Snail Water

To make Snail Water, “take garden snails, cleaned and bruised [crushed], six gallons; [then] take earthworms, washed and bruised, three gallons; of common wormwood, ground ivy, and carduruus, [mix] each one pound and a half; penniroyal, juniper berries, fennelseeds, [and] aniseeds, each half a pound; cloves and cubebs, bruised, each three ounces; spirit of wine and spring water, of each eight gallons; digest them together for the space of twenty-four hours, and then draw it off in a common alembick” ~a treatment for (non-specific) venereal disease, found in the Pharmacopoeia Paupermum, 1718, and taken originally from the well-regarded recipe of Dr Thomas Meade, St Thomas’ Hospital, Southwark, London.

Some explanation: wormwood and fennel were both used in the distillation of absinthe (the latter also being employed often for treatment of dysmenorrhea); Penny Royal, though used centuries ago to flavor soups, is a highly toxic substance more often ingested by those wishing to abort (Nirvana’s track ‘Penny Royal Tea” references this); Aniseeds taste like liquorice but were employed more commonly as a paste to kill head lice; cubebs, also known as the Java Pepper, have been used to treat infertility, but also were sprinkled on and fed to the stricken by priests during exorcisms; juniper berries, of course, are most famously known for flavoring gin; and an alembick is a vessel with a beaked cap used in distilling. Luckily, though, no one will be able to try this concoction again, since I can find nowhere the meaning of carduruus. And perhaps fortunately, it is also not known if this creation were a topical or to be ingested.

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