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main, though it wrought the patient violently all manner of ways: which shews, that errors and excesses in tar water, are not so dangerous, as in other medicines.
3. The best tar I take to be that which is most liquid, or first running from the billets of fir or pine, which grew on the mountains: it hath a greater share of the antiscorbutic vegetable juices, which are contained not only in the leaves and tender tops, but in all parts of the wood; and these, together with the salts of woodsoap, being in the composition of tar superadded to turpentine, render tar water a medicine, if I am not mistaken, much more extensive and efficacious, than any that can be obtained from turpentine alone.
4. The virtues of the wood juices shew themselves in spruce-beer, made of molasses, and the black sprucefir in the northern parts of America; and the young shoots of our common spruce-fir have been put to malt liquor in my own family, and make a very wholesome
5. Tar water seldom fails to cure, or relieve, when rightly made of good tar, and duly taken. I say, of good tar, because the vile practice of adulterating tar, and of selling the dregs of tar, or used tar for fresh, is grown frequent, to the great wrong of those who take it. Whoever hath been used to good tar water, can readily discern the bad by its flat taste, void of that warm cordial quality found in the former; it may also be expedient for knowing fresh tar, to observe, whether a fat oily scum floats on the top of the water, which is found to be much less, if any at all, on the second making of tar water. This scum was directed to be taken out, not from its being apt to do harm when drank, but to render the tar water more palatable to nice stomachs. Great quantities of tar are produced in Germany, Italy, and other parts of the world. The different qualities or virtues of these, it may be worth while to try, and I wish the trial were made principally by observing, which
giveth most sense of a lively cordial spirit upon drinking the water.
6. This medicine of tar water worketh various ways, by urine, by perspiration, as a sudorific, carminative, cardiac, astringent, detergent, restorative, alterative, and sometimes as a gentle purgative or emetic, according to the case or constitution of the patient, or to the quantity that is taken; and its operation should not be disturbed. I knew two brothers ill of a fever about the same time; it wrought on the one by copious sweating, on the other altogether by urine; and I have known it to act at different times differently, even on the same person, and in the same disorder; one while as a diaphoretic, or sudorific, another as a diuretic. Its general character is diuretic, which shews, that it cleanseth the urinary passages, preventing thereby both stone and gravel, against which it hath been found very useful, and much safer than mineral waters, by reason of its balsamic healing quality.
7. Tar water doth recover and impart vital heat, but imparts no inflaming heat. I have seen a wonderful cure wrought on a child about eight years old, and past all hopes, by pouring several spoonfuls of tar water down his throat, as he lay quite subdued by a most violent fever, without any appearance of sense or motion, the nostrils drawn back, the eyes fixed, the complexion deadly wan. And yet tar water, forced down by spoonfuls, seemed to kindle up life a-new; and this after sage-tea, saffron, milk-water, Venice treacle, &c. had been used without any success.
8. This is of itself a sufficient cordial, friendly and congenial to the vital heat and spirits of a man. therefore strong liquors are in the accustomed quantity superadded, the blood being already, by tar water, sufficiently warmed for vital heat, the strong liquors superadded will be apt to overheat it, which overheating is not to be imputed to the tar water, since, taken
alone, I could never observe it attended with that
9. And though it may be no easy matter to persuade such as have long indulged themselves in the free use of strong fermented liquors and distilled spirits, to forsake their pernicious habits, yet I am myself thoroughly persuaded, that in the weakness or fatigue of body, or in low spirits, tar water alone doth far surpass all those vulgarly-esteemed cordials, which heat and intoxicate, and which coagulate the fluids, and, by their caustic, force, dry up, stiffen, and destroy, the fine vessels and fibres of the unhappy drinkers, obstructing the secretions, impairing the animal functions, producing various disorders, and bringing on the untimely symptoms of old age. Nothing doth so much obstruct the good effects of tar water, as the abuse of strong liquors. Where this is avoided, it seems no chronical malady can keep its ground, or stand before tar water constantly and regularly taken, not even hereditary distempers, as the most inveterate king's evil, nor even the most confirmed gout; provided it be drank a quart a day, at six or eight glasses, and at all seasons, both in and out of the fit, and that for a great length of time, the longer the better. It is to be noted, that in fits of the gout, cholic, or fever, it should be always drank warm. On other occasions, warm or cold, as the patient likes.
10. The inference I make is, that those who expect health from tar water, have less need of any other cordial, and would do well to sacrifice some part of their pleasure to their health. At the same time I will venture to affirm, that a fever produced either from hard drinking, or any other cause, is most effectually and speedily subdued, by abstaining from all other cordials, and plentifully drinking of tar water; for it warms the cold, and cools the hot; simple water may cool, but this, at the same time that it cools, gives life and spirit.
It is, in truth, a specific for all kinds of fevers; the same medicine, which is a leisurely alterative in chronical disorders, being taken in larger quantities, is a speedy cure
in acute ones.
11. Those who, without knowledge or experience of tar water, have been so active and earnest to discredit its virtues, have much to answer for, especially with regard to acute inflammatory distempers, in which it doth wonders. It is in those disorders, so fatal and frequent, that I have had most opportunities of observing its virtues, nor can the world ever know the just value of this medicine, but by trying it in the like cases.
12. When patients are given over, and all known methods fail, it is allowed to try new remedies. If tar water was tried in such cases, I do verily believe, that many patients might thereby be rescued from the jaws of death particularly, I would recommend the trial of it, in the most malignant and desperate fevers or small-pox, attended with purple, livid, or black spots. It is my sincere opinion, that warm tar water, drank copiously, may often prove salutary, even in those deplorable cases.
13. My opinion is grounded on its singular virtues in correcting, sweetening, and invigorating, the blood, and in curing cancers and gangrenes, or beginning mortifications, such as those spots do indicate. I have lately known it drunk with good success in a very painful and unpromising wound; and am persuaded, that if it were drank plentifully, during the dressing of all sorts of dangerous wounds, it might assuage the anguish, and forward the cure; as it abates feverish symptoms, and by rendering the blood balsamic, and disposing the parts to heal, prevents a gangrene.
14. Tar itself is an excellent medicine, being spread on a cloth, and applied warm to an ulcer or wound. I have known the same applied to a very large and painful tumour, caused by a sprain or bruise, speedily assuage the pain, and reduce the swelling. I may add, that tar
(mixed with honey to make it less offensive, and) taken inwardly, is an admirable balsam for the lungs; and a little of this, taken together with tar water, hastens its effect in curing the most obstinate and wasting coughs; and an egg-shell full of tar, swallowed and washed down with a quart of tar water, night and morning, hath been found very useful for the same disorder in horses.
15. Sitting over the vapour of the heated lotion, described in my former letter, is excellent in the case of piles or fistula; especially if fomenting with the same lotion be added, as also anointing with the oil scummed from the top of tar water. Tar water hath been snuffed up the nostrils, with good success, for a great heaviness of the head and drowsiness. It is a very useful wash for weak, dry, or itching eyes: an excellent preservative for the teeth and gums; also a good drink and gargle for a throat: I may add, that I have known it succeed in cases where it has been tried without hopes of success, particularly in deafness. I have known life sustained many days together, only by drinking of tar water, without any other nourishment, and without any remarkable diminution of strength and spirit; it may therefore be of singular use, and save many lives in the distress of famine at sea, or in sieges, and in seasons of great scarcity. The virtue of tar water, flowing like the Nile,* from a secret and occult cause, brancheth into innumerable channels, conveying health and relief, wherever it is applied; nor is it more easy and various in its use, than copious in quantity. How great havoc, nevertheless, is made by the small-pox, raging like a plague, in New England, and other parts of America, which yet abound with tar! And how many thousand sailors, in all parts of the world, are rotting by the scurvy with their remedy at hand!
*The Nile was by the ancient Egyptians called Siris, which word also signifies, in Greek, a chain, though not so commonly used as Sira.