Cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog

Infections, injuries, or chronic health problems were just as common in the 17th and 18th centuries as now. The difference is that today we have ready access to medical evaluation and antibiotics for the treatment of potentially life-threatening cases such as rabies caused by the bite of a rabid animal. In yesteryear a Pennsylvania Dutchman might have sought self-treatment with the following remedy: Cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog available to him either as a single printed blank, in which the key ingredients were first inserted after he had paid the seller and/or in a collection of formulas and sundries such as the multiple editions of Johann Georg Hohmann’s The Long Lost Friend (Der lange verborgene Freund).

The Library Company of Philadelphia Rare Book Collection and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection in the Library Company of Philadelphia have examples of both.

Cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog

ILL. 1 Blank for a Pennsylvania Dutch Cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog. [Pennsylvania? : s.n., ca. 1830]; 1 leaf; 33 x 21 cm. N. B. Location: LCP. 14009. Q Rough-wood.

TRANSLATION by Del-Louise Moyer

Cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog 

Take about one handful of dried Chickweed. Pour two quarts of good beer over it, and heat in a new earthenware pot that’s well covered. Continue to simmer until about one-half has been cooked. Make sure it’s a low-burning fire, and that the pot that’s being used has been kept quite clean, and not used for anything else. When the herb has sufficiently cooked, strain it. Then filter it through a clean cloth to obtain a full strength extract. Add 120 grains of the best Theriac Venezian to the drink. It [Theriac Venezian] should be well dissolved in the drink, and well mixed with it. The following single dosage should be given in the morning to either man or beast. If the man is of strong physical stature, he should, if possible, drink one pint all at once. If not, then it should be taken in short pauses. However, it is best if drunk in a single draught. If there are signs of madness, the dosage should be repeated two or three consecutive mornings. If the symptoms of madness are really prominent, a larger amount of the herb should be added to the above-mentioned portion of beer. A woman should take less than a man, that is, approximately three-quarters or more of a pint. For children one needs to administer the dosage according to their age and constitution. Moreover, it should be noted that depending on their age, children are better able to proportionally tolerate the remedy than adults. Mothers, or others, who are suckling an infant should be sure to take an increased amount. It’s best if the babe gets about spoonful or two of the potion.

J G Hohmann. Der lange Verborgene Freund. 1820

ILL. 2 Johann Georg Hohmann. Der lange verborgene Freund. Reading: Gedruckt für den Verfasser, 1820, 47-48. N. B. Collection HSP in LCP; Location Am 1820 Hoh Ac. 8792

TRANSLATION  by Del-Louise Moyer

Cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog

….This remedy consists of the herb known as Chickweed. It is a summer plant, and is known among the Swiss and Germans by the name of Gauchheil, rother Meyer or rother Hühnerdarm. In England it is called red Pimpernel. Its botanical name is Angelis Phonicea. It is to be gathered in June when it is in full bloom, dried in the shade, and then pulverized. The dosage for an adult is one small tablespoon full, or if weighed, 80 grains in beer or water. The same amount should be administered to children but in three small doses. For animals if it is to be used green, cut it into fine pieces, and mix with clover or other feed. If to be given to the pigs, one should mix the powder with flour and water to make little balls of dough. One can also eat it on buttered bread, honey or molasses. The honorable Mr. Henry Muhlenberg says that in Germany 30 grams of the powder of this herb are given four times daily for one week, and then continued in smaller amounts. Also, the wound is cleaned with a decoction of the herb, and powder strewn into it….

My thanks to Jim Green of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

© Del-Louise Moyer 2014

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