Sunday, January 10, 2016
19th century home remedies for sore feet: Please do not try these at home.
Chilblains are caused when the extremities are exposed to cold and damp conditions and trigger an abnormal response within the tissues. Commonly associated with colder climates, chilblain can occur anywhere where hypothermia is possible. The condition is very common in people with poor circulation and is a mild form of frostbite. Chilblains are extremely irritating when itchy and potentially dangerous when ulcerated. Persistent chilblains need the attention of a health care professional, but in the past home remedies included a ginger footbath. After bathing, the skin was rubbed vigorously to increase the local circulation. Iodine was then applied as a paint to chemically cause a counter irritation to increase the local circulation. Beeswax and olive oil mixtures were painted on the skin or when mixed with calamine applied as an ointment. Pastes of glycerine, honey and flour with the white of an egg were also used as a poultice on painful chilblains. Sounds almost nice enough to eat.
Remedies for tired aching feet in Victorian Times included regular bathing in Cologne water before sprinkling talcum powder to cool socks and stockings. Saline footbaths were very commonly used to soothe aching feet with mixtures of shaved ivory soap and Epsom salts as alternative additives to the foot baths.
Home treatment for corns and hard skin included rubs of marigold leaves in the morning and evening. Soaking feet in hop soapsuds with bicarbonate of soda were also recommended. Rough towelling the skin or rubbing the area gently with pumice stone was generally the approach of choice.
The Victorians had a preoccupation with foot message. In the case of circulation problems, people were encouraged to increase blood flow in the legs by lying face down with pillows placed under the foot to lift them higher than the heart. Foot and toe exercises were prescribed. Prior to massage the feet were held in a footbath containing infusion of lime or marigold flowers or lavender leaves combined with a little salt.
Walking became a popular pastime in the late 19th century; many prepared their feet in soaks of alum to toughen up their skin. Methylated spirits were also used to the same purpose. Some old bush craft books advised urinating on the feet at the first sign of tenderness to harden the skin. Toe nails needed to be cut short to avoid them cutting into the flesh. Well-fitting boots and socks were essential Skin was prepared with petroleum jelly or moisten soap to create a friction free surface.
Please do not try these remedies at home. If you suffer persistent foot pain or discomfort, please consult your professional foot physician.
Healey J (Ed) 1999 Good old days good old ways "wisdom of the past for the needs of today Readers Digest Sydney: Readers Digest (Australia)