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12 Days of Shakespeare: Remedies for New Year's Day!

At this time of year it is worth considering what is good for the brain and what is not, usually we have had a bit too much of the latter at this stage and it might be worth consulting a useful medical book for help!

Victoria Joynes
A Rich Storehouse
A rich storehouse, or treasurie for the diseased. George Wateson

This time of year can often mean a little bit of overindulgence has taken place and by New Year’s Day you might be feeling a bit fragile! It might be time to consult:

A rich storehouse, or treasurie for the diseased. Wherein are many approued medicines for diuers and sundry diseases, which haue beene long hidden, and not come to light before this time. First set forth for the benefit and comfort of the poorer sort of people, that are not of abilitie to goe to the physicions. 

Title page of a Rich Storehouse
Title page of a Rich Storehouse

We have two copies of this book in our collection, one published in 1612 and one in 1631. The remedies cater for the poorer sort of person (i.e. one that could not afford to visit the doctor) so in a way it is a self help book containing advice for a range of ailments including the plague, agues, deafness, colds, the King’s Evil and the Falling Evil (referenced in Shakespeare’s plays and probably a type of epilepsy).

So what type of advice might you need on New Year’s Day? Well firstly you might need to know “what things are wholesome for the brains, and what are not” (although it might be too late!)

Good for the brain includes:

To drink wine measurably
To keep the head warm
To wash hands often
To walk measurably
To sleep measurably
To hear but little noise of music and singers
To eat mustard and pepper
To smell red roses 

If possible over the next few days, avoid the following which are bad for the brain:

To sleep much after meat
Overmuch cold
Overmuch bathing
Late suppers
To eat overmuch or hastily
Milk, cheese garlic and onions
To smell a white rose

Good for the brain
Bad for the brains

It does seem that the list of things that are bad for the brain does describe the Christmas period rather well! At least one of these is likely to have cropped up for all of us at some point over the last few weeks.

So what other advice is there? Another problem you might have on New Year’s Day could be Stinking Breath! The advice here seems to be to get the person who is disturbed by your stinking breath drunk so that they don’t notice and make their breath as bad as yours!

“Take seeds of Coriander prepared, and Cloves bruised, and boil them very well either in white Rumnie, or in Sacke, and let the party grieved drinke three or foure spoonefulls thereof in the morning, and as much in the evening : but note this, that which hee taketh in the morning must be cold, and that which he taketh in the evening must be hot : but he must beware of taking excesse of meat or drink, and let him not use to sit up late at night, but rise as early in the morning as he can, and this (by God’s grace) will in a short space helpe this infirmity”.

Stinking Breath

And finally you may have been stricken with a “swimming in the head”:

“A good Medicine to take away any extreme Ache, or swimming in the Head.

Take Rosemary, Lavender-flowers...Camomill, Bayes and Lavender itself, (both new and old) Mints and Fennell, seethe all these together in faire running Water, and put thereto a good handful of Bay-salt: then take some of the same Liquour, (herbs and all)

 And wash your feet therewith, twice every Morning and evening for the space of foure dayes, and inso doing, it will take away the manner of paine in the head, although it be never so extreme or grievous. This hath beene proved.”

Many of the remedies in this book should carry a “don’t try this at home” health warning, particularly roasting a hedgehog and pouring the fat into your ear to cure deafness or using a sliced open pigeon on a bite from a venomous beast (surely could risk some kind of infection!)

Now that you know how to deal with all of your ailments all that remains is to say Happy New Year!       


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