Friday, June 01, 2018

Old Corn Cures

Don't people do the oddest of things? Some of the ancient remedies are so bizarre you cannot help wonder under what circumstances our forefathers discovered them. For example, an old cure for corns and calluses was a paste made from swine dung. "Ah there is a dollop of pig manure, I must make up a paste and rub it on my corns." Not really the first thing that springs to my mind but somebody obviously must have done it.

Another successful remedy was a paste made from the ash of the willow bark. Sitting round the fire one day you can see an elder of the community saying "Here what are we going to do with this charred willow? Let’s put it on your corns." There you go, yet another natural miracle. All this puts a completely different connotation on why Australia and England fiercely contest the ultimate prize in cricket, namely the ashes. " We’ve got the best cure for corns, na, na, na, na, na!"

A common remedy in the Middle Ages was to soak painful corns with the gastric juice of a calf's stomach. Talk about Mad Cow Disease, they must have been livid!

In medical writing the corn was referred to as "clavus pedum". In antiquity the appearance of corns was considered to resemble a carpenter's nail driven into the skin. Hence the Latin "clavus" and the term were first described by Celsus, Roman scientist and philosopher.

Another name given to a corn was "spina pendum" or thorn. Hippocrates had a sound approach to corns and recognised the necessity to physically reduce the hard skin followed by removal of the cause which was usually tight or ill-fitting shoes. Like many of his teachings this was ignored by the magic-obsessed practitioners of the Middle Ages. Most alternative treatments originated from the Dark Ages.

Verrucas or warts have come in for their fair or unfair share of alternative treatments. One of the more mildest cures was to place in a bag pebbles at the crossroads. Whoever picked up the bag would inherit the warts. Seems rather rough justice but for those who believe in the occult, a crossroads is a magical place and one sure venue to find the devil.

Another common practice was to pick the wart with a pin then stick it into an ash tree, reciting "Ashen tree, ashen tree, pray take away these warts from me." Again the importance of passing on suffering to something or some person is a common theme in many magical cures. This probably relates to the times when illness was considered to be the possession of demons. Maybe there is a grain of truth in this because in today's medicine, the demons of clinical pathology are the "mutating viruses." Ask anyone who has suffered from the recent flu.

Throughout history urine has been used to soften skin and boot leather by urinating on the corn or in the shoes. This was commonly reported as being practiced by the infantry during the Great War. Not perhaps as bizarre as you might think however since the protective layer which surrounds the skin has high uric acid content. Increasing the concentration of uric acid would help scaling of the skin. Not something I would recommend you do at home but urine would also help soften hard leather. Fear not dear reader you can buy over the counter creams which contain uric acid from your local pharmacist.

Reviewed 01/06/2018

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