Medical snippets #6: Red-hot flint-stones

‘The Digression I am going to make, touching the practice of Physick among the Americans of Virginia, where he had sojourned, will not, I hope, be unpleasant to the Reader, nor quite from our purpose, to shew the little care had here of searching into the nature and virtues of Plants.

He told us that they had admirable Remedies (for all Diseases) drawn from Simples; and that he had seen very extraordinary Cures done there: That they pierce the Skin with points of Cane, which served them instead of Lancets; and suck out the Bloud without swallowing it, which is instead of Phlebotomy and Cupping-glasses. That they cure the Dropsie after an extraordinary manner, of which manner of curing he has been an eye-witness: They take Flint-stones and make them red-hot, and put them into a hole made for the purpose in the Earth, and make the Patient lay his Belly over them, whilst they sprinkle a certain Decoction of three sorts of Herbs; one whereof is a kind of Essula or Spurge: that after the Patient has received the Smoak very hot against his Belly, his Navel opens, and the Physician lets out a certain quantity of Water, according to the strength of the Sick; after which, to close up the aperture, he applies a certain Moss to it; and this he repeats as often as he thinks necessary, to draw out all the Water.’

Jacob Spon, Observations on fevers and febrifuges (1682)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 905 b 7 (4)