Jane Mosley’s remedies, cuttlefish and Galen

Image of peony from Gerard’s herbal

Jane Mosley lived in Brailsford, Derbyshire during the seventeenth century. The record office has her personal books of recipes and remedies.

She was probably born in the summer of 1669. The family had links with London as well as being an established Derbyshire family. In 1697 she married Edward Soresby of Darley. The couple went on to have eight children before Jane died in 1712. The county archives contains letters, accounts and land transactions as well as family wills.

Amongst her remedies is a cure for the falling sickness, or epilepsy as we would recognise it today. Peony roots grated and drunk and worn around the neck – Jane spells it pionie and it turns up elsewhere as danpi. It will probably come as no surprise to discover that Galen, the Roman physician, recommended peonies as a cure for falling sickness. So all though it features in Jane’s book it would have been something understood in the medieval period as well. Anyone with seizures would likely be prescribed a drink containing peony roots and required to wear it around their neck as a talisman. The remedy can also be found in Gerard’s Herbal.

There are several toothpaste recipes, the most straightforward of which involves salt and cuttle bone – ground up cuttlefish bone was also used as a polishing powder by goldsmiths. A second recipe involved rosemary and harts horn as well as cuttlefish. She also knew of a mouthwash to make teeth “steadfast.” The rinse involved vervain roots in cold wine.

Derbyshire Museum Service. 1979. Jane Mosley’s Derbyshire Recipes

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