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.
When Animal Blood is used in cooking: for example, in the sausages known as black puddings, the addition of several aromatic spices is necessary so as to overcome its alkaline flatness, and lack of savour. "Blood,"says Dr. Thudicum, "is not capable of giving a savoury extract (to gravy), although the blood of each species of eatable animal has its particular, and distinctive flavour; that of the ox, and cow being remarkably redolent of musk."But among civilized nations the pig is the only animal of which the Blood furnishes a distinct article of food; mixed with fat, and spices, whilst enclosed in prepared intestines, this pig's blood is made into black puddings. Chemically the Blood of animals contains a considerable quantity of iron, besides albumin, fibrin, hydrogen, some traces of prussic acid, and some empyreumatic oil. The serum, or thin part of the Blood, includes sulphur. Experimentally it turns out that the blood of snails, which is colourless, contains as much iron as that of the ox, or calf, this fact going to prove that the red colour of animal Blood is not due, as is generally supposed, to the presence of iron in that fluid. The saline constituents of Blood are phosphates of lime, and magnesium, with chlorides, sulphates, and phosphates of potash and soda.
In Pickwick, Mr. Roker, the coarse turnkey at the Fleet Prison for debt, when showing Mr. Pickwick what were to be his wretched quarters there, turned fiercely round on him whilst he was mildly expostulating, and uttered in an excited fashion "certain unpleasant invocations concerning his own eyes, limbs, and circulating fluids".
Pliny tells us that the Blood of animals (and, indeed, human Blood as well) was administered in his time for curative purposes; so likewise the Blood of the ox is in medicinal vogue to-day in certain parts of the Western Hemisphere. This is because of the well-ascertained fact that iron, particularly its organic salt (haemoglobin) as found in Blood, forms one of the most important constituents. It may be thus supplied from the pig in the culinary form of black puddings; as likewise from the ox, or sheep, if so desired. Among the Boers in South Africa dog's Blood is an established remedy for convulsions, and fits.
It is of modern discovery that in health the human liver has to receive a comparatively large allowance of iron, for carrying on the vital processes of combustion and oxidation, as its special functions. This iron is best obtained from the food, and not through any form of physic. We know that many animals, especially beasts of prey, derive their needful supply of iron exclusively from meat containing a large proportion of Blood, which is rich in organic iron. Towards overcoming the natural repugnance of a patient to drinking animal Blood for acquiring its iron remedially, some skilful foreign chemists have produced this essential product of late in a compact form, which they term "Sanguinal,"as a brownish red powder consisting (as is asserted) of pure crystallized haemoglobin, with the mineral Blood constituents, and of muscle albumin. Hypothetically it is fair to suppose that in this way the red corpuscles of a bloodless patient may be beneficially augmented.
Pepys (October 17th, 1667) observed about a Mr. Andrews who was dining with him, "What an odd, strange fancy he hath to raw meat, that he eats it with no pleasure unless the Blood run about his chops,"which it did now by a leg of mutton that was not above half-boiled; but "it seems at home all his meat is dressed so, beef and all".
Practical experiments have shown that metallic iron, in whatever form it is administered medicinally, can be recovered from the excretions, absolutely undiminished in quantity, so that evidently no particle thereof is assimilated into the system. Nevertheless, the machinery of red Blood-making is undoubtedly started afresh by giving iron, whether in food, or in physic (much more problematically). In 1902 Professor Bunge read an important paper on "Iron in Medicine"before the German Medical Congress. He advocated an increased attention to foods containing iron, as a substitute for its administration in drug-form. "Spinach,"said he, "is richer in iron than yolk of egg, and yolk of egg than beef; milk is almost devoid of iron; and, as if to provide against this defect, the Blood of the infant mammal is more plentifully endowed with the essential ingredients than that of adults, thus showing that nature is always self-provident."Garden spinach (one of the "Goosefoot" order), than which no better blood-purifier grows amongst vegetables, contains iron as one of its most abundant salts; hence it is a valuable food for bloodless persons; moreover, in both salinity, and digestibility it leads the kitchen greens, its amount of salts being 2 per cent, whereby it helps to furnish red colouring matter (haemoglobin) for the blood.
In the fruit world even the apple does not afford so much iron as this vegetable, neither does the strawberry. Spinach insists on having a rich soil in which to grow, out of which it extracts a large proportion of saline matters. Its full green juice abounds in chlorophyll, insomuch that the spinach may be cooked entirely in its own fluids, and in the steam which will arise from them. This brilliant green principle of colour, elaborated from the yellow and blue rays of the sunlight, is peculiarly salubrious. Evelyn (Acetaria) has said, "Spinach being boil'd to a pulp, and without other water than its own moisture, is a most excellent condiment for almost all sorts of boil'd flesh, and may accompany a sick man's diet. 'Tis laxative and emollient, and therefore profitable for the aged".
Savoy, a nutritious, and wholesome companion of spinach, contains the greatest amount of vegetable oil of all this class of kitchen plants; and spinach runs the luxuriant Savoy very close in its complement of bland oil-salts, which render the juices nourishing. Quite half a pint of spinach-oil might be expressed from a hundred pounds of the vegetable, and sometimes more than this from the same quantity of Savoy.