Cold Medicine (1713)

Recipe for cold medicine from a collection of household recipes, miscellaneous entries, 1713 | See full image and item metadata

This unspecified author documented her cousin Margaret Browbridge's treatment for her daughter's illness in a collection of miscellaneous household recipes, accompanying those for food and drink, fabric and hair dyes, soap, perfume, additional herbal pharmacy, and pest control. While Browbridge's use of sack wine follows standard panacea preparation protocol, her application of saffron and cochineal would have held weight both as informed medical treatments as well as a display of her economic status.

In 1713, saffron's market value eclipsed that of other luxury spices like pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, while wealthy English households paid immense amounts of money to obtain cochineal, a brilliant red dye associated by indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America for both quotidian and sacred purposes as early as the second century BC. Spanish merchants profited enormously off forced indigenous labor as intermediaries in this trade between European markets. Europe's cochineal craze only faded with the invention of artificial red dye in the mid-1800s, but the socioeconomic and geographic scars the centuries-long trade inflicted on the indigenous peoples of the Americas remains today.

For more insight into the saffron trade, see April Fulton, The Secret History of the World's Priciest Spice, National Geographic (3 May 2017); Andy Baraghani, What Is Saffron, the World's Most Legendary Spice? Bon Appetit (5 February 2018).

For more on indigenous networks of cochineal trade and Europe's cochineal craze, see Cochineal in Pre-Columbian Mexican and Peruvian Textiles in Cochineal: A Bright Red Dye; Carlos Marichal Salinas, Mexican Cochineal, Local Technologies and the Rise of Global Trade from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries (2017); Amy Butler Greenfield, The Bug That Had the World Seeing Red, Smithsonian Magazine (29 December 2016); F.L.C. Baranyovitz, Cochineal carmine: an ancient dye with a modern role, Endeavor vol. 2 iss. 2 (1978).

Take a quart of the best Canary a drahm of the best Saffron & a drahm of coochaneel to be infus'd in the Wine and drink a glass once or twice a day both of them to be gross powdered.
1 qt canary [a fortified white wine imported from Spain, similar to port]
1 dram saffron
1 dram of cochineal
Powder the saffron and cochineal and infuse them in the wine. Drink a glass once or twice a day as needed.