1661: Ease swollen testes with butter-fried horse dung


Johann Jacob Wecker was a Swiss physician, naturalist and alchemist of the mid-16th century. Wecker authored several popular tracts on alchemy and medicine. He is perhaps best known for his account of genital malformations, including the first documented case of a double penis, discovered on a corpse in Bologna. In the mid 1600s an English physician named Read collated Wecker’s medical and surgical receipts into an eighteen-book collection, Secrets of Art and Nature. The 1661 edition contained hundreds of suggested medical treatments for all manner of complaints – including several cures for “pains of the belly”:

“The heart of a lark bound to the thigh… and some have eaten it raw with very good success.”

“I know one who drank dry ox dung in broth and it presently cured him of the colic… Some do not drink the dung but the juice pressed from it, which is far better.”

“Any bone of a man hanged, so that it may touch the flesh [may] cure pains of the belly.”

“Apply a living duck to your belly, the disease will pass into the duck.”

For excessive bleeding, Wecker suggests a trip to the pigpen:

“To staunch blood… Blood running immoderately out of any part of the body will be presently stopped if hog’s dung [still] hot be wrapped up in fine thin cotton linen and put into the nostrils, women’s privities or any other place that runs with blood. I write this for country people rather than for courtiers, being a remedy fit for their turn…”

Wecker also provides handy beauty tips. He offers recipes for dying the hair numerous colours, including silver, yellow, red, green and several shades of black. There are also remedies for encouraging hair growth and removing unwanted hair, both of which involve rodent excreta:

“To diminish the hair… cat’s dung dried and powdered and mingled to a pap with strong vinegar will do it. With this you must rub the hairy place often in a day, and in a short time it will grow bald… The piss of mice or rats will [also] make a hairy part bald.”

“That hair may grow again quickly, the ashes of burnt bees [mixed] with mice dung, if you anoint this with oil of roses, will make hair grow in the palm of your hand.”

Lastly, for “swollen codds [testicles], Wecker suggests breaking out the frypan:

“Take new horse dung, mix the same with vinegar and fresh butter, fry it in a pan and, as hot as the patient may endure, lay it to the grieved place.”


Source: Johann Wecker and Dr R. Read, Secrets of Art and Nature, 1661 ed. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.