‘Needs means must’ – especially remedies
(A blog by Felicity Miller, images from Pride & Prejudice Scrapbook blog 1996)
During the Regency period, most consumable goods and remedies needed to be produced directly on the family estate. Herbs and medicines were no exception. With limited methods of keeping fruit and vegetables fresh, and long travel times between regions, access to a complete, and varied diet was almost impossible. Treatment of most ailments started at home, and a doctor was only called when their condition escalated dramatically. Some people would die before the doctor could even attend!
Families relied on their gardens to produce a range of cure-alls and cosmetics to serve all the families needs, and the needs of the servants in their employ. These gardens were dramatically limited by the climate in England, so those plants that did grow were believed to cure a large range of ailments! For this reason, lavender and roses, which were part of every English garden, were included in a lot of cures.
Regency garden remedies
Herbs, fruit and vegetables were collected from the kitchen garden, and used to produce syrups, cordials, tonics or teas within the kitchen or cellar. It was not unusual for these tasks to be completed, or overseen, by the young ladies of the house! In fact, many texts were written for these women to study, as part of managing the household. The effectiveness of these cures varied. Many of the cures were very high in Vitamin C, helping influenza, and issues with malnutrition. Other herbal remedies used in the Regency period have since been found to be successful remedies for certain ailments, and are now in use again!
Many of the cures used in Regency houses were cure-alls; they did not treat a particular ailment, but aimed to improve the overall condition of the patient. One such treatment was gruel, made of any type of grain, stewed up into a nourishing, mealy porridge. Most of these grains could be grown in the garden, and dried in the kitchen. Typical grains that were dried included Amaranth and Mustard, both of which were used in gruel recipes. Unlike porridge, gruel was flavoured with salt, butter, and sometimes port! The high fibre content was probably what helped people get better. For the same reason, many cordials and herbal tonics only helped because they rehydrated the patient. Not only that, but the water in these cures was boiled when the tonic was prepared, which killed the bacteria in the filthy water supply! So drinking a delicious glass of elderflower cordial was far better for their health, not to mention a refreshing treat.Herb Talk
If you would like to know more about Regency era garden remedies, you should join us at the Picnic at Pemberley on Saturday 8th September and hear all about the value of some herbs at that time….herebs which we also value today. Book your tickets here: