Whooping Cough

Sebillot says that children with coqueluche, which must be whooping cough, were passed through split ASH trees (see HERNIA also). He quoted an ancient ash in Richmond Park which was visited by mothers "dont les enfants étaient ensorcelés, malade de la coqueluche ou d'autres affections". It had to be done before sunrise, and no stranger could be present. The child was passed nine times under and over. It seems too that whooping cough could be cured by pinning a lock of the patient's hair to an ash tree (Addison & Hillhouse), a typical transference charm. Another way to deal with whooping cough is to crawl under a blackberry arch, with a certain amount of ritual. The Dorset remedy was to pass the child nine times under and over a bramble (Udal). Sometimes a rhyme had to be recited, like this one from Staffordshire (Raven):

Under the briar, and over the briar

I wish to leave the chin cough here.

That usage was known to Aubrey, in the 17th century. The cure in Warwickshire involved passing the child three times or perhaps nine times, under a "moocher", as it was called - a bramble that had bent back to root at both ends (Palmer. 1976). The Essex whooping cough remedy was to draw the child under "the wrong way", presumably, that is, by the ankles (Newman & Wilson). In the Midlands, the child had merely to walk under the bramble arch "a certain number of times". The same method was used for hernia, too, or for boils, etc.

Domestic medicine agrees on the efficacy of NETTLE in chest complaints, whether for a cough or something more serious. Gerard had recommended it for "the troublesome cough that children have, called the Chin-cough, [whooping cough in modern parlance], taken as a tea". A MILK THISTLE decoction was used in Ireland, or a CHICKWEED leaf infusion (Maloney; Ô Suilleabhain), and FLAX has been used in America: "take three pounds of flax seed, steep in one quart of water for three hours, mix with two lemons and two cups of sugar or some honey. Give this often as hot as the patient can take it" (R B Browne). A MARJORAM infusion is often given for whooping cough (Fluck), and THYME, too, was given for the complaint (Camp) (thymol, a good antiseptic, is still used in gargles and mouthwashes). When the tree was plentiful in the United States, an infusion of the dried leaves of AMERICAN CHESTNUT (Castanea dentata) was given there for whooping cough (Weiner), just as in Europe a similar preparation is taken from SWEET CHESTNUT leaves (Page. 1978). A decoction of JUNIPER berries is good "against that which children are now and again extremely troubled, called the Chin-cough" (Gerard). A root decoction of ROSEBAY WILLOWHERB can be taken, too (Leyel. 1937). An infusion of the fresh roots of

ELECAMPANE, often given with honey, was used for the complaint (Thornton).

Advice from the Highlands of Scotland enjoins a decoction of APPLES and ROWAN, sweetened with brown sugar, to be taken for whooping cough (Beith), and in County Down, GORSE juice, taken night and morning was the remedy (St Clair). ONION juice rubbed on the soles of the feet is a folk cure for the condition (Camp), or GARLIC, in a similar way. But the simplest way to take it is to cut a clove in thin slices, put them in a saucer, and pour on just enough golden syrup to cover them. Leave it for two or three hours, and take a teaspoonful when necessary (Quelch).

Jut the smell of BROAD BEAN flowers is enough to cure the complaint, so it is still claimed in Norfolk (V G Hatfield. 1994). SUNFLOWER seeds are a specific for whooping cough, and Sunflower Gin used to be made quite often for the disorder - the boiled seeds in Hollands gin (Leyel. 1937). An infusion of the flowers of MARIGOLD has long been a country remedy for the complaint (V G Hatfield. 1994). BLACKCURRANT, sovereign for sore throat, or quinsy, was also taken for whooping cough in the form of a tea, in Cumbria (Newman & Wilson). Herbal remedies using the bark and leaves of LESSER EVENING PRIMROSE have been used not only for whooping cough, but for asthma, too (Grieve. 1931). Wesley recommended PENNYROYAL for the complaint: "Chin-cough or Hooping-cough ... give a spoonful of Juice ... mixt with brown Sugar-candy, twice a day". In France, young babies with whooping cough (coqueluche) were given infusions made from RED POPPY (Loux), and in West Africa the GUINEA-HEN WEED (Petiveria alliacea) is used (Dalziel). Tie a bag of ASAFOETIDA round the child's neck and that will cure it (Iowa) (Stout).

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