When 17th-century women would seek out hare spittle

Despite the wonders of modern medicine, seeking treatment for infertility can still be a heartbreaking experience. But spare a thought for British women living in the 17th century.

Anyone having difficulty conceiving all those centuries ago might have come across one William Sermon, a notorious physician whose 1671 book recommended a bizarre array of cures for infertility, such as drinking wine mixed with hare spittle or mouse ear.

A copy of his book, The Ladies Companion, Or The English Midwife, has been unearthed in a Surrey attic and is expected to fetch up £2,000 when Sotheby's auctions it next month.
Sermon (c1629-1680) is said to have decided to study medicine after witnessing a woman giving birth alone in a wood while he was out hare-shooting – which may explain why hares feature so prominently in his cures.

"Take the slime that a hare will have about his mouth when he eateth mallows and drink it in wine," Sermon instructs his readers. "Two hours after lie with your husband and fear not (faith my author) but that you will conceive."

Another remedy Sermon recommends to husbands is to secretly feed their wives the womb of a hare. "Give to the woman without her knowledge the womb of a hare to eat. Or burn the same to powder, and give it to her in wine to drink."

Other fertility treatments read like a witch's spell book. "Take Mouse-ear three handful, Elicampane, Liquorice, of each half ounce, Currants... boil them in two quarts of old wine... of which drink a small draught every morning."

Although the remedies might appear bizarre and positively useless by modern medicinal standards, advice such as Sermon's would have been widely distributed and followed.

Source - Independent

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