A Sure Cure for Rickets

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You parents out there, don’t you hate it when your kid comes down with rickets? They get all crippled and can’t run errands for you.

Since rickets is caused by a deficiency of B-vitamins, you could just give your kid some broccoli, but here’s an old New England remedy from the 1600s that’s much more fun. It’s taken from “Cutoms and Fashions in Old New England,” by Alice Morse Earle who got it out of an old medical book:

The admirable and most famous Snail Water: Take a peck of garden Shel Snails, wash them well in Small Beer and put them in an oven till they have done making a Noise, then take them out and wash them well from the green froth that is upon them and bruise them, shels and all, in a Stone Mortar.

“Then take a Quart of Earthworms, scowre them with salt, slit them and wash well with water from their filth, and in a stone mortar beat them in pieces. Then lay in the bottom of your distilled pot Angelica, Celandine, Rosemary flowers, Dock roots, Bark of Barberries, Bretony wood, Sorrell, and rue. Then lay the Snails and Worms on top of the herbs and flowers. Then pour on three Gallons of the Strongest Ale and let it stand overnight.

“In the morning put in three ounces of Cloves, beaten, sixpenny worth of beaten Saffron, and on top of them — this is the important part here — six ounces of shaved Hartshorne. Then set on the Limbeck, and close it with paste and so receive the water by pintes, which will be nine in all, the first is the strongest, whereof take in the morning two spoonfuls in four spoonfuls of small Beeer, the like in the Afternoon.”

Take my word for it, it works like a charm.

Earle describes another affliction in 17th century New England that had no known cure. Massachusetts Governor John Wintrhop relates the sad tale:

“The Governor of Hartford upon Connecticut came to Boston and brought his wife with him (a godly young woman and of special parts) who has fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her understanding and reason which had been growing upon her diverse years by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books.

“Her husband being very loving and tender of her was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, she had kept her wits and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her.”

A tragic case of terminal bookishness.