top of page

Ye olde cure for the common cold? Remedies from ‘The Compleat Housewife’

When Jane falls ill at Netherfield, the Bingleys kindly let her recuperate at their home, even calling for an apothecary to treat her. Not everyone could afford that, though. Books such as “The Compleat Housewife” — first published in 1727 in London — included not only recipes but also homemade remedies for ailments. We’ve highlighted a few remedies here from an 18th edition of “The Compleat Housewife,” available in digital form online via the Internet Archives.


For a cold

“Take rosemary and sliced licorice, and boil it in a small ale, and sweeten it with treacle, and drink it going to bed four or five nights together.”

For a “consumptive cough”

“Take of the syrup of white and red poppies, of each three ounces, of barley, cinnamon-water, and red poppy-water, of each two ounces, of tincture of saffron one ounce, liquid laudanum forty drops, and as much spirit of sulphur as will make it acid: take three or four spoonfuls of it every night going to bed; increase or diminish the dose, according as you find it agrees with you.”

To clear the eyes

“Take the white of hen’s-dung, dry it very well, and beat it to a powder; sift and blow it into the eyes when the party goes to bed.”

For a pain in the stomach

“Take conserve of wood sorrel and mithridate and equal quantity; mix it well together, and take night and morning the quantity of nutmeg; so do for fifteen days together.”

A drink for a fever

“Take a quart of spring-water, an ounce of burnt hart’s-horn, a nutmeg quartered, and a stick of cinnamon; let it boil for a quarter of an hour; when it is cold sweeten it to your taste with syrup of lemons, or fine sugar; with as many drops of spirit of vitriol as will sharpen it. Drink of this when you please.”


bottom of page