Cures For The Plague

H/T Roobeedoo for a link that led to Cures for the Plague:

Those who stayed in London did all they could to protect themselves from the plague. As no one knew what caused the plague, most of these were based around superstition. In 1665 the College of Physicians issued a directive that brimstone ‘burnt plentiful’ was recommended for a cure for the bad air that caused the plague. Those employed in the collection of bodies frequently smoked tobacco to avoid catching the plague.

“For personal disinfections nothing enjoyed such favour as tobacco; the belief in it was widespread, and even children were made to light up a reaf in pipes. Thomas Hearnes remembers one Tom Rogers telling him that when he was a scholar at Eton in the year that the great plague raged, all the boys smoked in school by order, and that he was never whipped so much in his life as he was one morning for not smoking. It was long afterwards a tradition that none who kept a tobacconist shop in London had the plague.” A J Bell writing in about 1700.

Other methods were also used to keep the plague away. When money was used in day-to-day transactions in shops or at market, it was placed in a bowl of vinegar rather than being handed over to the recipient. At markets, meat was not handed over by hand rather but by a joint being attached to a hook.

The wearing of lucky charms was also common – and recommended by doctors. Ambroise Pare, a physician, introduced new methods for treating gunshot wounds – but he still believed that a lucky charm would keep away the plague. Dr. George Thomson wore a dead toad around his neck.

The Church had a more basic way of protecting yourself against the plague. It recommended prayer and then more prayer.

Those who could afford health certificates were allowed to leave London, such as Dr Alston, the President of the College of Physicians. This mainly meant that the rich could leave London while the poor stayed in the city. Leaving the city was an obvious way of protecting yourself against the plague.

Charlatans who stayed in London set themselves up as doctors. They sold plague ‘cures’ at high prices. There were many who were willing to try these quack cures as few had any other alternative. ‘Plague water’ was a popular cure as was powered unicorn horn and frogs legs. What actually went into powered unicorn horn is not known. Putting the tail feathers of a live chicken onto buboes drew out the poison allowing the patient to recover – so people were told.

Has anything really changed since 1665? Charlatans still set themselves up as doctors. I didn’t know the College of Physicians was already in existence in 1665. I imagine that the entire College of Physicians – all charlatans to a man – wore dead toads around their necks, as their 21st century counterparts in the Royal College of Physicians doubtless still do. I can even imagine that Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies – who has told people to “think of cancer” when drinking a glass of wine – might wear a dead toad around her neck too. What better symbol of magical thinking?

For I’ve begun to think that the medical profession has made no progress in the last 350 years. There was perhaps a brief period, between about 1880 and 1940, when medicine became rational and scientific, and tremendous advances were achieved. But now the briefly-dispelled medieval mindset of superstition and credulity has rolled back in, like a thick fog, and many physicians appear to seriously believe that the habit of smoking is itself a disease, and that environmental tobacco smoke is as lethal as VX gas.

And are all the various pharma products currently available – e.g. Chantix, Champix, Chumpix – really any different from plague water, powdered unicorn horn, eye of newt, or toe of frog? Yes, they’re packaged as pop-out capsules in little white cardboard boxes in the approved 21st century style. But when it’s all boiled down to it, aren’t they just so many blue glass vials holding rhinoceros horn, asafoetida grass, or vinegar, arrayed on the dusty shelves of an apothecary’s shoppe? They are, after all, supposed to work in entirely magical ways to treat diseases that have themselves been magically acquired (simply by smoking cigarettes, “bad air”). The style may be different, but the substance is the same.

I read again today that the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its 1948 constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Perhaps the word they were looking for was “bliss”? It was once bliss to sit in a smoky pub with a beer and a cigarette and a few friends. It was a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Now, thanks to the meddling witch doctors in the WHO, doubtless all wearing dead toads around their necks, we have complete physical, mental, and social unwell-being.

We’d probably be better off if, instead of taking their pop-out brimstone tablets to treat our smoking-related cholera, we just prayed to St Anthony instead.


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28 Responses to Cures For The Plague

  1. Smoking Lamp says:

    Sadly, superstition reigns. The relentless antismoking propaganda has obliterated common sense.

  2. slugbop007 says:

    Same subject but more up to date. October of this year:

    Maybe we should send links to Deborah, Margaret, Simon & Stan?


    • nisakiman says:

      From your link:

      In fact, the researchers found, the whole plant material was more effective in attacking the parasite than pure artemisinin, likely because encapsulation inside the plant cells protected the compound from degradation by digestive enzymes.

      But Kumar and his colleagues acknowledge that convincing people to eat tobacco plants is likely to be a hard sell. (My emphasis.)

      So here we have a situation where researchers have found a cheap and easily produced cure for malaria, but because of the anti-tobacco propaganda machine, they now have to look for alternative methods of production.

      The Tobacco Control industry really does have a lot to answer for. Everything they have done to date has had a negative impact on just about every aspect of life.

  3. slugbop007 says:

    A tobacco plant genetically engineered to never stop growing:

    Conjures up all sorts of imaginative possibilities.


  4. Tony says:

    Someone noted years ago that an anagram of ‘Arnott Deborah’ is ‘Abhorrent Toad’.

  5. waltc says:

    Dead toads aside, interesting that even in the 1600s, they seemed to have some, at least generalized, idea of germ theory (sterilizing money, not handling food) only to forget it till Lister came along. While I agree that the theory of “lifestyle” etiology is more or less like the punchline of the old joke (“You don’t see any elephants, do you?”) I think there’ve been many genuine (as well as dubious) advances since 1940. Starting with penicillin, the Salk vaccine, the range of antibiotics and anti-virals, going into bypass surgery and aortic stents, heart and other organ transplants, “smart” prosthetics, laser surgery, radio-surgery, fetal surgery, genetic targeting. I could likely name more. But with it, modern medicine has also produced a reflexive belief in drugs and procedures whose risks often exceed their benefits (if any) –some of which are promiscuously prescribed as “preventives” to allegedly prevent (“you don’t see any elephants, do you?”) diseases and conditions that might never occur. Then, too, as you imply, disease has again become an “outward sign of inner disgrace”– the product of ( or retribution for) Sin or a sin in itself and accordingly many doctors, or at least the medical establishment/public health, has taken on the self-appointed role of high priests, or even exorcists. So on one level, progress, on another–full circle.

    • nisakiman says:

      Let us not forget that iatrogenesis accounts for more ‘preventable’ deaths than even the wild numbers dreamed up by Tobacco Control for ‘smoking related deaths’.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes there have been advances, but aren’t they all of the same character as advances in motor car technology in the late 20th century – small improvements? No-one has done anything as daring as the invention of the motor car or the motorbike. In our stunted world, there are no such sweeping visions. We merely improve things a bit. Perhaps we don’t even improve them.

      In our fearful world, in which we see awful threats in puffs of smoke, I do not think it is actually possible for anyone to do something so daring as to invent a car or or a motorbike or a plane. It would be banned immediately. There would be an outcry. Think of the chiiiiildren! The first motor car would have been smashed to pieces, and its engineering plans incinerated, and its inventor stoned to death.

      • Rose says:

        Welcome to the Precautionary Principle website

        “The mission of this website is to promote the understanding and implementation of the Precautionary Principle for the management of new and emerging risks.

        The Precautionary Principle is a strategy to cope with possible risks where scientific understanding is yet incomplete, such as the risks of nano technology, genetically modified organisms and systemic insecticides.

        The Precautionary Principle is defined as follows:
        When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. Morally unacceptable harm refers to harm to humans or the environment that is”

        So yes, motorbikes and cars could not be invented now and planes would be out of the question.

  6. petesquiz says:

    “There was perhaps a brief period, between about 1880 and 1940, when medicine became rational and scientific, and tremendous advances were achieved.”

    Frank, you’ve hit the nail on the head – doctors have applied the Scientific Method to the problems of medicine and, admittedly, they’ve made some progress, but here’s the problem.

    I have a degree in Chemistry, but I’d only need an ‘O’ Level to make this point. If you take 12 grammes of Carbon you have 6 x 10 to the power of 23 atoms of Carbon or to put it another way – 600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms. Every one identical (ignoring any Carbon 13 and 14!) and, such a vast number, that when you perform an experiment on them you know that you have a statistically significant sample size.

    Now, if you take the whole human race you have 7,000,000,000,000 people (that’s eleven fewer 0’s!) and each one is subtly different. The medical people have then applied the Scientific Method to their problems, with an even smaller sample size each time (often less than 1,000), got some results and claimed that they are ‘statistically significant’! But they can’t be, the sample size is way, way, way too small for the Scientific Method to be properly applied.

    So we now have a new orthodoxy that relies on statistical analysis of any results and, if applied as the Head Priest (sorry I mean qualified statistician) has specified, what we are left with is the ‘Truth’. As far as I can see most of modern science relies on statistics to prove the ‘Truth’; but it doesn’t. All it does is to give you a better result, but still not a result that can be said to be 100% true.

    Here’s an example – we’re constantly being told that the average temperature of the Earth is rising. Based on what I can glean this average is calculated from – “The temperature data are provided publicly by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), based in New York City. GISS has compiled and analyzed data from a thousand weather stations around the world, ship and satellite observations of sea temperatures, and measurements at Antarctic research stations to form a global temperature index. The annual averages go back in history only to 1880, when meteorologists began using modern scientific instruments to monitor temperatures precisely.”
    (Quote from this source – )

    So, 1,000 weather stations produce an average temperature result for the Earth which has a surface area of 510,000,000 sq. Km – that’s 1 weather station for every half a million square kilometres (that’s about twice the size of the United Kingdom). I assume that for the current data, the satellite observations fill in some of the gaps, but before 1957 there was no satellite data. Whichever way you look at it, no-one in their right mind could say that this is at all a meaningful figure. And yet it is one of the Pillars of Belief in the Church of Man-Made Climate Change!

    Sorry, that was quite a convoluted way of saying, “I agree with you!”

    • Frank Davis says:

      we now have a new orthodoxy that relies on statistical analysis

      I’m beginning to wonder whether all this statistics has resulted in the death of science. The Newtonian laws of motion and gravitation that I apply in my orbital simulation model aren’t of a statistical character. Neither are the earlier Keplerian equations of elliptical motion.

      Kepler inferred the elliptical motion of the planets from the measurements of Tycho Brahe. He tried several shapes – circles, ovals – before settling on ellipses.How many measurements had Brahe made? Were his results statistically significant? If the same measurements were used today by statisticians, would they have extracted ellipses from those measurements? I rather doubt it. It took the mind of Kepler to fit ellipses to the numbers, and statisticians do not have such minds.

      Statistics, it seems to me, creates a fog of uncertainty around everything. It creates a world where anything is possible, even if highly improbable. It creates a world where smoking might cause lung cancer, but so equally might a glass of wine or a bar of chocolate or a sideways glance. In this foggy world, the precision of the Keplerian ellipses and the Newtonian laws of motion vanishes. If science were compared to a beautiful sandcastle, with towers and spires and turrets, statistics is the wave that sweeps over it and reduces it back to a low hummock of wet sand.

      • petesquiz says:

        That’s a great analogy! I actually think that most scientists understand this, but as soon as they need more funding they are forced into giving ‘certainties’ to the people funding them, when all they have really found are more questions. Ditto for when journalists are investigating science, they always want “Yes/No” or “Black and White” answers when the true answer is actually, “Maybe. It could be a bit darker grey than we thought.”

      • Roberto says:

        I think you are “throwing the baby with the bathtub water”. The fact that tobacco controllers allude to statistics to justify their lies does not mean that statistics is (in itself) flawed or that it can never be applied correctly and honestly. In fact, the alleged harm from ETS, which is the holly grail of tobacco control policies, can be easily refuted precisely by means of the correct and honest usage of the same epidemiological statistics that the controllers use. Most studies on ETS report very low risks that are not statistically significant: a sort of 20% relative risk. The trickery is not in the statistics (which is not rocket science statistics), but in how tobacco controllers communicate this to the press and to the public. Typically ETS studies show something like (say) 10 non-smoking spouses of non-smokers in a sample of 1000 couples get lung cancer, so a 20% relative risk for non-smoking spouses of smokers would yield 12 lung cancer cases. If you describe it in this way (which is the correct and honest way), then there is no cause of alarm, but this is not what controllers want: they want to scare the public, so they never mention the actual numbers, only the misleading relative risks. Similar figures occur in the famous doctor study by Doll and Hill, out of about 20000 doctors, less than 10 of non-smokers and about 100 smokers died of lung cancer, which translates into more than ten times the risk (or more than 1000% risk). What the public is not told is that a very small percentage of smokers got lung cancer and that a much larger risk of a small risk is still a small risk. The fault lies with the (mis)use of statistics, not with statistics itself.

        • Roberto says:

          Sorry, a typo: I omitted a very important “no”. It should say “If you describe it in this way (which is the correct and honest way), then there is NO cause of alarm, but this is not what controllers want”

          Frank: I’ve edited your comment to include an emphatic “no”.

  7. Lepercolonist says:

    Chantix Black Box Warning :

    Serious neuropsychiatric events including, but not limited to, depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide have been reported in patients taking CHANTIX. Some reported cases may have been complicated by the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal in patients who stopped smoking. Depressed mood may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal. Depression, rarely including suicidal ideation, has been reported in smokers undergoing a smoking cessation attempt without medication. However, some of these symptoms have occurred in patients taking CHANTIX who continued to smoke.
    All patients being treated with CHANTIX should be observed for neuropsychiatric symptoms including changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, and suicide-related events, including ideation, behavior, and attempted suicide. These symptoms, as well as worsening of pre-existing psychiatric illness and completed suicide, have been reported in some patients attempting to quit smoking while taking CHANTIX in the postmarketing experience. When symptoms were reported, most were during CHANTIX treatment, but some were following discontinuation of CHANTIX therapy.
    These events have occurred in patients with and without pre-existing psychiatric disease. Patients with serious psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder did not participate in the premarketing studies of CHANTIX.
    Advise patients and caregivers that the patient should stop taking CHANTIX and contact a healthcare provider immediately if agitation, hostility, depressed mood, or changes in behavior or thinking that are not typical for the patient are observed, or if the patient develops suicidal ideation or suicidal behavior. In many postmarketing cases, resolution of symptoms after discontinuation of CHANTIX was reported, although in some cases the symptoms persisted; therefore, ongoing monitoring and supportive care should be provided until symptoms resolve.
    The risks of CHANTIX should be weighed against the benefits of its use. CHANTIX has been demonstrated to increase the likelihood of abstinence from smoking for as long as one year compared to treatment with placebo. The health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and substantial [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS, ADVERSE REACTIONS].

    Quit smoking, take Chantix and get healthy ! Wonderful, now I can complete my suicide.

    • Rose says:

      Depressed mood may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal

      Or it may not.

      Smoking May Act as an Antidepressant Drug

      “The study found that the brains of chronic smokers had neurochemical abnormalities in the locus coeruleus that can be produced by repeatedly treating laboratory animals with antidepressant drugs, he explained.

      Specifically, long-term smoking appears to inhibit monoamine oxidase (or acts as an MAO inhibitor). Monoamine oxidase is the enzyme that metabolizes monoamines — such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, Klimek explained. The locus coeruleus produces norepinephrine. Drugs that inhibit monoamines are antidepressants.”

      “They ground up tobacco leaves and tested representative samples in a test tube to see if they inhibited MAO. From the fraction containing the most potent MAO inhibitor, they isolated a chemical known as 2,3,6-trimethyl-1,4-naphthoquinone.

      To find out whether this was a key MAO-inhibitor in cigarette smoke, Castagnoli’s team examined mice in which dopamine-producing neurons were killed with a compound called MPTP that’s converted to a toxin in the brain, causing symptoms much like Parkinson’s disease. Without the naphthoquinone, dopamine levels in the mice given MPTP dropped 60% below normal.

      Yet when the mice were pretreated with naphthoquinone, dopamine levels fell only 40%. This suggests that naphthoquinone “is a good [MAO] inhibitor–not gangbusters, but a good inhibitor,” Castagnoli says.

      Napthoquinone had previously been found in tobacco smoke, but not linked to dopamine.”

      “1,4-Naphthoquinone, of which the Vitamin K group compounds are derivatives”

      “Solanesol, extracted from tobacco leaves, is used in synthesis of high-value bio-chemicals such as vitamin-K analogues and Co-enzyme Q10 (Co Q10). Solanesol, the starting material used in the synthesis of Co Q 10 and Vitamin K analogues, is also a potentiating agent in these medicines.”

  8. Rose says:

    The modern reworking of another old wives tale.

    E-cigarettes could be used to help combat obesity in smokers trying to quit: study
    Oct 25, 2016

    “In a review published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, the scientists found that it’s the nicotine in cigarettes that makes smokers less likely to overeat, and suggested e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but no tobacco, may help prevent them from eating too much when they quit.”

    Not if you read the vapers forums.
    A quick search on vaping and weight gain yields some interesting results.

    Why does it always have to be nicotine?

    I’ll admit that it has taken me ten years to find out some of the other things in a tobacco plant, but I’m a gardener not a scientist.

  9. Supergran says:

    This will be VERY controversial to most Frank, but I truly believe that there may be hundreds of cures out there for many many ailments, but if there were, and most things were cured, what would happen to the nano-billions that Big Pharma make? Just take statins. Billions of pills popped every day and they dont do a damn thing to stop anyone having heart disease. From the research I’ve done myself, it appears that they MAY only be of slight assistance AFTER a heart attack. Tell that to Big Phama eh? and listen to the crap that’ll from anyone with a scrap of allegiance to them.

  10. Supergran says:


  11. Reblogged this on The Last Furlong and commented:
    Fun post Frank! Thanks – reblogged.

  12. Pingback: After The Fall | Frank Davis

  13. Pingback: The Sandcastle | Frank Davis

  14. Reinhold says:

    Translated this – slightly shortened – into German in
    and eventually it will also appear on

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