Monday, 1 September 2014

Prescription:Orange peas

As I complete the transcription of the prescription ledger of Doctor Thomas Ilott I came upon a Hayes Kent household where for several months alongside other treatments Orange Peas are prescribed.
Ilott was both an Apothecary and Surgeon and treats the unidentified "Miss" for most of 1810 in a number of visits.
When this blog first appeared I was contacted by someone who informed me that local pea growing included an old heritage seed variety of local pea which could be made into a soup or broth similar to lentils. They also offered to provide further information which did not arrive;nor has any response been forthcoming on subsequent enquiry. I have now discounted their suggestion.
The original and tantalising find lead me to question what medicinal prpoerties were in mind when this repeated prescription was made in 1810  along with other treatments?
I am indebted to Carol Westway Librarian at the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society for providing partial answers to these questions.
We are in 1810 referring to Citrus aurantium which is described in the Lexicon Pharmacetium as The Seville Orange Tree here. There is also an entry in the 1846 A Cyclopedia of Domestic Medicine and Surgery about the Seville Orange Tree here.
Carol also points that a modern title in the RHS Lindley Library Medicinal Plants of the World by Ben-Erik van Wyk (2004) says that parts of the Citrus aurantium (including fruits) come under the therapeutic category of  "appetite stimulant,aromatic,stomachic" and this appears to match other items prescribed by Ilott.
There remains no precise knowledge of the condition that Ilott was treating from entries in the ledger although each item is priced if supplied or prepared. There is also a puzzle as this female "Miss" (which Ilott applies to females 8 years and up in 1142 accounts)  is unique in having such a prescription.
Certainly the description of the phrase Orange Pea contained in one recent publication  referring to Orange Peas with an Oxford English Dictionary earliest reference in 1857 provides evidence that the knowledge of therapeutic or medicinal properties was not common and suggests that Ilott was using skills he had acquired in training to treat the young Hayes woman.