Interesting Facts From John Wesley's Medical Textbook

 Okay, so how many of my readers knew that John Wesley published a medical textbook that was highly popular? Some of my John Wesley nerds out there might have known this, but most of my readers probably do not. Given the age of the textbook, it is safe to say it is dated. However, it contained several interesting solutions to the problems that people faced. Although not all of them were ultimately helpful, some were, and some others are a bit humorous. In this post, I want to explore some of the interesting facts about John Wesley's medical textbook. Please note that none of this is medical advice in any way, shape, or form. I am simply pointing out some interesting facts about what John Wesley recommended in the context of 18th century England.

John Wesley is best known as an 18th century theologian and the founder of the Methodist movement. However, many people do not know that John Wesley did not stick strictly to theology. In 1747, John Wesley published a book called "Primitive Physick, or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases." John Wesley seemed to favor holistic healing in his book, which is why there are so many remedies listed within its pages that seems to focus on natural cures. Of course, we now know this information to be dated. But at the time of its publication, it was up with the times. The textbook ultimately underwent over a dozen updates. It can still be read for free online or in the 14 volume set of John Wesley's complete works.

I want to take a few minutes and look at 10 of the more interesting remedies found in Primitive Physick:

1. John Wesley recommended that a person with a stomachache hold a puppy close to themselves.

That is right! This is probably one of the most famous of his remedies. We now know that stomachaches can come as a result of many different things, but doesn't everyone love holding a puppy, especially when they are sick? I don't know anyone who would object to this.

2. John Wesley recommended some interesting things to cure a burn.

In addition to recommending that a burn be placed in cold water (up to 4 or 5 hours according to him, perhaps a little long), John Wesley also recommended that a bruised onion be applied to the burn. Whether or not this helps, I don't know. However, it is still an interesting remedy.

3. John Wesley also recommended rubbing an onion on your head to cure baldness.

This is another interesting remedy. For as long as men have been around, men have had to deal with receding hairlines as they grew older. The 18th century was no different. John Wesley recommended that a person rub their head with onions in the morning and evening until their head was red. After this, Wesley recommended they rub their bald spot with honey. Sweet!

4. John Wesley had some interesting advice for keeping children healthy.

John Wesley recommended that a child be weaned when he or she was seven months old and that the child should lie in a cradle until their first birthday. After they start walking, John Wesley recommended that they be allowed to go barefoot until they are three or four years old. He also recommended not giving them tea until they were ten or twelve years old. I am interested to know how this worked for those who tried it.

5. John Wesley recommended ways to both prevent and treat corns on the feet.

John Wesley recommended that a person wash his or her feet in cold water regularly to prevent corns. However, if someone ended up with a corn on his or her feet. He recommended applying bruised ivy leaves daily until the corn dropped off. He also believed that hot water helped dry feet.

6. John Wesley had an interesting remedy for deafness.

He recommended that someone use a teaspoon of salt water to help cure deafness. If this doesn't work, a person could try three or four drops of onion juice in the ear, and then use wool to cover the ear. Warm water in the ear was also a recommendation.

7. John Wesley recommended a milk diet to treat some convulsions.

To be fair, he did address different types of convulsions that could happen in people, and this is only for some of the instances that a person has a convulsion. But according to John Wesley, milk was good for helping people who had frequent convulsions. Who knew?

8. John Wesley recommended taking a spoonful of warm water to treat phlegm.

You know, this might not be such a bad suggestion. It is, at the very least, an interesting one.

9. John Wesley recommended a lot of water for kidney stones.

He recommended that a person drink half a pint of water every morning. If that failed, he recommended that a person mix boiled thistle, liquorice, and water, and drink that every morning. I have no clue if this works, but I am glad that I have never experienced a kidney stone.

10. Finally, John Wesley recommended a cold bath for practically EVERYTHING.

The most common remedy that I have seen in this textbook is the suggestion to take a cold bath. Is that what is missing from our health today? How much healthier would we be if we all took a cold bath a few times each week? The world may never know.

While these may be interesting remedies that we don't take seriously today, they definitely were in the context of the 18th century. All of this shows that John Wesley was concerned about more than just spiritual things. He was concerned about physical health, as well. We, as Christians today, should be concerned about both physical and spiritual health in those that we seek to disciple. We should follow Wesley's example in this (although not in some of the dated remedies that he offered). We should make use of modern discoveries in medicine to help those around us. Perhaps this will open up the door for the Gospel to be heard in someone's life.


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