This section is from the book "The Lady's Assistant: Family Physician", by P. Davey and B. Law.
There are three forts of dropsies; the one is when water stagnates in or is shed all over the body under the skin, which at last gets into the belly, and under the skin of the private parts in men. Another kind, is when the water is only collected in the belly. Another kind, is when the belly is puffed up with wind, and will sound when struck : this is known by the name of a tympany. The first approach of the dropsy may be perceived by a swelling of the feet and ankles, which will pit in the evening when pressed by the fingers; especially if there be a difficulty of breathing. In the morning this swelling disappears. When the feet and legs are greatly swelled, the water rushes into the belly, and causes it to swell by little and little to a very great bulk.
The cure is to be performed by emetic-wine, purgatives, clysters and diuretics. An ounce and a half, or two ounces of emetic-wine may be given in a morning, and it will in due time free the belly from the load of waters. It must, be repeated as the patient's strength will permit: if it does not purge downwards, it must, be mixt with syrup of buckthorn after the third or fourth dose. The bell purge is two grains of elaterium: but if the patient is easily purged, an ounce of syrup of buckthorn alone will be sufficient.
Some cannot bear either vomits or purges, and then the cure is to be attempted by such things as promote urine, thus : "Take a pound of broom-ashes, an ounce of leaves of worm-"wood, and two quarts of Rhenish wine, mix them together "cold, and let stand a day or two." A gill of the clear liquor must be given in the morning, at five in the afternoon, and at night. Or, "take three quarters of a pint of "boiling water, and pour it on half an ounce of the leaves-"of wormwood, and a dram of salt of tartar. When the "liquor is cold strain it, and add half a gill of compound "juniper water." This serves for three doses, and must taken in a day: it is of excellent service in dropsies, suc ceeding fevers. Or, "take an ounce of broom-tops, boil "them in a sufficient quantity of water to a quart." Then give the patient a spoonful of whole mustard feed night and morning, drinking after each dose, half a pint of the decoction. Likewise a dram of nitre taken in a morning in a draught of ale, has cured the dropsy, when every thing else failed : Or, he may take fix grains of the powder of squills, in a draught of warm gruel, mixt with a glass of mountain-wine. Or, "take of the fresh root of squills, six grains; of the com-"pound-powder of arum, ten grains; of ginger, five grains. "Pound them together, and make them into a bolus, with the "syrup of orange-peel" This is to be taken every morning. When the bowels are sound, the last refuge is tapping.
When a tympany succeeds the bloody-flux, or agues, it will be sufficient to keep the body open, by giving a scruple of rhubarb every night, with five grains of the aromatic species. When the swelling begins to give way, then order the following electuary : "Take two drams of camomile-flowers, and beat them toge-"ther with a little syrup of orange-peel; then add two drams "of powder of ginger, and a dram of steel prepared with "sulphur, with enough of the syrup before mentioned to "make an electuary." The dose is the size of a large nutmeg, twice a day.