Page images
PDF
EPUB

variety of distempers, and in so many distant parts of Christendom.

By most men, I believe, it will be judged, at best, a needless undertaking, instead of an easy tried medicine to introduce one more operose and expensive, unsupported by experiments, and recommended by wrong suppositions, that all the virtue is in the acid, and that the tar water being impregnated with volatile oil is caustic, which are both notorious mistakes.

Though it be the character of resin not to dissolve and mix with water as salts do, yet it attracts some fine particles of essential oil, which serves as a vehicle for such acid salts; and the colour of the tar water sheweth the fine oil, in which the vegetable salts are lodged, to be dissolved and mixed therein. The combination of two such different substances as oil and salt, constitutes a very subtile and active medicine, fitted to mix with all humours, and resolve all obstructions, and which may properly be called an acid soap. .

Tar water operates more gently and safely, as the acid salts are sheathed in oil, and thereby losing their acrimony, approach the nature of neutral'salts, and so become more friendly to the animal system. By the help of a smooth insinuating oil, these acid salts are more

a easily and safely introduced into the fine capillaries. I may add, that the crasis of the blood is perfected by tar water, being good against too great a solution and fluidity as a balsam, and against viscidity as a soap, all which entirely depends upon the mixture of oil with the acid, without which it could neither operate as a balsam nor a soap; briefly, it was not mere acid or distilled water, or tincture of tar, but tar water, as commonly made, by affusion and stirring of cold water upon tar, which hath wrought all those great cures and salutary effects, which have recommended it as a medicine, to the general esteem of the world.

The mixture of volatile oil, which is or contains the

spirit, is so far from noxious, that it is the very thing, that makes tar water a cordial; this gives it a grateful warmth, and raiseth the spirits of the hysteric and hypochondriacal ; this also, rendering the blood balsamic, disposeth wounds of all sorts to an easy cure; this also it is that fortifies the vitals, and invigorates nature, driving the gout to the extremities, and shortening the fits, till it entirely subdues that obstinate and cruel enemy, as it hath been often known to do; but acid alone is so far from being able to do this, that on the contrary the free use of acids is reckoned amongst the causes of the gout.

I never could find that the volatile oil drawn from tar by the affusion of cold water produced any inflammation, or was otherwise hurtful, not even though the water by longer stirring had imbibed far more of the oil than in the common manner, having been assured, that some of strong stomachs have drank it after twenty minutes stirring, without any the least harm, and with very great benefit.

It hath been indeed insinuated, that the oil was ordered to be skimmed off, because it is caustic and dangerous; but this is a mistake. I myself, among many others, drank the tar water for two years together, with its oil upon it, which never proved hurtful, otherwise than as being somewhat gross, and floating on the top, it rendered the water less palatable, for which reason alone it was ordered to be skimmed.

It hath also been hinted, that making tar water the second time of the same tar was cautioned against, for that it was apprehended such water would prove too heating ; which is so far from being true, that when I could not get fresh tar, I used the second water without difficulty, by means whereof it pleased God to recover from the small-pox two children in my own family, who drank it very copiously, a sufficient proof that it is not of that fiery caustic nature which some would persuade us.

a

The truth is, my sole reason for advising the tar not to be used a second time, was because I did not think it would sufficiently impregnate the water, or render it strong enough after so much of the fine volatile parts had been carried off by the former infusion. Truth obligeth me to affirm, that there is no danger (forasmuch as I could ever observe) to be apprehended from tar water, as commonly made; the fine volatile oil, on which I take its cordial quality to depend, is, in its own nature, so soft and gentle, and so tempered by the acid, and both so blended and diluted with so great a quantity of water, as to make a compound, cherishing and cordial, producing a genial kindly warmth without any inflaming heat, a thing I have often said, and still find it necessary to inculcate. .

Some medicines indeed are so violent, that the least excess is dangerous; these require an exactness in the dose, where a small error may produce a great mischief. But tar is, in truth, no such dangerous medicine, not even in substance, as I have more than once known it taken innocently, mixed with honey, for a speedy cure of a cold,

But notwithstanding all that hath been said on that subject, it is still sometimes asked what precise quantity or degree of strength is required ? to which I answer (agreeably to what hath been formerly and frequently observed), the palate, the stomach, the particular case and constitution of the patient, the very climate or season of the

year,

will dispose and require him to drink more or less in quantity, stronger or weaker in degree ; precisely to measure its strength, by a scrupulous exactness, is by no means necessary. Every one may settle that matter for himself, with the same safety that malt is proportioned to water in making beer, and by the same rule, to wit, the palate..

Only in general thus much may be said, that the proportions I formerly recommended will be found agree

able to most stomachs, and withal of sufficient strength, as many thousands have found, and daily find, by experience. I take this opportunity to observe, that I use tar water made in stone-ware or earthen very well glazed, earthen vessels unglazed being apt to communicate a nauseous sweetness to the water.

Tar water is a diet-drink, in the making whereof there is great latitude, its perfection not consisting in a point, but varying with the constitution and palate of the patient, being nevertheless, at times, taken by the same person, weaker or stronger, with much the same effect, provided it be proportionably in greater or lesser quantity. It may indeed be so very weak as to have little or no effect; and, on the other hand, so very strong, as to offend the stomach; but its degree of strength is easily discerned by the colour, smell, and taste, which alone are the natural and proper guides whereby to judge thereof; which strength may be easily varied, in any proportion, by changing the quantity either of tar or water, or the time of stirring. As for setting tar water to stand, this is not to make it stronger, but more clear and palatable.

I found myself obliged to assert the innocence and safety, as well as usefulness, of the tar water, as it is commonly made by the methods laid down in my former writings on this subject; and this not only in regard to truth, but much more in charity to a multitude, which may otherwise perhaps be influenced by the authority of some, who endeavoured to put them out of conceit with a medicine so cheap, so efficacious, and so universal, by suggesting and propagating scruples about a caustic quality arising from the volatile oily particles of tar, or resin imbibed together with the acid in making tar water ; an apprehension so vain, that the reverse thereof is true, for which I appeal to the experience of many thousands, who can answer for the innocence and safety, as well as efficacy, of this medicine, of which there are

2 H

VOL. III.

such ample and numerous certificates published to the world.

I shall finish my essay on the plague and its cure, with observing, that in case God should withhold his hand for the present, yet these reflections will not be altogether fruitless, if they dispose men to a proper temper of mind, and a cautious regimen, avoiding all extremes (which things are justly reckoned among the chief preservatives against infection), but especially if the apprehension of this destroyer shall beget serious thoughts on the frailty of human life, and, in consequence thereof, a reformation of manners; advantages that would sufficiently repay the trouble of writing and reading this letter, even though the trial of tar water, as a remedy for the plague, should be postponed (as God grant it may) to some future and distant opportunity.

« PreviousContinue »