food condiment and was felt to comfort an ailing stomach.  It has medicinal properties typical of many other aromatic plants.  It served as a warming tonic and aromatic.  A few drops of its essential oil were taken inwardly for their carminative effects to treat painful conditions such as rheumatism and to help relieve fatigue.  

      Parkinson described four different types of Lavendar; only two of which are of the Lavendula genus: Garden Lavendar, and Small Lavendar or Spike.  He speaks little of their use in “inward physicke”, stressing instead the outward application of their oil to treat “cold and benummed parts” and “the dryed flowers to comfort and dry up the moisture of a cold braine.”  Culpeper also felt Lavendar treated the effects of a cold head and brain and recommended it for falling sickness, dropsy, cramps, palsies, fainting, and to “provoketh womens courses”.  He warns against its use in certain cases due to its hot and subtle spirits.”

      These recommendations would go unchanged into the eighteenth century.  The London Pharmacopoeia reiterates the usefulness of Lavendar for treating numerous distempers of the head, nerves, and stomach, in particular falling sickness, palsy, convulsions, vertigo, loss of memory, dimness of sight, melancholy, and “Swooning Fits and Barrenness of Women”.  It was also recommended to relieve fatigue and exhaustion.  Both Lewis and Cullen note the use of Lavendar Oil for treating disorders of the head, nerves, and uterus.  Lewis recommends it for supressing “the menstrual evacuation”, and fomenting it upon paralysed limbs.  Cullen claimed it to serve both internally and externally as “a Powerful stimulant to the Nervous System…exciting the energy of the Brain to a fuller impulse of the nervous power.” 

      No doubt Osborn agreed with this philosophy and therefore concerned himself with treating the “nervous system” and the uterus when it came to properly managing the “High Stericks”.  His recommendation for the use of Spirit of Lavendar could have been accomplished in a number of ways.   A few drops of this oil may have been added to an infusion or decoction to produce a drink rich in the Spirit of Lavendar.  Alternatively, he may have been referring to the use of Compound Spirits of Lavendar made up of Lavendar, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Haematoxylon.  This is unlikely since this last recipe served more as a tonic and a treatment for Rheumatism, than as a treatment for “High Stericks”.

      See: Oil of Lavendar.


Leaden Mortar

“Leden mortr”                                      Piles: p. 42

Used to make an Ointment with herbs and Hog’s Lard.

The use of a Leaden Mortar for pounding together herbs and lard may have had an effect on the final unguent being prepared.  Lead causes preparations to turn to a gray-black color.  Dioscorides discusses this when he writes about “Molubdos peplumenos”, or Washed Lead:

“Casting water into a leaden mortar, beat it with a leaden pestle until that ye water grow black & become muddy: then strain through a linen cloth, pouring on more water, that all which is dissolved may be strained; and do ye same again until it seem unto thee to have enough:  then letting that which is washed settle, pour out that water and pour in other…until that any blackness no longer stands upon it.  Having made trochiscks thereof, set it up…”

These trochiscks (troches) were rich in Lead, a highly astringent medicine.   Although it was considered by some, such as Cullen, to be highly toxic, it was difficult to tell how far to employ the astringent properties of this metal.  Dioscorides recommends his trochiscks for a number of reasons including “to force, to cool, to bind, to stop ye pores, to fill up hollownesses, to stay the rhumes that fall into ye eyes, & ye fleshy excrescencies of ulcers.”   As for the treatment of the piles and related disorders he adds:  “it is also a blood-stauncher, & good for ye ulcers in the seat, for ye Condylomata, and Haemorrhoids with Rosaceum…”

      Osborn uses another Lead-based preparation for its strong astringent effects–the Red Lead Plaster, or Emplastrum de Minio, for treating cases of mortification that occur due to Rheumatism.

      See Emplastrum de Minio.


0_Untitled-13 copy    Leather Bark        (Dirca spp., esp. D. palustris; Thymelea sp.; Daphne Mezereum; or Chamaedaphne calycuta)

“Lether bark”                                   Pleurisy: p. 35  

Decoction for a Constant Drink. 

An Expectorant for coughing.

The exact identification of the Leatherbark Dr. Osborn refers to is uncertain. Chamaedaphne (commonly referred to as Leatherleaf) is a possibility.  It is found growing in association with oak-bogs in Dutchess County.  [Reynolds, et al..]   As a relative of the official blistering agent, Mezereon (Daphne mezereon), Chamaedaphne has similar medicinal effects.  (Daphne has also been called Leatherwood.)  The common name used by Osborn, Leatherbark, may also be referring to Dirca and Thymelea; Leatherwood and Leatherbush, resepctively, are their common names. 

      Dr. Osborn is most likely referring to Dirca palustris.   In America’s first materia medica/herbal Barton describes this newly discovered medicinal tree.  He recognised it as a blistering agent, noting that Indians used a decoction of the bark of its roots as a cathartic.  In North America, Dirca grows from Ontario to Florida, alongside streams and rivulets.  It also grows in France.

      Aside from serving as a blistering agent, it is used as an expectorant. an emetic, a sudorific and an alterative for brewing up tonics.   Dr. Osborn specifically recommends it for use only as an expectorant.  He does not mention its potential use as a blistering agent.  Blistering is recommended several times in his manuscript as a treatment option.  Leatherbark was one of the numerous blistering agents available to him.


Lenitive Electuary; Electuarium Lenitivum

“Elect Lenitive”                            Piles: p. 42

An Internal treatment for Hemorrhoids;

a strong Laxative.

Also known as Confectio Senna, “Lenitive” refers to its action as a soothing or softening medicine.  This medicine was often employed as a mildly cathartic lozenge.

      Several recipes are noted for this in the Official pharmacopoeia guides.  Buchan wrote:

“Take of Senna, in fine powder, eight ounces; coriander seed, also in powder, four ounces; pulp of tamarinds and of french prunes, each a pound.  Mix the pulps and powders together, and with a sufficient quantity of simple syrup, reduce the whole into an electuary. 

      “A tea-spoonful of this electuary, taken two or three times a-day, generally proves an agreeable laxative.  It likewise serves as a vehicle for exhibiting more active medicines.”

      Another recipe for “Electuarium Lenitivum” is found in the London Dispensatory:

                  Proportion of the Ingredients

      Dried Figs                         38, 4

      Leaves of Sena                25, 6

      Half Pulp of Tamarinds       19, 2

      Cassia                                  19, 2

      Ounce French Prunes   19, 2

      Coriander Seed                12, 8

      Liquorice                             9, 6

      Double refin’d Sugar       96, 0


                                              240, 0 Grains

      A similar recipe is found in the Edinburgh Dispensatory:

Roots of the Polypody        

                              of the Oak  1, 9875

Leaves of Mercury       , 9937

Fenugreek Seed                , 9937

Linseed                       , 9937

Spring Water               190, 8

Leaves of Sena                1, 9875

Coriander Seeds         0, 4968

Honey                 23, 85

Pulp of Damask Pines    11, 9250

Pulp of Cassia                5, 9625

                              Grains  239, 9905

      This Electuary (Electuarium Lenitivum pro Clystere) was applied by Osborn as a Clyster, or Enema, for the treatment of hemorrhoids.  A recipe for the Clyster form of this medicine is given by James:

Roots of the Polypody of Oak      2 Ounce

Leaves of Mercury                      ”

Fenugreek                                    ”

Senna                                  ”

Coriander                           A Half Ounce

Honey                             2 Pounds

Add Spring Water; and heat it to make a Syrup.

Take Damascus Prunes Pulp and Cassia fistularis Pulp, add to shapen.

      The French or Damascus Prunes that are referred to in all of the above recipes come from Prunus domestica var. Damascena; this is the variety of prune that served as the Official medicine and was used as a laxative.  In the Edinburgh recipe, Mercury refers to either Mercurialis annua, or M. perennis; their leaves served as an Official cathartic and alterative.  Cassia fistularis refers to Senna, a strong and effective laxative.  For more information on “Roots of the Polypody of Oak” see Rock Polypodium.



Lesser Centaury

(Centaurium minus; C. ramoissimum; C. umbellatum)

“Leser Sentury”         Dr. Ferdinand’s Recipe: p. 78

      Recipe for the Consumption.

During the early nineteenth century, this was considered “One of the most efficacious bitters indigenous to the United States.”  It served as a valuable substitute for Gentian, and was considered a effective stomachic, emmenagogue, and febrifuge.    

      Dioscorides used “Kentaurion mikron” to treat wounds, ulcers, and expel “cholerick and grosse humors through ye belly,” a treatment reminiscent of its use by Osborn for the treatment of Consumption.

      The “Ordinary Small Centaury” was felt by Culpeper to be strongly influenced by the Sun.  When boiled and imbibed, he felt it would “purgeth choleric and gross humours, and helpeth the sciatica: it openeth obstructions of the liver, gall, and spleen…”  He notes that there was a red and a yellow Centaury, for treating blood and liver problems, respectively.  

      During the eighteenth century Centaurium was considered by some to be a species of Gentiana.  There were two recognised Centauries, C. majoris and C. minoris (C. minus), both of which were considered medicinal.  The root of C. majoris was used as a vulnerary, a used predicted by the Doctrine of Signatures due to its glutinous qualities. The flowering tops of C. minoris served as an aperient-bitter.  Barton notes the similarity of the Lesser Centaury to the Gentians and accepts “Gentiana Centaurium” as its Latin name.  He describes it with the rest of the tonics, recommending it as a bitter.  The “Leser Sentury” (C. minoris?) recommended by Osborn probably grew locally in pastures and corn and wheat fields.


Licorice Root  (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

“Lickrish root”         Dr. Ferdinand’s Recipe: p. 78

      Recipe for the Consumption.

This herb originated in Southern Europe and is found in numerous recipes for beverages and medicines.  It effectively disguises the nauseating taste of many herbal preparations.  As an absorbant root powder, it aided in pill-making.  It major uses as a medicine include as a sweetener, demulcent, emollient, and pectoral.  It purportedly coats and soothes the inflamed surface of a sore throat or laryngitis.  Lung disorders such as bronchitis and consumption were treated with it as well.   

      Dioscorides referred to this herb as “Glukoriza”.  Of its roots he wrote: “ye juice is good for ye shapenesses of ye Arterie, but they must put it umder ue toungue to let it melt.”  Aside from recommending it for treating “ye griefs of ye Thorax”, he notes it to be of service as a medicine for indigestion, “kidney griefs”, “ye stomach”, and “ye liver”. 

      Parkinson felt it useful for treating coughs, asthmatic conditions, a shortness of breath, and “to helpe to digest and expectorate the flegme out of the chest and lunges”.  A recipe for a Lohock is given incorporating Hyssop Water, Rose Water, and Tragacanth. This medicine was used “to break flegme, and to expectorate it, as also to avoyde thin frothy matter, or thin salt flegme, which often fretteth the lungs.” Culpeper wrote of very much the same.

      A description of Licorice root and how to make a  candy is given by Pomet.  The root is reddish with a gold-colour within; dried root is considered best.  “They make of Liquorice and warm Water, a strong yellow Tincture, which afterwards is evaporated over the Fire, to a solid Consistence, till it becomes black, and is what we call black Liquorice Juice…”  This is formed into cakes of different shapes and sizes, “black without, and shining black within”.  Each cake should be easy to break.  The juice and cakes may be used to make medicines.

      During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Licorice was added not only as a flavorant, but also to neutralize the constipating effects of Opium.  Lemery considered it “one of the best Pectorals in the World.”  In spite of this, Osborn make no mention of it except as a part of Ferdinand’s Recipe. 


Lignum Vitae  (Guaiacum officinale)

“Lignum vite”                              Decay state: p. 12

      Used in “a Dia-Drink Beer for all Decay…

      for old lingering disorders of the Hectic kind.”

“Lignum vita”                 Dr. Ferdinand’s Recipe: p. 78

      Recipe for the Consumption.

Guaiac is best known for its use as an anti-venereal drug during the 1500s.  It was brought over from Hispaniola to Europe in 1508 and quickly gained recognition as a remedy for Syphilis.

      Pomet referred to the wood of this tree as Lignum sanctum, or Holy Wood.  It was brought from the West and East Indies on ships in large Billets or Logs.  The best wood was used to make Turnery-Ware such as bowls, mortars, pestles, and “Rowling Pins”.  Surgeons would then “chuse the Shavings or Raspings to make their Ptisans and sudorific Drinks”.  He notes:  medicinal wood should be clean, black-brown, resinous, hard and slightly acrid.  Guaiac resin was used as well as its wood shavings. (see Guaiac). 

      This wood served as an important source for several kinds of medicines.  Aside from serving as a highly popular treatment for Syphilis, the shavings also served as a mild laxative and diuretic, and were considered a specific remedy for rheumatism, arthritis and gout.  Working as an acrid-stimulant, they could raise body heat and increase circulation suggesting a reason for their effectiveness as a treatment for Consumption and Decay.  Pomet notes: “From this Wood is begotten Flegm, Spirit, and a black Oil which is thick and foetid…It is one of the greatest Sudorifics we know at present.”

      Guaiaci Compositum, Decoctum was developed as a  treatment for the “foulness of the blood and juices”, combatting excess phlegm, and counteracting heavy catharsis due to recipes containing Mercury and Antimony.  It consisted of Guaiac, Sassafras, Licorice root, and Currants.


Lime Water

“Lime water”                                    Shingles: p. 58

Lime water, also known as Liquor Calcis and Aqua Calcis, is now known to be a solution of Calcium Hydroxide (Ca(OH2) in distilled water.  It is a clear, colorless liquid that was most often used to check nausea.  In his Materia Medica, Fuller gives the following recipe:

Take of Quick-lime, sixteen Ounces; Spring Water, a Gallon; stir them well together; afterwards let it stand to settle, and strain off clear.

By mentioning Quicklime, Fuller is referring to the astringent-tonic Calcium Oxide.  His recipe was very much like the recipe found in Lewis’s Materia Medica and the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia which recommended the use of calcined Oyster shells as a substitute for fresh burnt Quicklime.  Cullen differs in his discussion of Lime-water, he details the use of Magnesia. 

      Quicklime was used both internally and externally to treat a variety of disorders.  Fuller recommends it internally for the treatment of “saline Humours… Catarrhs, the Phthisic, Dropsy, Diabetes and old Ulcers.”  Externally, he used it for “Inflammations, Burns, the Erysipelas, Herpes (the Shingles?), Gangrene, dropsical Swellings, and eating Ulcers.” 

      Lewis also mentioned its use for the treatment of several internal disorders including cases of stones, scrophula, women’s weaknesses, “laxity and debility of the solids” and the “alvine fluxes.”  Externally, he felt it to be an effective wash for foul ulcers, eluding perhaps to its use for the treatment of Shingles as was practiced by Osborn. 


Loaf Sugar

“Loaf Shuger”                               Consumption: p. 3

      Electuary of Linctus recipe.

“Shuger”                                        Gravel: p. 55

      Used with Oil of Juniper as a vehicle for the   administration of a medicine.

“Shuger”                  “A Stoppage of the Terms”: p. 69

      Used with Ol. Succin; added to a tea.

Sugar not only served as a food supplement but also as a basic ingredient for many medicines such as syrups, elixirs, and lohocks.  Certain drugs such as bitters, and strongly and/or obnoxiously aromatic essential oils, such as Juniper, could be administered by placing drops of the extract or oil on pieces of sugar, i.e. the lump or the “cube”.

      By the eighteenth century Sugar Cane was being grown in plantations down in the Carribean, the main plantations were in Jamaica.  This sugar was extracted from the cane, and because of its moisture content, then formed into loaves for transport to the colonies.  After it was purchased by some homeowner, it had to be scraped off the loaves for use. 

      Pomet describes this sugar and its importance as a medicine:

      “Of Sugar…if you chuse it for Colour, the whitest is the best; then next to the White is that of the Cream Colour…and lastly the Red.  If you chuse it from the Making, the treble refin’d is the best, and that which is form’d into the Loaf, the whitest of which will look like driven Snow.

      “It is good for the Brest and Lungs, to smooth their roughness, take away Asthma’s Hoarseness, ease Coughing, and to attenuate and cut the Flegme, afflicting the Fibres of these Parts..but is reputed bad for such as are troubled with Vapours and hysterick Fits”

He also recommends it for dealing with problems with the Kidneys and Bladder.  Not surprisingly, he warns of its overuse stating: “but being constantly used, (it) rots and decays the Teeth.”

      Pomet also makes mention of several recipes that were very popular and made with sugar:  the Sugar of Roses, a Maple Syrup preparation, and “the famous Syrup of Maiden Hair of Candia” made using sugar that is “of a grayish Colour.” (See Maiden Hair fern.) 


Macleen’s Electuary

      “Macleens Electury”       ye Fever, ye Ague, ye Cure: p. 59

      “mc:cleens Elect”                    3d Day Ague: p. 61

A Proprietary medicine.  Possibly Macleen’s Strengthening Cordial:

      Rx    Gentian           8 oz.

Columbo           8 oz.

Orange Peel 2 oz.

Serpentaria 1 oz.

Cardamom          1 oz.

Whiskey        1/2 oz.

Glycerine         7 pints

Water       sufficient.

      The powders are mixed together and then added to the fluids.  Percolate.  Filter.  Add sufficient water to make one gallon. [Ebert & Hiss. The Standard Formulary (1896)].

      NB: Glycerine was not included in the recipe by Osborn.  A substitute for Glycerine and Water, sufficient to produce an Electuary rather than a Cordial, may have been used instead, for example, a syrup comprised of Loaf Sugar and Water.  Another suitable and more available alcohol beverage such as West India Rum was used instead of Whisky.


Madiera Rum/Wine

      See: West India Rum; Wine


Magnesia alba

“magnesea alba”                           Pleurisy: p. 36

Used as a Cooler or Coolant.

This medicine is comprised primarily of Magnesium Carbonate (MgCO3), mixed with a little Magnesium Hydroxide (Mg(OH)2).  Some historians have noted that it may also be prepared from Dolomite Powder (MgCO3*CaCO3).  Natural sources for this Dolomite are the rocky protuberances in and near Hyde Park and Rhinebeck, New York.

      It is a light-weight, white powder or friable mass that is odorless and of a somewhat earthy taste.  In regular doses it serves as an absorbant and an antacid.  In large doses it is a cathartic.  Other values attributed to this medicine included its ability to perform as an astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic, lithontriptic, and anthelminthic.  Osborn’s main reason for its use is for its diaphoretic or coolant properties.


Maidenhair Fern

(Adiantum spp. esp. A. capillus-venerus; A. pedatum)

“madenher”,                         Consumption: p. 3

      “Surrop of”

“madenhair”,                               Consumption: p. 4

      “Strong Tinctr of”

      Made with Rum for Pectoral “Balsam of Hunney”

“madenhair”                          Consumption: p. 8


“madenheair”                               Consumption: p. 10

      Tea–a (Constant) Drink.

“madenhair”                         Decay State: p. 12

      Tea to drink with a Balsam

      and a Dia-Drink Beer.

The chief constituents of Maidenhair are tannins and mucilage.  The tannins make it act as a astringent, capable of stopping capillary problems, in particular bleeding.  The mucilage had limited use in herbal medicineexcept to serve as a phytognomonic clue.   Numerous varieties of fern are found in Dutchess, Ulster and Putnam counties.  Several of which may have served as medicines, although this is highly unlikely.  The most probable fern-derived herbal medicines taken advantage of during the eighteenth include the spleenworts and maidenhair ferns.

      Pomet notes the ferns in general to be “little Plants that are brought whole to us from several Parts…”.  Several species of Ferns known as the True Maidenhair are used for medicine, including the local Adiantum pedantum.  Pomet decribed two Maidenhairs: the Canadian Maidenhair, Adianthum album Canadense, and Adianthum album Monspeliense of Montpontelier.  Lemery described a Brazilian variety.  The True European Maidenhair is native to Italy and southern France.  Also noted is Asplenium trichomanes, commonly known as the Maidenhair Spleenwort, which sometimes served as a substitute or adulterant for True Maidenhair.

      Lewis considered the official or True Maidenhair to be Adianthi veri.  In his description he notes: “This is a low evergreen herb, and one of those which, from the slenderness of their stalks, are called capillary.”  Thus its name, and its phytognomonic use as an astringent.  Lemery adds, these stalks are of a purplish-red colour and bearing a little phlegm.

      The Maidenhair was called “Adianton” by Dioscorides.  He states: The decoction of ye herb being drank is of force to help ye asthmaticall, Dyspnoeicall, Ictericiall, Splenicall, (and) dysureticall…with Labdanum & with Oleum Myrtinum & Sufinum, or else Oesypum, & wine it staies ye falling hair.”  The same was said for the “Trichomanes”, the Maidenhair Spleenwort mentioned by (Reynolds and ?….)?

      By the 16th century, herbalists were writing about the Doctrine of Signatures for this herb.  John Gerard wrote: “it maketh the haire of the head of beard to grow that is fallen of pulled off.”  A century later, Cupeper would also recommend it for dealing with problems of the hair.  In addition, he felt that it “helpeth those that are troubled with cough, shortness of breath, yellow  jaundice, diseases of the spleen, stoppage of urine, and very good for the stones of the kidneys.”   He claimed it to be cleansing of the lungs and rectifying of the blood. 

      The use of Maidenhair to treat lung problems probably relates to another phytognomonic clue.  It is capable of producing a mucilaginous tea that served as a demulcent and was used for all kinds of lung disorders including coughs, colds, asthma, pleurisy and consumption.  Lewis celebrated it as a medicine for both bleeding and phlegmatic disorders of the breast.  He notes that 18th century medicine paid little regard to it so it could not be found in typical apothecary shops.

      According to Pomet, the best syrups prepared were made from “the newest, most green, and least broken plants you can get…” and should be “Amber-colour’d, of a good Taste and Consistence, smelling neither foul nor musty, truly made in Canada, and as clear and transparent as possible.”  There was also a Southern Syrup, red in color, and a white Syrup made with distilled water and tasting very sweet.  Syrups were prescribed primarily to help “Diseases of the Breast.”  Conserves of Maidenhair were made, but were scarce.

      The lack of any official fern-derived herbal medicine for Dr. Osborn gave the local herbalists plenty to do as they went about gathering ferns alongside cliffs, on shady forest floors, and in the sizeable marshlands in Dutchess County. 


Manna        (Fraxinus ornus)

“Manna”                                   Green Purges: p. 77

“Manna”                       Dr. Ferdinand’s Recipe: p. 78       Recipe for the Consumption.

This tree is also known as Manna Ash or European Flowering Ash.  During the eighteenth century it flourished in southern Europe, especially Calabria, Italy and Sicily.  According to Pomet, there is a second Manna, Calabrian Manna, that came from “Larch Trees grow’g nigh Briancon in Dauphiny”.  Both produced a sweet exudate known as Manna gum. 

      Manna gum was cherished for its mystic origins and sweet flavor.  It was often found naturally occurring in concrete lumps on the plant, “exsiccated and purified by Art.”   Lemery described one legend regarding this mystical medicine: 

      “The word Manna comes from the Hebrew word ‘Man’ which signifies a King of Bread, or something to eat; for it has been receiv’d among the Antients, that Manna was a Dew of the Air…resembling that which God rained down upon the Israeilites in the Desert for Food.”

Pomet wrote further on the discovery of this gum:

“The Arabians look’d upon the Manna to be a sort of airy Honey, or a Dew that falls from the Heavens: and this was a common receiv’d Opinion for many Ages; but Angelus Sala and Bartholomaeus as Urbe veteri, two Franciscan Friars, who, in 1545, publish’d commentaries upon Mesus, were the first that I know of, that in their Writings affirm’d Manna to be truly the concreted Juice of the Ash tree.”

      Although it flows like a liquor, the official medicine was purchased as “Lumps…(that) look as if they were sprinkled with Syrup” and of a sweet taste like sugar.  Pomet: “That which we call and sell now, by the Name, of Manna, is a white crystalline Liquor that flows without incision, and with incision from both the wild and domestick Ashes, which the Italians call Fraxini and Orni.”  Manna flakes were also highly valued as a medicine.  A counterfeit for Manna was described by Lewis and consisted of sugar and honey mixed with scammony resin.

      As a medicine Calabrian Manna was most cherished. In general the Mannas served as mild laxatives, though they were capable of causing flatulency and distension of the abdomen.  They were often mixed with other more potent laxatives.  The London and Edinburgh Pharmacopoeias recommended Manna to be added to the Electuary and Lohock recipes of Senna. 

      Manna was also used for balancing the Humours, treating bilious Distempers, and treating “others attended with Inflammations, such as Hemorrhoids, Pleurisy, and Peripneumony.”  For patients afflicted with vomiting, like the Green Purges, Pomet recommends: “take of Calabrian Manna, Tartar Emetick…dissolve them in a Quart of Whey, and let the Patient drink this by Cupfulls.”  Manna was considered an excellent Purge for Children of “weak Constitutions, and abound with sharpe Humours.”  He felt it “opens Obstructions of the Breast, Lungs, and other Bowels, purges water Humours, and keeps the Belly soluble…”, again suggesting its use as a remedy for the Green Purges.  Finally, it served as a diuretic.  Dr. Osborn’s use of Manna Gum closely resembles these recommendations for treating certain imbalances of the four humours; in particular those involving excess phlegm. 


Marigold        (Calendula officinalis)

      “merigold”              Dr. Ferdinand’s Recipe: p. 78


Marsh Mallows        (Althaea officinalis)

“mash malla” roots                        Consumption: p. 10

As a part of a syrup to be taken with a Balsam.

An assortment of Mallows are found growing in Europe and America.  The Official Mallow, Althaea, is indigenous to moist regions in Europe; in North America it has escaped from herb gardens and can be found growing along river banks and marshy places.

      Exemplary of phytognomonics, the medicinal virtues of Mallow relate to its slimy or mucilaginous nature.  Parkinson wrote: “All sorts of Mallows, by reason of their viscous or slimie quality, doe helpe to make the body soluble, being used inwardly, and thereby also help to ease the paines of the stone and gravell, causing them to be more easily vvoided.”  Culpeper felt that a decoction of the seeds could perform “marvelous cures”, treating a variety of disorders of the chest and lungs.

      In general, Mallow served as an emollient during the eighteenth century.  By then the roots were considered strongest.  They were used to produce a gummy extract which was used to make cooling plasters, pastes, etc.

      As for the treatment of consumption, Althaea was considered a medicine for treating “sharp defluxations of the lungs”.  It dealt with sore throat, hoarseness, and coughs.  Syrup of Althaea was devised around 1593 and named after Dr. Jean Fernel of Paris.  Later, its addition to other syrup recipes, as Osborn is doing here, was done to take advantage of its demulcent activities.


McMunn’s Elixir

A Proprietary Formula.

To produce this medicine, an aqueous Tincture of Opium is first prepared (See Opium).  This tincture is then deodorized of its “noxious and useless ingredients” by adding Gum Benzoin, and then separating the residue from the tincture.  Alcohol is then added to the aqueous part to preserve it.



      “molases”                                 Bilious Colic: p. 40


Morrison’s Pills

      “morrisons pill”                    Bilious Colic: p. 39

A Proprietary medicine.

Ebert & Hiss’s The Standard Formulary gives the following recipe:

                 Colocynth               10 grains

                 Gamboge                 20 grains

                  Aloes                         30 grains

                  Cream of Tartar   40 grains

Mix.  Used to produce 3 grain pills.

Metheglin (and Mead)

“metegolen”                              Decay: p. 13

      A Stomach Bitters recipe.

      Appetite Stimulant; anti-febric.

“(recipe) no. 8”                        Dropsy: p. 26

“(recipe) no.7”  “A Stoppage of ye Terms”: p. 71, 72

Both of these beverages, metheglin and mead, employ fermented honey.  Mead is fermented honey, and metheglin is the same with spices added for more flavor.  The Honey had to be clarified before being used to produce Mead and Metheglin.  Lemery wrote:  “All the preparations of Honey are Pectoral and Diuretick.” 

      The recipe he gives for Mead is:

One Part clarified Honey, eight Parts boiled water, and warm Yeast are added together.  Next:

      add: Clove, Nutmeg, Cinnamon,                   Lemon, and Ginger. (Presumably to         serve as Aromaticks)

      add: Thyme, Marjoram, Mint,         Balm,             Rosemary, and Cowslip. (Presumably             to serve as Alteratives)

      add: Sweet Brier, Eryngo,                       Tamarisk, etc.(Presumably to serve       as Diuretics)

His recipe for Metheglin:

      Take one Part Honey and two Parts Water.  Add Balm, Sage, Rosemary, Angelica, Geranium moschatum, Mint, Thyme, Bay leaves, Roman Wormwood, Oregano, Nutmeg, Mace, Cloves, Cinnamon, and Ginger.  Boil.  Then add Black Currants and other “Raisins of the Sun”.

      Osborn made extensive use of this type of drink as a Diet Drink for the treatment of numerous health problems. 


Motherwort   (Leonurus cardiaca; L. marrubiastrum)

“mother wort”     “Barring Down of the Matrix”: p. 74


“mother worth”                “The Epilepticks”: p. 80


      “Administered to part affected/afflicted.

Motherwort is best known for its use for treating feminine problems/disorders.  Still, this herb has also served as a tonic-diaphoretic, a febrifuge, an anti-spasmodic, a nervine to treat hysterics, and a cardiac stimulant.  It was once considered a powerful remedy for wicked spiritedness.

      Gerard called this “Hercules Ironwort”.  He primarily recommended it for “stopping infirmities against the heart”.  Culpeper’s impression of this herb was that it was a Venetian herb, “which deals well with the vapours of melancholy upon the heart.”   He adds: “There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it, to make the mind cheerful…It cleanseth the chest of cold phlegm…it makes women joyful mothers of their children, and settles their wombs…”.   Brief mention is made of its use to treat “the Epilepticks” by using it “to dry up the cold humours, to digest and disperse them from from the veins, joints, and sinews.”

      Lewis describes it as having a bitter taste and a “pretty strong smell”, suggesting why it was used by Osborn for a suffumigation bath therapy in order to deal with problems with the matrix.  He also mentions its use for treating hysteric disorders as well as strengthening the stomach and promoting the urine, but makes no direct connection with its efficacy for dealing with the epilepsy.

      Motherwort was rejected for use as a medicine by the London and Edinburgh Dispensatories during the early eighteenth century.   


Mugwort   (Artemisia vulgaris)

“mugwort”                                High Stericks: p. 73

Made into an Infusion or Tea.

Dioscorides described several kinds of Artemisia.  He referred to this Artemisia as “Artemisia monoklonos etera”.  Of Artemisias in general, he notes both can be warm and extenuate.  As a specific medicine for women, he felt “it helps very much women (with the) womb–strangled”.  Gerard quotes both Diocorides and Pliny the Elder who recommended this herb for treating all women’s diseases. 

      Culpeper felt it was good for “women to sit over to draw down their courses, to help the delivery of their birth: as also for the obstructions and inflammations of the mother.”

      During the eighteenth century, Mugwort’s use as an anti-hysteric was commonly practiced.  Lewis recommends that the leaves be used due to their light, aromatic smell, and bitter taste.  To him, recipes such as infusions were “celebrated as uterine and anti-hysteric”.  He later gives a recipe for Aqua Artemisiae or Artemisia Water:  fresh Mugwort leaves (“as much as you please”) are added to a sufficient quantity of water with a little yeast.  This is let to stand in a warm place until fermentation begins; it is then distilled “according to Art”.  This recipe was highly esteemed as a uterine tonic, yet it was scarcely kept in apothecary shops. 

      Cullen notes Mugwort to be a “foetid plant” and therefore recommends its use as an anti-spasmodic.  To him it was because this herb is considered weak that it is not found in the London Dispensatory.     

      Two other Artemisias were popular medicines as well: Southernwood and Wormwood. (See: Southernwood; Wormwood).     



      “merrah”                            Consumption: p. 6

      See Gum Myrrh.


Mustard seed  (Brassica or Sinapsis spp., or close relative(s))

(Brassica spp., esp. B. alba for White Mustard and   B. nigra for Black Mustard.)

(Or, Sinapsis spp.; esp. S. alba and S. nigra.)

(Alternatively: Thlaspi arvensis, Treacle Mustard,  and Erysimum sp., Hedge Mustard.)

“fine musterd Seed”                         Rheumatism: p. 48

“musterd Seed in pouder”            Sciatica/Hip Gout: p. 50

Used to make medicinal beverages.

A number of plants bear ‘Mustard’ as part of their common name.  Although quite different from each other, the many varieties of Mustards and their relatives have similar medicinal virtues.  As a consequence, it is reasonable to assume that Osborn may have used any of  the wild varieties when the official Mustard seed (Brassica spp.) was not available.  Other Mustards used included Hedge Mustard (Erysimi), and Treacle Mustard (Thlapsis).

      Mustard was cultivated for its value as a spice, a food, and medicine. The Official Mustard was usually found in herb gardens as well as growing in the wild.  Its medicinal virtues were attributed to it rubefacient properties.  Even today, it surface preparations are used (such as mustard plasters) for the treatment of arthritis, gout, sciatica, and lower back pains.

      Lemery ascribed its effects to  “a great deal of volatil Salt and essential Oil.”  Lewis noted that “by its acrimony and pungency, it stimulates the solids, and attenuates viscid juices”.  He recommends it for “exciting apetite, promoting digestion, increasing the fluid secretions, and for the other purposes of the acrid plants called antiscorbutic.”

      The whole seed was used to make the mustard plaster, or cataplasm, often referred to as a Sinapism.  As for the treatment of the seed, Lewis notes that its spirits extracted very little.  Pressed seeds yielded a great deal of “insipid oil…perfectly void of acrimony.”  The remaining seed cake remained pungent and was used little as a medicine. The Oil of Mustard of official and found in both the London and Edinburgh Pharmacopoeias.  Erysimi is found in a Treacle recuipe.

      Dioscorides felt the mustard helped to revive spirits, strengthen memory, and “dissipate phlegmatic hunours”.  Culpeper noted it to be good for the blood, and for dealing with cold diseases.  He used it to strengthen the heart and couteract poisons.  As a plaster and/or a blistering agent, it was felt to treat “the pained areas of sciatica…as also gout and other joints aches…”.  Pomet felt the Mustards and their more edible relatives–the Cresses–to serve as “the cure of Sciatica, Dissolving the Stone, and Grumous Blood.”  Osborn’s use of Mustard in a medicinal drink for rheumatism and hip gout suggests that he was using it in part as a nutritive tonic, as well as as a warming agent for the body’s interior.


New Milk

“new Milk”                                  Dropsy: p. 29

      A Poultice for a mortification.

“New Milk”                                Pleurisy: p. 37

      A Poultice for Swelling.

“New Milk”                         Bilious Colic: p. 40

      A Poultice for Swelling.

“New Milk”                                  Piles: p. 44

      A Poultice.

“New Milk”                             Rheumatism: p. 47

      A medicinal Drink.

“new Milk”                             The Whites: p. 66

      A medicinal Drink; with Treacle.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “new” items of food or drink were “freshly made, produced, or grown; not yet old or stale; belonging to the fresh crop of growth.”  From this we may figure that Osborn is referring to the fresh milk of a cow.

      Arguments against this may be based upon findings regarding the other definitions for “new Milk”.  16/17th Century Alchemist Giambattista Batista della Porta described several “Milks” in his Natural Magick  in which he speaks of “Maid’s Milk”, or “Virgin’s Milk”, as well as a milk  taken on the New Moon.  He also wrote of “Milk” made from a number of salts, added to water to produce a milky preparation.  The “milk” produced by a special coagulation process was also used. (See Whey.)

      Lewis gives a lengthy presentation of Milk, or Lac [Pharmaceutical Latin], part of which comes from the Edinburgh Dispensatory.   From this we can assume Osborn was referring to Lac, due to the contemporary nature of Lewis’s writing for Dr. Osborn.

      The Lac used in pharmacy came from a variety of farm animals including Cows, Goats, and Asses.  The most sweetest of all was considered to be that of humans.  He refers to the New Milk and notes “New milk mixes uniformly with common water, the mineral chalybeate waters, wines, and malt liquors that are not acid, weak vinous spirits, and neutral fats; but not with oils expressed or distilled.”  He adds that it is highly rectified by alkalies and spirits of wine, and congealed by mineral and vegetable acids.

      Osborn uses New Milk for preparing poultices.

As a treatment for Rheumatism makes use of the whey. (See Whey.)


Niter/Nitre/Sal Nitre

“niter” powder                                  Pleurisy: p. 36

“Sal niter”                            Rheumatism: p. 46

      Powder in Tincture.

“niter” powder                      Continual Feviour: p. 62

Pomet gives several common names for this medicine including Salt-petre, and “The Dragon Cerberus, or Infernal Salt.”  It has been also been referred to as Nitrum and Sal Nitrum.  Later, it would be referred to as Potassii Nitras for it chiefly contains Potassium Nitrate (KNO3).

      It was brought to the Colonies from Europe, the East Indies and Egypt, and was drawn from several sources: Old Stones, Earth, Ashes, Pigeon’s Dung, and, according to Lemery,  “…from Stones, and Earth upon old Walls; and the Urine of several Animals, which has lain a long time on Cellar Floors.”  Over the years, other sources were developed including beds of earth and wood ashes with animal and vegetable refuse. Due to this, many steps were needed to purify it.  The final product would be long, fine, white crystals, that appeared rather clear.  Pomet felt the best quality “is what will hardly dissolve in Water…and this Salt-petre may be kept almost in any Place without loss or decay.”

      He adds, the medicinal virtues of Nitre included its effects as an aperitive, a resolutive, and its abilities to abate thirst, provoke urine, resist putrefaction, allay the heat of the blood, and drive forth the stone from the kidney and bladder.


Nutmeg  (Myristica fragrans)   

“nutmags”           White/Fluor albes: p. 66

Used in a powder blend.

This is another herb used for flavoring medicinal preparations.  Pomet gives a  description of the origins “Of the Nux moschata, or aromatic Nut”:

“The Nutmeg is like wise a Commodity which none but the Dutch are Masters of, because it grows no where but in the Isles of Nero, Lontour, Pouleay, Rosgain, Poleron, Granpuis, and Dame Island…It is remarkable, that so little a Quantity of Land should furnish all the World with Nutmeg…”

      The nuts themselves were used as a spice by grating them and are said by Pomet to offer a sweet flavor, and are warm and piquant. 

      They are noted by both Pomet and Lemery to produce two oils.  One was the Oil of Nutmeg, a thick, golden-yellow and aromatic oil resposible for the sweet, warm, piquant qualities of Nutmeg.  With expression and distillation, the most desirable essential oils were obtained from this herb.  The distilled oil was said to be two times stronger in all aspects.

      The second kind of oil was “a butyraceous matter, without taste or smell, and therefore of no peculiar use in medicine.”  Lewis noted that the oil had two parts–one volatile, and the other likely to congeal.  Here Lewis is referring to the fixed oil.  

      As a medicine, Oil of Nutmeg was used as “a cephalick, neurotick, stomachick, cordial, alexipharmick, uterine, etc., etc….Good against all Diseases of head, nerves, womb, etc.”  

      Powdered with sugar, (2 ounces of Nutmeg per pound of sugar) the Nutmegs were added to White Wine for use as a “cure of Catarrhs & Rheums that proceed from cold Causes…”  This recipe later became known as Duke’s Powder and was very popular.  In serving as a treatment for the Whites, (as recommended by Osborn), it may be that Nutmeg powder was being used as an astringent, although it also served as an anti-emetic, an astringent, an aromatic, and a narcotic, all of which have imaginable applications for treating the Whites.

Nutmeg was also recognised for its soporific and stupifying powers.

      The use of Nutmeg was sometimes associated with that of the Mace, the inner coating of the actual kernel or “nut” of nutmeg.  Mace was also used for feminine problems but was considered weak.