The English Physician

The English Physician

by Nicholas Culpeper, Michael A. Flannery

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The first medical book published in the American colonies.

The English Physician is a humble vest-pocket-sized 94-page medical guide for the common person, by the prolific herbalist and author Nicholas Culpeper. It was a staple in 17th-century England, as it was short, written in accessible prose, and inexpensive; and perhaps as attractive, it took a decidedly skeptical view of "official" medicine, relying instead on popular remedies. Culpeper’s philosophy was to teach the common folk to minister to themselves by providing them with the tools and knowledge for self-help.

Published in Boston in 1708 by Nicholas Boone, the American version of The English Physician was widely cited and used at the time. Today only five copies are known to exist. The rarity of this vade mecum of colonial America is wrapped in mystery: Who really wrote this book and when, where, and how did it originate?

The editor illuminates these mysteries while adding an informative historical introduction on the state of medical knowledge and practice at the time, exploring Culpeper’s position among competing medical writers, and glossing the medical and botanical terms, providing contemporary equivalents. Modern readers will discover the meaning behind the strangely named brews and concoctions of the 17th century and will learn how this Boston printing literally transformed the American landscape with herbs brought from the British colonists’ homeland.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817390082
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 09/15/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 128
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Michael A. Flannery is Associate Professor and Associate Director for Historical Collections at the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham. A recipient of the Edward Kremers Award for outstanding scholarship in pharmaceutical history by an American, he is the author of five books, including America’s Botanico-Medical Movements: Vox Populi.

Read an Excerpt

The English Physician

By Nicholas Culpeper, Michael A. Flannery

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 2007 the University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9008-2



An approved Searcloth for all Aches.

Take Burgandy Pitch, one Pound; White Virgin's Wax four Ounces; white Frankincense, two Ounces, powdered: Melt them all together in a Pipkin [small pot], stirring all well together; then pour out all into a Basin, or Pan of Water; then anoint thy Hands with Butter, and make thy Plaster, or Searcloth into Rolls.

An Excellent Ointment for the same.

Take the Gall of an Ox, White-wine Vinegar, Oil of Excester, Aqua Vitæ [strong liquor], of each a like quantity, boil them gently on a Fire, keeping it scum'd, till it grow clammy, and with this bathe well the aching part, soaking it in well, by rubbing it in, before a Fire, with a warm Hand, Morning & Evening, still laying a Linnen Cloth upon it.

For Bone-ach, and the Gout.

Take of the best Aqua Vitæ, and Oil of Bays, of each a like quantity, mix them well together, and anoint the part well with a warm Hand before the Fire, and bind on it a Linnen Cloth, Morning and Evening.

For the Joint Ach, and the Gout, most Excellent.

Take the Juice of Sage, Aqua Vitæ, the Oil of Bays, Vinegar, Mustard, and of an Oxes Gall, of each a like quantity, put them all together in a large Ox Bladder. Tie it fast, and chase it up and down with your hand, during one hour & half, then keep it for your Use, & anoint the griev'd part Morning and Evening.

A Process against all Pains & Aches in the Back, Hips, Sides, Knees, or any part of the Body.

Take first Pil. Fœtida, one drachm, to Purge now and then, and take them in Syrup of Roses; after Purging, procure Sweat thus.

Take Guaiacum, one Ounce, Sarsaparilla, one Ounce and a half, the Root of Enulacampain, one Ounce; boil them in a Pottle of small Ale, till half be consumed, then drink thereof a Quart in a Hot House, & Sweat often; Then in the House, bathe all the Body with this Oleaginous Balsome.

Oil of Amber, Oil of Turpentine, Oil of Foxes, Oil of Excester, and Oil of Chamomil, of each a like quantity, and mix it with some Brandy.

And if his Pains and Aches fall out to be most painful in the Night (as many times they do.)

Then at Night let him take this Potion, Syrup of Poppy, 3 Drachms; Syrup of Betony, one Drachm and a half; Waters of Bugloss and Sage, of each an Ounce, mix them well together.

This Cured a Man Perfectly, when he was Lame all over his Body.

Take the Gall of an Heifer, for a Man; the Gall of a Steer for a Woman, Brandy, of each a like quantity, boil them together 'till it begin to be clammy, and before the Fire with a warm hand strongly bathe the Party Morning and Evening, till he be whole.

To heal and strengthen weak Limbs of Children, and those which cannot stand nor go. Most wonderful and Excellent to cure the Rickets.

Take Sage, sweet Marjoram, Rosemary, Time, Chamomile, Hyssop, Feverfew, Lavender, Balm, Mint, Wormwood, Rue, Winter Savory, and Bays of each a handful, beat them together to a Mass very well in a stone Mortar, then strain out the Juice and put it in a double Glass, the which stop well, and paste it all over with Dough, and set it in an Oven with Houshold Bread, and when it is drawn, break off all the Paste, and if the Juice be thick break the Glass, and put the Juice into a Gally-Pot [glazed earthenware jar]: And when you use it, take the quantity of 2 Spoonfuls of it, and put to it as much of the Marrow of an Ox Leg, melt them together, stir them well, and add to it a little Brandy; and Morning and Evening anoint well before a Fire the Child's Arms, Sides, Thighs, Legs, Knees, Feet & Joints, bathing it well in with a warm Hand. Then give it some Syrup of Rhubarb (to open the Obstructions of the Liver) and mingle it with two ounces of Mint-water, mix it well, and give it the Child fasting. This will mightily strengthen the Limbs, and make the Child to stand & go. Probat. [probatio, a proven remedy]


Take of the best Aqua-vitæ well rectified from Phlegm one Pint, Oil of Vitriol one Spoonful, mix them and let him drink thereof one Spoonful first in the Morning, and another last at Night.

Then let him Sweat in a Stove twice a week, and every time therein bathe him with Oleaginous Balsom. This is Excellent.

For the Joint-ach & Numbness.

Take six Spoonfuls of Dragon-water, dissolve in it one drachm of Mithridate; drink the same draught three Mornings together fasting, and sweat two Hours after it. This Cures.


A rare Secret to Cure all Agues whatsoever.

Take Venice Turpentine half an Ounce; Incorporate it with as much Mastick of Sheep's Leather cut round, and lay it on the Navel pretty warm, a day before the Fit cometh, Probat.

Against an Ague.

Take a Pint of Milk, set it on the Fire, and when it boils put in a pint of Ale, take off the Curd, then put into it nine heads of Cardius [Carduus Benedictus, blessed thistle], then boil it till half be wasted, then to every quarter of a pint put in a good Spoonful of Wheat-flower, & a quarter of a Spoonful of gross Pepper, stir it well, and take that half Pint an Hour before the Fit cometh, and be sure to Sweat him in his Bed upon the taking of it.

A Plaister against an Ague.

Take a piece of Leather pricked full of Holes, spread it over with Venice Turpentine, and on that spread all over Rue and Frankincense, beaten into Powder, of each a like quantity, then bind it on the Wrist a little before the Fit cometh, and let it lie till the Fit be gone.

Against a Tertian Fever.

Take (at the coming of the cold Fit) half a pint of the distilled water of Germander: It helpeth assuredly; for Germander is styled by Physicians, the Scourge of a Fever.

Against all burning and pestilential Fevers.

Take of the Herb Fluellin [an annual plant related to the snapdragon and foxglove] cut small, and infuse it 24 Hours in White-wine, then Distil it, and drink of this Distillation, with three Drops of Oil of Vitriol in every Draught, when he is thirsty. That hath cured Old and Young that took it.

An excellent Process of Cure of all Quotidian, Tertian, Quartane, Pestilential and Burning Fevers and Agues.

Take (at the first access, Purge the Patient with this Excellent Medicine) Aloes three drachms, Myrrh one Drachm; Saffron half a Drachm, Sugar Three Drachms; and beat them well together, then infuse them in a Pint of White-wine over Night, and give it two several Mornings, half a Pint at a time.

His Drink a Julep.

And for his ordinary Drink, when he is Thirsty, let him use this Excellent Julep. Take White-wine Vinegar half a pint, Rose-water 1 pint, Conduit or Fountain-water [spring water], 1 pint; Seethe them together with a Pound of Sugar.


If the Sick be high Couloured, then let him Blood as a chief Remedy; if no Spots appear in his Breast.

Sleep to Procure.

If he want Sleep, Take Syrup of white Poppy, one ounce; Distilled water of Lettice, two ounces, mix them and take it at Night, for Sleep cools the Body, and prevents motion, and Motion is one of the principal causes of heat.

Sore Mouth to Heal.

If the Mouth be sore, Take one Penny-worth of red Sage, grossly cut, on a handful of French Barley beaten, Roach Allom [alum?] one ounce: Boil all these together in a Pint and half of Springwater then dulcify it before it be cold with Honey, and therewith wash the Mouth, and gargle the Throat.

To make the Costive Laxative.

If he be Costive, make him Laxative with my Pilulæ Magistrales [Masterwort, a perennial resembling Angleica], nothing comparable.

His Diet.

His Diet must be Broths of Chickens, Knuckles of Mutton or Veal; but no Flesh, for that increaseth and feedeth the Fever.

Against a new Ague.

Take one drachm of pure Tobacco in the Leaf, infuse it all Night in half a pint of White-wine, then strain it and drink it, fasting two Hours after it. This will purge Phlegm and Choler throughly.

Against a burning Fever.

Take distilled Wall-nuts, a week or two before Mid-Summer, and give of that water one ounce and a half at a time, an Hour before the Fit. It Cures.

To keep the Belly open in a Feaver.

Take the Decoction of Prunes four ounces, wherein dissolve Manna one ounce; then when they boil up, distrain them, and drink four ounces of the Liquor fasting.

An excellent Julep in all Feavers.

Take what quantity of Prunes you please, bruse them and distill them, and keep the Distillation in a great Glass, with a Tap in it at the bottom; then take four ounces of Prune-water, Juice of Oranges, Syrup of Gilli- flowers [gillyflower, any of several species resembling a pink carnation] two ounces, a few drops of Spirit of Vitriol; mix them, and let the Patient drink two or three spoonfuls at a time often.

Note, That all Volatile Salts of Rue, Sage, Marjoram, Rosemary, and the like, being drunk in Wine, and Sweat upon it, cures all Feavers. Van Helmont.

To preserve your Juice of Oranges, buy your Oranges when they be cheapest, & good store; then press out their Juice, then clarify it, and put it in a great Glass, that hath a Tap and Spicket in the bottom of it; then cover the Juice in the Glass one Inch thick with good sweet Sallet [salad] Oil; and so you may preserve your Juice as long as you will.

To strengthen the Heart in all Fevers mightily.

Take of the dryed Leaves of Marygold-flowers, beat them to powder, then take Turpentine and Rosin each a like quantity; then put them into an equal quantity of fine Hogs Lard, and incorporate them well together over the Fire, then spread thereof on a shield plaister of Leather, and lay it on the Breast over the Heart, and this will strengthen the heart unspeakably.


To stop the Bleeding at the Nose.

Take Bole Armoniack [bole armoniac, an Armenian clay used as an astringent], stamp it finely to Powder; then blow up some of it with a Quill into the Bleeding Nostril of the Patient, and it stops presently. Probat.

Against Pissing of Blood.

Take Sheep's Milk (highly praised herein above all) Fasting 4 ounces, mix with it a drachm of fine Bole Armoniack in Powder, & drink it up.

Against the Bloody Flux, and Pissing of Blood.

Take Conserve of Roses 1 ounce, Crocus Martis 1 Scruple, mix them well, then take it on the point of a Knife in a Morning fasting, and do for three several Mornings together and be whole. Probat.

Against all Fluxes in Men and Women.

Take Syrup of Roses, and Syrup of Mints, 1 ounce of each, Bole Armoniack in Powder 1 Drachm, incorporate them in red Wine, make a Potion and drink it off.

To cool the Blood, Liver & Reins [kidneys].

Take Strawberry-Leaves, with the roots, what you will, boil them in white wine and Water, then strain them, & drink off the Decoction fasting, 1 pint.

Judgment on the colour of the Blood.

If the Blood come Wheyish, it comes from the weakness of the Reins.

If it come from fulness and largeness of Veins, then the party feels no pain.

If it come from breaking a Vein, then the Blood cometh more abundantly.

If it come by some sharp Humour gnawing the Veins, then the Blood comes by little and little, and the Reins are pained.

If the Blood appear red of Colour, and white Water flows with it, then the Blood is found.

If bubling Blood issue, the Stomach of the Party is Diseased.

If the Blood be green, then the Heart is grieved.

Against spitting of Blood.

Take Mastick and Olibanum, in Powder, 2 Scruples of each, conserve of red Roses 2 Ounces, Diascordium half an ounce; mix them together, & make an Electuary [a sweet medicinal candy], then take thereof Morning and Evening on the point of a knife, as much as a Nutmeg at a time.

Against Pissing of Blood.

Take the Juice of Purslain [Trianthema monogynum, a coarse fleshy weed], make it into Pills with Gumtragacanth [a polysaccharide thickening agent, primarily of Astragalis spp.] and Gum Arabick, of each alike in Powder & take 5 Pills at a time. It helpeth.

To stop the Bleeding caused by Leeches.

Take a Bean, slit it in twain, take away the Skin, and lay it on a place where a Leech hath drawn, that bleedeth too much, and it will stop the bleeding.

Against spitting & vomiting of Blood.

Take of the Seed of St. John's Wort, with its Herb and Flowers, and boil them in White-wine, and drink of the Decoction (being strained) it helpeth, tho' it come by Bruises, Falls, breaking a Vein, or howsoever.

To expel Blood or Choler [bile] out of the Stomach.

Take 2 Drachms of the Seeds of St. John's Wort beaten into Powder, and drunk in a little Broth, doth gently perform it.

To stop Bleeding, or casting of Blood in a Consumption.

Take 3 Spoonfuls of the Juice of Sage, with a little Honey fasting, it presently doth stop it.

Against the spitting of Blood with a Cough.

Take Bole Armoniack, Terra Sigillat [tablets made of earth], white and red Corral, of each half a Drachm, all powdered, Sugar of Roses half an ounce, stir them well together, with the white of an Egg, make a Looch [loch, a lambative or medicine made to be licked] thereof, & take a little often.

A Clyster against a sharp Humour, that issueth out Blood instead of Ordure [stool].

Take one pint and a half of new Milk, boil it to a pint with a handful of red Rose Leaves in it, then sweeten it with powdred Sugar, and give it up into the party, and let him keep it as long as he can.


To reduce a hard Belly, and hard Sides.

Take Ungentum Dialthææ 3 ounces, Ungent. Agrippæ, oil of Chamomil, of each an ounce, incorporate them together with a little Brandy, and anoint the part Morning & Evening before the Fire, rubbing of it in strongly with a warm Hand, half an hour at a time.

Another for the same.

Take your own Urine, and drink a good Draught thereof Nine Mornings together. Probat.

Against the griping Torments and fretting of the Guts.

Take the Juice of Plantain clarified and drink it by it self, or in other Drink for divers days together, it wonderfully prevails, as aforefaid; as also, against all Distillations from the Head, and all manner of Fluxes in Men and Women.

Against Wind, & gripings in the Belly.

Take of the Roots of Kneeholm, Anniseeds and Fennelseeds, half an ounce of each, make them all into Powder, and mix them well together with half an ounce of Sugar, and take every Morning of it as much as will lye on a Shilling in Wine or Posset-Drink.

Against the Griping in the Guts.

Take Salt of Wormwood half a Drachm, Andromachus Treacle two Drachms, Conserve of red Roses what sufficeth to be made up into a Bolus, and to be taken first in the Morning.

To Cure an extraordinary Flux of the Bowels.

Take 2 hard Yolks of Eggs, temper them with good Rose Vinegar, & give it to the Patient to eat first in the Morning. By this Medicine alone a Man was Cured of this Distemper, who had daily 70 Stools a day, when all other means failed.

Against Gripings & Wind in the Guts.

Take Oil of Ivy one Drachm in a Cup of Wine mixt, & drink it Fasting doth the Work.

A Clyster against pain and griping in the Bowels, Dysenteria.

Take Cows Milk 1 Pint, fresh Butter 1 Ounce, Gumtragacanth 1 Dram, the Yolks of 3 Eggs, Oil of Roses 2 Ounces; make it Blood warm, to the dissolving of the Gum, & so put it up.


Against a stinking Breath.

Take a good quantity of Rosemary Leaves and Flowers, boil them in White-wine, and with a little Cinnamon and Benjamin [the Benjamin tree or benzoin] beaten to Powder, being put therein, let the Patient wash the Mouth often therewith, and it will presently help. Probat.

Against shortness of Breath.

Take of Saffron in Powder 1 Scruple, of Musk in Powder 1 Grain, give them in Wine.

For the same.

Take sweet Marjoram and boil it well in Water, and drink of the Decoction first and last, and at other times. This helps all diseases of the Chest, & will make you breathe freely.

Against shortness of Breath with a Cough.

Take the Roots of Valerian and boil them with Liquorice, Raisins stoned, and Anniseeds, and drink of the Decoction often; this is singular good against the said Diseases, for it openeth the passages, and causeth the Phelgm to be spit out easily.

Against a stinking Breath.

Take Myrrh, what you will, boil it in Water, and with the Decoction wash your Mouth often.


Excerpted from The English Physician by Nicholas Culpeper, Michael A. Flannery. Copyright © 2007 the University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

A Note on the Text
The English Physician
Appendix: The Simples of The English Physician
Bibliographic Essay

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