This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Certain Natural Waters from volcanic regions, former, or present, are in demand as pure and refreshing drinks, because of their amount of carbonic acid gas as well as their mineral salts. The best, and longest known is the water of Seltzers in Nassau, generally called Seltzer water, which continues to be supplied commercially in just the same state as whilst rising from this wonderful spring. It was first used in 1798. But artificial mineral waters are now much more in vogue, all of which are impregnated with carbonic acid gas made from chalk (carbonate of lime) in its ground, pulverulent form, "whiting".
Those waters which are distilled should be preferred, not only because they are free from organic impurities, but also because they are without any mineral salts in excess; of course, the source of the water from which these drinks are manufactured must be irreproachable as regards taint of impurity, or infection. And as to "the mineral spring fad,"says Dr. Woods Hutchinson (1903), "this is one of the survivals in medicine from the times of the 'trembling of the waters' in the Pool of Bethesda. It originated unmistakably in the good old demon-theory days, when the potency of the water was rated according to the amount of heat, and effervescence from gases contained therein, and, best of all, from its sulphurous smell, and abominable taste, all of which were to the primitive mind clear and convincing proofs that such water issued directly from the infernal regions, being possessed by spirits, and hence peculiarly suitable for the casting out of devils by Beelzebub." "Thus, either sparkle, heat, or a brimstone taste is still the popular requisite for a successful mineral water; if it has all three it inspires a confidence little short of that felt by Montaigne in the waters of Corsena, which he declared ' powerful enough to break stones.":
A bottle of soda water recovered from the wreck of the Royal George (1780) was sold March 10th, 1903, by public auction in London for the sum of twenty-five guineas, it being more than 120 years old. Soda water was first introduced in 1767, being called "Mephitic julep,"by Mr. Richard Bewley, of Great Massingham, and it received its present name before 1798. A glass soda-water bottle was dug up on the Crimean battlefield, thus showing that no alteration in the shape had taken place for seventy-three years. Ginger-beer was at one time put into bottles similar in shape to this same soda-water pattern, but made of stone.
The effervescent table waters of commerce, - soda-water, potash-water, Seltzer-water, Apollinaris water, and the like, - are all charged more or less with alkaline carbonates, whereby they are prevented from arresting the salivary digestion, so that the use of such waters as an addition to sub-acid wines is commendable. The mineral waters, soda or potash, usually contain in each bottle from ten to fifteen grains of their respective bicarbonates, in addition to the carbonic acid gas. Seltzer-water further contains magnesium, with phosphate, and sulphate of soda. "At Bath,' 'we are told, "in Pickwick's day, near at hand to the Pump Room, there were mineral baths in which a part of the company wash themselves, and a band plays afterwards to congratulate the remainder on their fellow-visitors having done so." Further on we read concerning these Bath mineral waters (sulphated lime): "'Have you drunk the waters, Mr. Weller?' inquired his companion, the tall footman, as they walked towards High Street. 'Once,' replied Sam. 'What did you think of 'em, Sir?' 'I thought they was particklerly unpleasant,' replied Sam. 'Ah!' said Mr. John Smawker, 'you disliked the killibeate taste, perhaps?' 'I don't know much about that 'ere,' said Sam; ' I thought they'd a werry strong flavour of warm flat-irons.' 'That is the killibeate, Mr. Weller,' observed Mr. John Smawker contemptuously. 'Well, if it is, it's a werry inexpressive word, that's all,' said Sam; ' it may be so, but I aint much in the chemical line myself, so I can't say.' "
Nowadays much may be done for the relief of functional heart disorders by taking, as a pleasant beverage at meals, Barium water, a famous spring whereof exists at Llangammarch Wells, in Breconshire. This contains more than six grains of barium per gallon. The water is likewise of especial service for curing enlarged tonsils in delicate children, with contingent irritability of the heart; also it is highly useful as a course for lessening arterial stiffness of the vascular coats. The Barium water can be had in bottles, or syphons, for table use.
About the middle of the eighteenth century, when stone in the bladder was common, and was sought to be dissolved by alkalies, soap was largely administered as such a solvent. The case of Horace Walpole marked this method in 1748, when he began to take a course consisting of one ounce of Alicant soap in three pints of lime-water daily. The same regimen was continued by him until the beginning of the year 1757, when it was calculated that he had consumed no-less than 180 pounds of soap, and 1,200 gallons of lime-water. Yet when an examination was made of his body after death by Mr. Sergeant-Surgeon Ranby, and Mr. Hawkins, three stones were found in his bladder.
It was to challenge the memory of old Macklin (who had boasted he could learn anything by rote on once hearing it), that S. Foote extemporised the following well-known nonsense-passage. "So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple pie, and at the same time a great she-bear coming up the street pops its head into the shop. What! no soap! so he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picaninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the Grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top; and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots." A (professedly) Eton boy has rendered the same in Latin hexameters: -
"Ut vice pomoruin fungantur caiile, placentam Hortulum adit meditans: immani corpore at Ursa Ora tabernse infert - eheu, saponis egeitas I Hicce obiit dehinc mortem, temeraria at illae Omine tonsori Iaevo nupsit: Picalilli, Joblillique aderant, cum Garrabulis; Panjandrum Magnus et ipse aderat, apice insignisque pusillo: Ludo captantes captabantur quoque, pulvis Calce cothurnorum donec sclopetarius exit".
Professor Kirk, of Edinburgh, in Papers on Health, commends highly for localized neuralgia to lather the part with Barilla soap, which must be genuine (Maclinton's) as compounded from the ash of the barilla plant, growing abundantly in Sicily, in Tenerifie, and some parts of Spain. Lather made therefrom does not dry on the skin; its composition is a valuable secret. The soap requires eight days for its manufacture, and should be stamped with the name of makers - Brown & Son, Donoughmore, Tyrone, Ireland. This lather will allay the irritation of internal organs by application to the skin outside, as, for instance, over the stomach when it is rejecting all food, and even when retching on emptiness. Handful after handful of the lather (mixed in the palm with a shaving-brush, and hot water) should be laid on until the required surface is well covered; then a soft handkerchief should be put loosely over it. Again, varicose ulcers of the legs can be successfully healed in many cases by simply dressing them with compresses of lint, or soft linen, steeped in a solution of bicarbonate of soda, containing from 2 to 4 per cent of this salt.
The suppurative discharges will become straightway lessened, and healing will proceed apace.