Cough Syrup (1700)

Recipe for cough syrup from a 17th-18th c. book of cookery and medical recipes | See full image and item metadata

In 1700, Hester Denbigh, wife of the fourth Earl of Denbigh, documented her cookery and medical recipes in a cookbook that remained in use throughout the century. Recipes like this local doctor's instruction for cough syrup include locally sourced ingredients like dried roses and violets, as well as imported ingredients like Peru balsam and white poppies (opium poppies). Denbigh's casual use of this recipe in her manual indicates that English households maintained at least some level of regular access to a transcontinental network of herbal pharmacy.

Dunbigh's inclusion of opium positions this manual particularly well in the context of the time period: within 150 years, English opium interests— the British East India Company's transformation of occupied India into an opium plantation and England's spoils from the Opium Wars— will comprehensively insert England as a dominant trade power in Southeast Asia for the next century and a half. 

For more insight into the transoceanic market for Peru balsam, see Angela Schottenhammer, “'Peruvian balsam': an example of transoceanic transfer of medicinal knowledge," Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine vol. 16, 69 (2020).

For more on the complex history of the global opium trade, see Stan Florek, "The Mechanics of Opium Wars," Australian Museum (2018); Peter C. Perdue, "The First Opium War," MIT Visualizing Cultures (2011); Austin Ramzy, "How Britain Went to War With China Over Opium," New York Times (1998)

**Contains toxic ingredients. Do not attempt.**
Take of ye Surrop of violets of ye Surrop of white Popies of ye Surrop of dried Roses and of ye Surrop of Balsom, made with Balsom of Perue, of each 2 ounces Oyl of Sulphur’s drops, mix these well together and take 2 Spoonfulls at night Going to Bed. Ye Surrop of Balsom is hard to be gott Right being a Majesteriall of ye Doctors.
Take of the syrup of violets, of the syrup of white poppies [opium], of the syrup of dried roses, and of the syrup of balsam, made with Balsam of Peru, of each 2 ounces, oil of Sulphur’s drops; mix these well together and take 2 spoonfuls at night going to bed. The syrup of balsam is hard to get, being a magisterial of the doctors.