Apply a female pigeon

The first neurology book printed in English was called ‘De Morbis Capitis’ and appeared in 1650. An old article from the Archives of Neurology discusses the book and has a lovely excerpt where it discusses numerous bizarre-sounding cures for brain diseases.

The full title of the book is the wonderful “DE MORBIS CAPITIS; Or, Of the chief internal Diseases of the HEAD. With Their Causes, Signes, Prognosticks, and Cures, for the benefit of those that understand not the Latine tongue”.

It was written by the country physician Robert Pemell who outlines the best rural neurological knowledge of the time.

This part from the Archives of Neurology article that discusses some of the ‘cures’ is both delightful and frightening in equal measure:

Ingredients in other remedies are marjoram, hyssop, lavender (a stimulant), rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Animal extracts included the brain of a hare, “much commended as having a peculiar property for the Paralyticall.” Diet is an important component in both the treatment and prevention of disease. Patients with paralysis, a disorder caused by an overabundance of thick humors, are counselled to “abstain from all gross and flegmatic meat…”

Physical remedies are also described by Pemell. Some are simple. “Make a noise in the ears of the (epileptic) party; for hereby the faculties are more stired up.” “Let the soles of the feet be well rub’d, and bathed with salt and vinegar.” Some are more elaborate. Apply “a female pigeon (the fethers being first leptick; for hereby the fit is abated, and the venomous vapours are drawn away.”

Link to PubMed entry for Archives of Neurology article.

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