Snail - water a cure for Syphilis?

Letter to the London Archaeologist
Dear Editor
I was very interested to read the article in the Spring 2007 issue of London Archaeologist about the ''Osteological evidence of mercury treatment of syphilis in 17th to 19th Century London' by Fiona Tucker.
She notes that not all cases of syphilis seems to have been treated by with Mercury.
At the Old Operating Theatre Museum in Southwark we came across the following recipe created by Dr Richard Mead in the early 18th Century to cure people suffering from venereal disease. Mead was a friend of the great Dr Johnstone and not a quack or mountebank. The enclosed recipe was designed as a medicine for poor people who could not afford more expensive treatments.


'Take Garden-Snails cleansed and bruised 6 gallons,

Earthworms washed and bruised 3 Gallons,

Of common Wormwood, Ground-Ivy, and Carduus, each one Pound and half,

Penniroyal, Juniper-berries, Fennelseeds, Aniseeds, each half a Pound,

Cloves and Cubebs bruised, each 3 Ounces,

Spirit of Wine and Spring-water, of each 8 Gallons.

Digest them together for the space of 24 Hours,

And then draw it off in a common Alembick.'

Recipe by Dr Richard Mead (Physician to St. Thomas's Hospital)

In 'Pharmacopoeia Pauperum' 1718 (compiled by Henry Banyer)

An alembic is a still to distill the essense of the mixture.

Readers of the London Archaeologist might like to come along to the Old Operating Theatre Museum to uncover more interesting medical curiosities.

I like the new layout of London Archaeologist by the way

With best wishes

Kevin Flude

Director Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

9a St Thomas ST London SE1 9RY open 7 days a week 10.30 - 5pm


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