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more sure in effect, than to cover the patient warm in bed, and to make him drink every hour one quart of warm tar water, of such strength as his stomach is able to bear; a thing not so impracticable as it may seem at first sight, since I have known much more drank in fevers, even by children, and that eagerly and by choice, the distemper calling for drink, and the ease it gave encouraging to go on. This for the cure; but I conceive that one quart per diem may suffice for prevention; especially if there be added an even temper of mind, and an exact regimen, which are both highly useful against the plague. For carbuncles and buboes I would recommend a liniment of the oil of tar, or a plaster of pitch mixed with tar, which last was used by the vulgar in the Dutch plague described by Diemerbroeck.
It has pleased Divine Providence to visit us not long since, first with famine, then with the sword; and if it shall please the same good Providence yet farther to visit us for our sins, with the third and greatest of human woes, this, by God's blessing, is the course I mean to take for myself and family; and if generally practised, it would, I doubt not (under God), save the lives of many thousands; whereof being persuaded in my own mind, both from the many trials I have made of tar water, and the best judgment and reasonings I could form thereupon, I think myself obliged to declare to the world what I am convinced of myself.
And I am the rather moved to this by the great uncertainty and disagreement among physicians, in their methods of treating the plague. Diemerbroeck, for instance, a physician of great experience in the Dutch' plague that raged about eighty years ago, dissuades by all means from bleeding in that distemper. On the other hand, Sydenham recommends what the other disapproves. If we believe Dr. Sydenham, the free use of wine, as a preservative, hath thrown many into the
plague, who otherwise might have escaped. Dr. Willis on the contrary avers, that he knew many, who being well fortified by wine, freely entered amongst the infected, witbout catching the infection.
Bleeding cools, but at the same time weakens nature. Wine gives spirits, but heats withal. They are both therefore to be suspected, whereas tar water cools without weakening, and gives spirits without heating, a sure indication of its sovereign virtue in all inflammatory and malignant cases, which is confirmed by such numbers of instances, that matter of fact keeps pace (at least) with reason and argument in recommending this medicine.
Plagues as well as fevers are observed to be of different kinds; and it is observed of fevers, that, as they change their genius in different seasons, so they must be treated differently, that very method that succeeded in one season often proving hurtful in another. Now it is very remarkable, that tar water has been known to vary its working, and wonderfully adapt itself to the particular case of the patient, a thing I frequently have experienced.
Last spring two children, a boy and a girl, the former ten years old, the latter eight years old, were seized with fevers; the boy had an inflammation in his breast. In less than two hours they drank each about five quarts of warm tar water, which wrought them very differently, the girl as an emetic, the boy as a gentle purge, but both alike immediately recovered, without the use of any other medicine: of this I was an eye-witness, and I have found by frequent experience, that the best way is, to let this medicine take its own course, not hindered nor interrupted by any other medicines; and this being observed, I never knew it to fail so much as once, in above a hundred trials in all sorts of fevers.
Nevertheless there are not wanting those who would insinuate, that tar water made in the common way con
tains noxious oils or particles of tar, which render it dangerous to those who drink it, a thing contrary to all my experience. This was the old objection made by those who opposed it from the beginning. But I am convinced by innumerable trials, that tar water is so far from doing hurt by any caustic or fiery quality, that it is on the contrary a most potent medicine for the allaying of heat, and curing of all inflammatory distempers. The perpetual returning to the same objection makes it necessary to repeat the same answer.
And yet, some who are not afraid to argue against experience, would still persuade us that the common tar water is a dangerous medicine, and that the acid freed from the volatile oil is much more safe and efficacious: but I am of opinion, that being robbed of its fine volatile oil (which neither sinks to the bottom nor floats at the top, but is throughout and intimately united with it, and appears to the eye only in the colour of tar water); being robbed, I say, of this oil, it is my opinion it can be no cordial, which opinion (not to mention the reason of the thing) I ground on my own experience, having observed that the most acid water is the least cordial, so far am I from imputing the whole virtue to the acid, as some seem to think.
It seems not very reasonable to suppose, that the caustic quality of tar warer (if such there was) should be removed or lessened by distillation, or that a still should furnish a cooler and better medicine than that which is commonly prepared by the simple affusion and stirring of cold water. However the ends of chemists or distillers may be served thereby, yet it by no means seemeth calculated for the benefit of mankind in general, to attempt to make people suspect, and frighten them from the use of a medicine, so easily and so readily made, and every where at hand, of such approved and known safety, and at the same time recommended by cures the most extraordinary, on persons of all sexes and ages, in such
variety of distempers, and in so many distant parts of Christendom.
By most men, I believe, it will be judged, at best, a needless undertaking, instead of an easy tried medicine to introduce one more operose and expensive, unsupported by experiments, and recommended by wrong suppositions, that all the virtue is in the acid, and that the tar water being impregnated with volatile oil is caustic, which are both notorious mistakes.
Though it be the character of resin not to dissolve and mix with water as salts do, yet it attracts some fine particles of essential oil, which serves as a vehicle for such acid salts; and the colour of the tar water sheweth the fine oil, in which the vegetable, salts are lodged, to be dissolved and mixed therein. The combination of two such different substances as oil and salt, constitutes a very subtile and active medicine, fitted to mix with all humours, and resolve all obstructions, and which may properly be called an acid soap.
Tar water operates more gently and safely, as the acid salts are sheathed in oil, and thereby losing their acrimony, approach the nature of neutral salts, and so become more friendly to the animal system. By the help of a smooth insinuating oil, these acid salts are more easily and safely introduced into the fine capillaries. I may add, that the crasis of the blood is perfected by tar water, being good against too great a solution and fluidity as a balsam, and against viscidity as a soap, all which entirely depends upon the mixture of oil with the acid, without which it could neither operate as a balsam nor a soap; briefly, it was not mere acid or distilled water, or tincture of tar, but tar water, as commonly made, by affusion and stirring of cold water upon tar, which hath wrought all those great cures and salutary effects, which have recommended it as a medicine, to the general esteem of the world.
The mixture of volatile oil, which is or contains the
spirit, is so far from noxious, that it is the very thing that makes tar water a cordial; this gives it a grateful warmth, and raiseth the spirits of the hysteric and hypochondriacal; this also, rendering the blood balsamic, disposeth wounds of all sorts to an easy cure; this also it is that fortifies the vitals, and invigorates nature, driving the gout to the extremities, and shortening the fits, till it entirely subdues that obstinate and cruel enemy, as it hath been often known to do; but acid alone is so far from being able to do this, that on the contrary the free use of acids is reckoned amongst the causes of the gout.
I never could find that the volatile oil drawn from tar by the affusion of cold water produced any inflammation, or was otherwise hurtful, not even though the water by longer stirring had imbibed far more of the oil than in the common manner, having been assured, that some of strong stomachs have drank it after twenty minutes stirring, without any the least harm, and with very great benefit.
It hath been indeed insinuated, that the oil was ordered to be skimmed off, because it is caustic and dangerous; but this is a mistake. I myself, among many others, drank the tar water for two years together, with its oil upon it, which never proved hurtful, otherwise than as being somewhat gross, and floating on the top, it rendered the water less palatable, for which rea'son alone it was ordered to be skimmed.
It hath also been hinted, that making tar water the second time of the same tar was cautioned against, for that it was apprehended such water would prove too heating; which is so far from being true, that when I could not get fresh tar, I used the second water without difficulty, by means whereof it pleased God to recover from the small-pox two children in my own family, who drank it very copiously, a sufficient proof that it is not of that fiery caustic nature which some would persuade ús.