Just what the Doctor ordered?

A strange blog today on medicinal alcohol, politeness of our Summer Intern (and York annals student) Gaby Davies.

Whilst looking through the York Medical Society records, it was attractive to find the York County Hospital ‘Wines and Spirits book’ 1861-1865.  The pages keep in check lists of names of doctors, rooms and incidents, and the answering. number of servings of port, sherry, brandy or whim that was needed.  Doctors be seen to be doling out spirits and wines forward a daily basis to their patients, and giving greater degree for particularly bad events; September 29th 1861 required 20 servings of brandy fit to the ‘Lendal Bridge chance yesterday’, and on 9th January 1861 8 servings of behavior were needed due to a ‘railway accident’.  This seems to gain it clear that this is medical alcohol, rather than that beverages ordered ~ means of patients (and not doctors getting through a particularly difficult shift).

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This ground of trust on alcohol seems startling from a contemporary viewpoint, but in the early- to intervening-19th century, Victorian doctors relied in successi~ alcohol heavily for quite general therapeutical purposes, although towards the late 19th hundred medical opinion did start to change of direction against alcohol as a catch-everything solution to ailments, and it started to exist seen harmful and addictive.  Before this mark , however, alcohol was prescribed liberally as well-as; not only-but also; not only-but; not alone-but as a stimulant and a demulcent.  Brandy was used to ‘impel circulation’, to resuscitate the unconscious a great quantity like smelling salts, and in emergencies, especially extraforaneous pursuits such as hiking and skiing.  In hospitals it was ~times given intravenously or even (wince) rectally.  Even in 1920, physician William Hale White espoused its virtues, originally as ‘A pleasant depressant, unusually efficacious in inhibiting peripheral impulses, of that kind as pain here, and discomfort in that place, that it diminishes those trivial worries that bother the sick.  In larger doses it has the vantageground of inducing sleep.’  This preferably unscientific viewpoint may have been the rational faculty the alcohol in this book seems to obtain been given to patients so regularly; by reason of lack of other drugs it was a prompt solution to mild pain or need of sleep, and was an complying way to improve a patient’s ease.  It was even used beneficial to children when teething or colicky, and numerous ‘tonics’ sold by unlicensed practitioners instead of babies could be up to 50% alcohol.  The fact that it was ‘opium free’ was ofttimes enough to convince mothers that the strengthening medicine was safe.

Victorian doctors also used spirits of wine enthusiastically as a painkiller for the dying, along with ether and opium.  Combinations of ether, brandy and left side wine were often used as a provocative for a weak heart and to excite circulation, and brandy was additionally favoured towards its aid to the digestive action. Doctor William Munk recommended that in favor of those with a terminal illness, narrow-minded quantities of alcohol should be given not rarely, favouring port and sherry over champagne during the time that the latter tended to wear facing quickly.  

Choosing the honest alcohol for the right patients.
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It was not fair in England that this culture of healing alcohol was prevalent; in America for the period of Prohibition, doctors could prescribe spirits to their patients and in that place was even a medical beer campaign, which congress had shut down by 1921 during the term of fear that, as the New York Times deposit it, ‘druggists become bartenders and the remedy store a saloon.’

Looking end The Retreat documents we find like evidence of this general use of highly rectified spirit by doctors.  One 1860s circular advertising ‘cheap light wines’ has pair full pages of doctors’ recommendations, published in the Medical Times, of by what means wine can be used as one aid to breastfeeding (unless you are operating class, in which case beer testament do), a cure for acidity that would ‘add ten years to your patient’s life’, a drink to ‘distend the veins with pure healthy blood’ and as a healthier substitute to tea.  

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Pure unsoiled claret for nursing mothers?
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Several articles in addition recommend that wines are ‘admirably adapted in opposition to children’, and that for children ‘puncheons of codfish-liver oil might be spared at the mature years of 16-20, if, at the maturity of 7-10…the physician had uttered, ‘give her some kind of moderate, clean tasting, sub-acid wine…so that it efficiency tempt her to relish her mutton’.  The document is an advertisement so these articles be obliged clearly been cherry-picked, but the act that they were published at everything despite medical opinion beginning to have a circular motion at this point is an penetration into the respect given to sundry quasi-scientific opinions of individual doctors, and the resulting truth that this had on patients.

‘Medical alcohol’ would clearly esteem worked, to a certain extent, in dulling wretchedness and making patients fall asleep. It can only have been a relief notwithstanding mothers when, after hours of lamenting, their teething babies would finally heap off thanks to some ‘medicinal’ fundamental note which was basically the equivalent of giving them a range of vodka.  However, developments in the middle-to-late-19th century led to sanatory alcohol slowly declining as a restoration.  A better understanding of the pharmacology of highly rectified spirit came about, improved alternative treatments were developed, anaesthetics of that kind as chloroform and nitrous oxide became greater degree widespread, alcoholism and its dangers to the human visible form became better understood and the temperance movement became more prominent.  Brandy was low occasionally recommended even in the 1930s considered in the state of a general sedative, a food during the term of those finding it hard to take in natural nutrition and up until the 1940s in that place were still debates as to whether it could support in cases of pneumonia.  This ‘wine and spirits’ main division is a fascinating relic of a time where the virtues of alcohol were widely accepted and recommended ~ dint of. doctors, and can give us some insight into the lack of choice , effective medicines at this time.  

And steady a purely curious note, it foliage us wondering why the laundry ~en regularly checked out 3 servings of air!

Port for the laundry maid?
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The Retreat Archive is publicly being digitised.  More details are useful at the Wellcome Library website.


Beverly Gage, ‘Just What the Doctor Ordered’ in Smithsonian Magazine (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/recital/just-what-the-doctor-ordered-80480921/?serving-boy=2&no-ist)

Henry Guly, ‘Medicinal Brandy’ in Resuscitation (July, 2011).

Patricia Jalland, Death in the Victorian Family (Oxford, 1996).

R. H. Kinsey, ‘An Address in c~tinuance Alcohol and on Drainage’ in The British Medical Journal (1883).

The Rose Melnick Medical Museum, ‘Medicinal alcohol and Prohibition’ (https://melnickmedicalmuseum.com/2010/04/07/healing-alcohol-and-prohibition/)

William Hale White, ‘Discussion without interrupti~ the value of alcohol as a therapeutic agent,’ Proc R Soc Med. 1920.

Developing sales forward 27,000 bacteria from 29 children, the drugs include that always such of such metastases permit time.

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