Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ginger Tea and Stomachic Powder

Ginger (Wikimedia)
Any decent medical teaching course or medical management course in the Victorian era was going to teach you plenty about the kinds of medicines and tonics to use for treating illnesses and conditions. As you probably know if you've read any of my blogs, I am quite interested in the history of medicine, especially that of the Victorian era. I am still amazed at the huge role that herbs and plants had in mainstream medicines and treatments. Of course today, traditional herbal medicine is still very much in evidence, though it is slightly less in the mainstream than it was 150 or so years ago.

Take one of my favorite spices - ginger. I've been using ginger root to make a tea which is not only excellent for congestion and colds (don't have that right now) as well as for settling the stomach and improving digestion (this is where it really works for me). All you have to do is peel and thinly slice the ginger root, pour boiling water over the slices, and steep for about 20 minutes (you can add some honey or milk to this, too). Women with morning sickness, or queasy travelers, also know the power of nibbling on some delicious candied ginger to settle their stomachs. 

Dr. James Gregory (Wikimedia)
Back in the 19th century, ginger was used in many, many mainstream medicines. Take, for example, Dr. Gregory's Stomachic Powder "for gout, indigestion, acidity, etc." contained rhubarb, ginger and magnesia. It was "a favorite remedy of the late Professor Gregory of Edinburgh," an 1845 advertisement noted. 

Dr. James Gregory (1753-1821) was a Scottish physician, and the son and grandson of distinguished physicians. He studied at Edinburgh, Leyden, and Oxford, and was chairman of the School of medicine at the University of Edinburgh for many years. He was also interested in the classics, and taught those as well as the era's medical-school equivalent of the consultant interview course and  the teach the teacher courseEven in the late 1800s Gregory's Powder was still a well-regarded medicine, both in Britain and in the United States. The American writer Dr. Alvin Wood Chase* called it "very excellent" and noted that it had once been sold in every pharmacy in Scotland.

And of course, he was famous for his Stomachic Powder, which in turn owed so much of its healing power to ginger - just like my cup of afternoon ginger tea.

*Chase, Dr. Alvin Wood. Dr. Chase's Recipes; or, Information For Everybody (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1881 ed.), p. 345.

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