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.
Allspice (Pimento) is likewise popular as a warming cordial, having a sweet odour, and a grateful aromatic taste. The name is given because the berries afford in smell and taste a combination of cloves, juniper berries, cinnamon, and pepper. The special qualities of Pimento reside in the rind of its berries, and the tree is the Eugenia Pimento of Brazil. Pimento berries are put into curry powder, and are added to mulled wines; they are useful against flatulent indigestion, and as a carminative stimulant.
Sack posset, an old American cordial (especially favoured at weddings), was made according to a familiar rhyme: -
"From famed Barbadoes, on the Western Main Fetch sugar, half a pound: fetch sack from Spain, A pint: and from the East Indian Coast Nutmeg, the glory of our northern coast. O'er flaming coals together let them heat, Till the all-conquering sack dissolves the sweet. O'er such another fire set eggs, twice ten, New born from crowing cock and speckled hen; Stir them with steady hand, and conscience pricking To see the untimely fate of twenty chicken. From shining shelf take down your brazen skillet; A quart of milk from gentle cow will fill it. When boiled, and cooked, put milk and sack to egg, Unite them firmly like the triple league; Then, covered close, together let them dwell Till Miss twice sings ' You must not kiss and tell.' Each lad and lass snatch up their murdering spoon And fall on fiercely like a starved dragoon".
Concerning Blackberry Cordial as an excellent restorative, mention has been already made here in high commendation thereof.
Sweet Grapes, again, besides being of capital service for supplying warmth as combustion material by their ready-made sugar, are cordial by the essential flavours of the fruit, whilst a surplus of the glucose (Grape sugar) serves to. form fat for storage.
The Peppermint (Mentha Piperita), Or Brandy Mint, which grows not uncommonly in moist places about England, and is cultivated largely at Mitcham, yields by its fragrant, powerfully aromatic, and comforting essential oil, preparations which diffuse warmth in the stomach, and mouth, acting as a carminative stimulant, with some amount of sedative power against the pain of colic, flatulence, spasm, or indigestion. This is through the potential oil, of which the herb yields 1 per cent. The leaves and stems exhale a strong, refreshing, characteristic aroma, which, whilst delicate at first, is quickly followed by a sense of numbness, and coldness, increased by drawing in the breath. Lozenges made of Peppermint Oil, or Essence, are admirable for affording ease in colic, flatulence, and nausea. They will also help to prevent sea-sickness, besides proving antiseptic if food has been taken of a putrescent tendency, or hard to digest. When Tom Hood lay a-dying, he turned his eyes feebly towards the window on hearing it rattle in the night; whereupon his wife, who was watching him, said softly, "It's only the wind, dear!" to which he replied with a ready sense of humour, indomitable to the last, "Then put a Peppermint lozenge on the sill." The allied Spear Mint (Mentha viridis), such as the cook employs for making Mint sauce, possesses likewise cordial properties by its aromatic essential oil, which is fragrant, and grateful to the stomach; it stimulates the digestive system, and prevents septic changes within the intestines.
This is called also Mackerel Mint, and in Germany Lady's Mint (or Money). "The smell of Mint," quoth John Swan, in Speculum Mundi (1643), "stirreth up the mind, and must therefore be good for students".
"Marmalade of Quinces," says Austin, on Fruits (1665), "is known to be a good cordial, strengthening the stomach, and heart, both of the sick, and sound." This fruit, Cydonia, from Cydon (now Candia), had a former English title, "Melicotone".
In ancient Rome it was regarded as sacred; now we banish the tree, because of its strong penetrating odour, to a corner of the garden. Lord Bacon commended "quiddemy," a preserve of Quinces, for strengthening the stomach; and old Fuller said of this fruit, "Being not more pleasant to the palate than restorative to the health, they are accounted a great cordiall".
Rosemary Wine, as kept of old always in the still-room, and well worthy of being yet retained among the housewife's stores for the kitchen, acts, when taken in small quantities, as a quieting cordial to a weak heart, subject to palpitations. Furthermore, it stimulates the kidneys, thus preventing dropsy. This wine may be made by chopping up sprigs of Rosemary from the herb garden, and pouring on them some sound white wine, which is to be strained off after two or three days, and then used. Also, by stimulating the brain and nervous system it proves of service against the headaches of a feeble circulation, and of languid health. Rosemary from the kitchen garden has a pleasant scent, and a bitter, pungent taste, whilst much of its active volatile principle resides in the calices of the flowers; therefore in storing, or making use of the plant, these parts must be retained. It yields its virtues partly to water, and entirely to rectified spirits of wine.
Sultana Raisins, when stewed, will recruit and revive the tired body, and the jaded mind, besides being gently laxative. "Wash and pick one pound of Sultanas; soak them all night in cold water; next morning drain off the water, and put the Raisins into a pan, or basin, and barely cover them with water; add a little grated lemon-peel; put a plate over the top, and stew them in the oven until quite tender, and soft. Some of these Sultanas (hot, or cold), with a slice of whole-meal bread, or brown bread, make a very sustaining meal." Raisin tea, which is both refreshing, and as well supplied as milk with food proteids, may be made as follows: "Put half a pound of good Raisins (stoned) into a quart of cold water, laying open the pulp of the fruit; boil slowly for three or four hours, down to a pint; strain out the skins, etc., through a fine scalded sieve, and add fresh lemon-juice if too sweet. The tea may be taken cold as well as hot".
After all considering of Cordials, "there can be no doubt," as Dr. Hutchison puts it, "that in any case presenting signs of profound prostration of nerves and heart, some alcoholic spirit which is old, and well matured, should be given as the restorative cordial; and it is only when in such condition that spirits become really rich in ethereal bodies. Of Whisky, Rum, and genuine Brandy, the last is by far the best; the finest liqueur Brandy should then be alone employed, no matter how much one has to pay for it. There can be no doubt that its free and timely administration has saved many a life".
In the middle ages of England, and until a hundred years ago, the aforesaid wholesome custom obtained among great ladies, and prudent housewives, of personally distilling cordial waters, essences, and other salutary preparations, to be kept in store for domestic requirements. Thus we read in Armorel (Besant), concerning herself, and Roland Lee: "And then she took him into a room of the eighteenth century, which no longer exists there, or elsewhere save in name. It was the Still-room, and on its shelves stood the elixirs, and cordials of ancient time: the Currant-gin to fortify the stomach on a raw morning before crossing the Roads; the Cherry Brandy for a cold and stormy night; the Elderberry wine, good, mulled, and spiced at Christmas-time; the Blackberry wine; the home-made Distilled waters, Lavender water, Hungary water, Cyprus water, and the Divine Cordial itself, which takes three seasons to complete, and requires all the flowers of Spring, Summer, and Autumn".
Sir Edwin Arnold recently discoursed at length concerning a marvellous cordial root which the Chinese get from the Korea, Ginseng, this being thought to transcend all other cordials, tonics, and restoratives. "It will renovate, and reinvigorate failing bodily powers beyond all other stimulants, stomachics, and energizers of vitality. The Korean people believe the said root to be an absolute panacea for all mortal ills, mental, or physical; it is packed and transmitted with the most scrupulous care and pains, in small parcels of white silk, the mouth and nose of the recipient having to be covered when unfolding these sacred envelopes of embroidered silk, or of crimson, and goldfish skin. The habitat of this wonderful root (in form like a man) is in the glens and slopes of the Kang-ge Mountains, and it can be found only by persons of blameless life, and purity of heart; when taken from the earth it is thought to utter a low musical cry. It is to be cooked in a special silver kettle, having a double interior, as an infusion, or with rice wine.
The plant belongs to the order of Araliaceae. From sixty to ninety grains of the dried root are a proper dose; it fills the heart with hilarity, whilst its occasional use adds a decade of years to the ordinary span of human life".