There are several curious home remedies included in a recent publication entitled Ardgowan: A Journal of House and Garden in Victorian Prince Edward Island. Written by Julie V. Watson and published by Parks & People Canada in 2000, it is an almanac of recipes, etiquette and Victorian folklore, The contents were taken from the actual artifacts of the Victorian household of William H. Pope, a prominent Island politician and Father of Confederation.

As you read the next passage, just try to imagine an emergency scenario unfolding as described:

To Restore From Stroke of Lightening

Shower with cold water for two hours; if the patient does not show signs of life, put salt in the water; and continue to shower an hour longer.

This is not the first time that I have read or heard of this supposed cure. Gail Anderson-Dargatz, an author based in British Columbia, Canada, wrote a critically acclaimed novel called The Cure for Death by Lightening, published in 1996. Based in part upon a scrapbook of recipes, clippings, and pressings kept by the protagonist's mother, the narrative makes early reference to a folk remedy exactly like the one above. The only difference seems to be that the patient is presumed dead before the cure is applied.

I wonder if this is just a Canadian thing, or if this was a common prescription for those struck by lightning in, say, early American folklore. It might even be a nugget of knowledge brought over from Europe, and forgotten with time.

Here are some more medicinal concoctions from Prince Edward Island's Victorian era (as recorded in Watson's text). Most rely heavily upon the medicinal qualities of alcohol :

Hair Invigorator

Bay rum, two pints; alcohol, one pint; castor oil, one ounce; carb. Ammonia, half an ounce; tincture of cantharides, one ounce. Mix well. This compound will promote the growth of hair and prevent it from falling out.

Daily Bang Tonic

Take a pint of cider; and add to a pint of warm ale; sweeten with treacle or sugar to taste, grate in some nutmeg and ginger, and add a wineglassful of gin or whiskey.

Elliman's Embrocation

One new-laid egg well beaten, add to it by degrees one gill turpentine, one gill vinegar, put in alternately one-half ounce spirits of camphor. Directions for use: For rheumatism, lumbago, for sore throat, cold in cheek, etc., rub in well with hand, night and morning. A flannel may also be soaked in the embrocation and put on, covered with a cloth or flannel. This can also be used as a substitute for a mustard plaster.

To Drive Mosquitos Away

If mosquitos or other blood suckers infest your sleeping rooms at night, uncork a bottle of pennyroyal, and these animals leave in great haste, nor will they return so long as the room is loaded with the fumes of that aromatic herb.

Excellent Cough Mixture

One ounce of tincture of benzoin, two wine-glasses of whiskey, one cup of molasses. Mix well. One teaspoonful whenever cough is troublesome.

Dandelion Wine (for the blood)

Four quarts of dandelion flowers; cover with one gallon of water and boil; strain, and when luke-warm add six lemons, four pounds of white sugar and half royal yeast-cake; let it stand about ten days, or until done working, ten strain, bottle and seal.

Bleeding From the Nose

Put a plug of lint into the nostrils and apply a cold lotion to the forehead. Heat should be applied to the feet. Sometimes the shock of a cold key or cold water down the back will stop the bleeding.

(Another) Cure for Coughs

Three newly-laid eggs, unbroken, over which pour the juice of six lemons, and allow to stand for forty-eight hours. Then pick out any bits of eggshell which are not dissolved; add one-half pound of rock candy; and one pint of Jamaica brandy; mix well and bottle. Dose: 2 tablespoonful three or four times a day.