Turpentine comes from fir trees, I think, and to be honest I tend to think of it in a DIY context rather than a medical care setting. However, today, having watched Bake Off last week and clearly having taken leave of my senses I decided to make a couple of Cornish pasties for lunch – there will be no picture of them and the Bake Off tent is perfectly safe from my attentions.
However, the book I took the recipe from is called Farmhouse Fare and it belonged to my parents. This morning I looked at it rather more closely. It was printed in 1937 by The Farmers’ Weekly based on recipes sent by readers – or “Country Housewives” as it says on the front cover. It sold out but then the war came along and it wasn’t printed again until 1946 but there was still a shortage of paper so the print run wasn’t very long. My copy dates from the 1950s.
As I sat with my cup of tea I flicked through it’s pages and came to a section marked “For Your Corner Cupboard,” given that I have been writing about medieval remedies I thought I would have a look to see what the twentieth century had to offer and voila Grandmother’s embrocation which I do not recommend you try at home – really don’t even go there: 1/2 pint turpentine and 1 egg shaken up until it turns to a cream. Then add 1 pint of vinegar (slowly) and a small tablespoon of liquid ammonia – apparently it keeps for years!
Apparently turpentine was recommended in 1865 to remove worms – clearly it’s something that has bothered people down the centuries making me glad to be alive now rather than then despite the fact that most of us haven’t ventured very far this year.
In this case the embrocation, which is rubbed on before anyone gets too carried away, is designed to relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis not to mention aching limbs and sprains. Given that ammonia is caustic I can only assume that the heat generated by the above concoction would take your mind off most things – demonstrating that it wasn’t just during the medieval period that people applied some very strange concoctions to themselves in the hope of feeling a bit better.
Right – time for a quick time for a quick burst of George Formby’s song – Auntie Maggie’s homemade remedy I think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrSM99xZX-E
And aren’t we all grateful for the National Health Service that made homemade embrocations a thing of the past? And with that in mind if you haven’t seen the Ruth Jones edition of Who DO You Think You, it’s definitely one to watch if you’re interested in the evolution of the National Health Service.