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In the 17th and 18th centuries, Scotland did not have the health provisions that we have today. Physicians were used by the wealthy but the majority of people made use of home remedies and charms to cure illnesses.

Early medical professionals

Although medical professionals had started developing a greater understanding of how the human body worked, for most people this did not necessarily lead to better care. University-educated doctors were few in number and the care available was hugely dependent on where the patient lived and what they could afford. Physicians would consult Pharmacopoeia (a book of medical prescriptions) although the medicine they prescribed may have been more harmful than helpful.

Illustration from the German Arzneibuch compendium of popular medicine and surgery from the Wellcome Collection.

Home treatments

Home treatment remained an ordinary part of life, with medical recipes and nursing techniques collected alongside recipes for foods and cosmetics and they were more likely to prepared by the women of the household.

Charms, cheap and expensive, also remained popular to treat and ward off sickness. A charm at least had no harmful side-effects and modern medical research confirms how powerful the belief in a cure – the placebo effect – can be.

A woman with toothache. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

A woman with toothache. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

What would treatments would you choose?

Discover some of the more unusual remedies, recipes and charms used to treat common ailments such as whooping cough, toothache and sickness.

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