Tales from the Treasure House by Sam Bartle

The Treasure House archives are an outstanding resource for people in the East Yorkshire area.
The Treasure House archives are an outstanding resource for people in the East Yorkshire area.

Are you still trying to overcome that lingering cough or cold from the new year, which just won’t go away in spite of all the medicines money can buy?

Well, if you were to walk into your local archives instead of the local chemists, you would find one or two remedies that are nowhere to be seen on the high street.

Within the collections of the East Riding Archives can be found a small number of ‘cures’ for coughs and colds from the 19th Century.

However, anyone who thinks they might like to try one out should beware; these remedies contain the sort of ingredients you don’t want to meddle with!

For example, in the papers of the Turner Family of North Ferriby is a remedy for ‘feverish colds’, which prescribes a concoction of ‘Spirit of Mindererus’, ‘Antimonial Wine’, and ‘Sweet Spirit of Nitre’.

If a patient took just a little too much of these ingredients it would have had drastic effects such as faintness, nausea, powerful vomiting, severe diarrhoea, ‘nervous derangement’, severe muscle weakness, and ultimately death.

It should be noted that these cold remedies are being highlighted merely for their curiosity factor.

Some of the ingredients mentioned in these archives are potentially lethal.

The remedy for ‘feverish colds’ states: “Half an ounce of Spirit of Mindererus in one ounce of water, twenty drops of Anti-monial Wine and one teaspoonful of sweet spirit of nitre, taken at bed time will generally promote perspiration; this dose is for an adult and may be repeated for two or three nights at bed time.

“The nitre may be omitted where it does not agree.”

According to www.the-familydoctor.com: ‘Spirit of Mindererus’ is ‘a liquor or solution of ammonium acetate, which promotes perspiration’.

Anti-monial wine is according to chestofbooks.com “prepared by dissolving tartar emetic in sherry wine” and, if taken in overdose, can cause “faintness, nausea, followed by powerful and continued vomiting, severe diarrhoea, constriction and burning sensation in throat, cramps, or spasmodic twitching, nervous derangement, and can often lead to death.”

And ‘Nitre’ is a ‘pale yellow liquid, fragrant smell, pungent taste.’

Appears to have been known as early as the 15th Century, if not before. It’s a nervous stimulant… known to have caused death.

“Dosage should be administered with great caution…relieves cough, hoarseness, irritation of throat” (Source: chestofbooks.com)

People can read the documents that contain these so-called ‘cures’ for coughs and colds by visiting the Research Room in the Treasure House, in Champney Road, Beverley.