Wednesday, March 9, 2016

1759: Hill recommends honey for consumption

Doctor John Hill was an ardent champion for honey as a remedy for nearly every internal ailment, and so it only made sense for him to recommend it to his patients suffering from consumption.

He wrote:
THE great and only hope, for the cure of a consumption, lies in taking it in time; and with that advantage Honey, assisted by a proper course of life, will cure it entirely. Young people, who will take early care of coughs by honey, will escape consumptions often, without knowing they were in danger; and the great hope afterwards lies in a constant use of the same medicine.
A consumption naturally begins by a cold taken in the winter, which brings on at first a common cough; and that being neglected settles itself upon the lungs, which by degrees become more and more obstructed, than enflam'd , and afterwards ulcerated: a stow fever attends these last stages of the disorder, and relief comes then too late. Thin and weakly young men are most in danger of consumptions, and these principally from seventeen to three and twenty. Therefore let such persons, and especially at at such time of life, avoid colds as much as possible, and take honey upon the first appearance of a cough.
If the cough does not abate in two or three days, the person should be let blood; and from that time he must avoid most carefully all high season'd foods and strong liquors: he must ride two or three hours every day;: and take a spoonful of Honey night and morning, and half a spoonful at least twice in the day beside.
A common remedy for consumption in this era was to have the patient ride a horse in the fresh air.  This was perceived to make breathing easier.
It rarely happens that the body becomes costive in a course of Honey, but if it does, gentle purges must be taken at times; and the Honey continued. This gentle purging is confined to the first stages of the disease; for toward the end the patient will be too weak for it. If the bad symptoms encreafe in spite of Honey, temperance and exercise, issues will be needful, and very little flesh should be eaten.
With these cautions, Honey, without rashness, will be considered as a cure for consumptions: and it is very singular that physicians, who have shocked the constitutions of their patients with opium and mercury, never have thought of this happy and innocent medicine, whose virtues as an aperient determent detergent and balsamick, they have always acknowledged tho' they never thought of employing it, where such virtues were so greatly wanted. (1, pages 31-33)
If only honey worked as well as Dr. Hill believed, the disease would not have caused so much suffering through the years.   

  1. Hill, John, "The Virtues of Honey," 3rd edition, 1760, :London,
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