Looking back through old remedies and folk cures, unusual illnesses are often mentioned that we never hear of anymore. Sometimes it still exists and we just know it by a more updated name. Here’s a few ‘old time’ conditions.
Biliousness: A term used in the 18th and 19th centuries pertaining to bad digestion, stomach pains, constipation, and excessive flatulence (passing gas). The quantity or quality of the bile was thought to be at fault for the condition. Hence, the name “biliousness.” (“Bilious” derives from the French “bilieux,” which in turn came from “bilis,” the Latin term for “bile.”) Biliousness was generally laid to high living. The “cure” was moderation and frequent visits to the doctor.
Cow Itch: One of the common names for Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) is cow itch vine. This trumpet creeper frequently causes an irritation from contact with this vine. Other plants, such as Carolina Jasmine or “Jessamine” (Gelsemium sempervirens), poison ivy, poison oak and sumac also cause similar rashes. Probably more commonly called contact dermatitis in today’s medical world.
Dew Sores: Any of various rashes or infections of the feet or legs, believed to be caused by dew; the presumed agent causing such rashes or infections. Sometimes ringworm or hookworm of the feet, or Sores on the feet, usually between the toes; caused by parasitic mites. (See here for old time references to dew sores)
Dropsy: An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. Today one would be more descriptive and specify the cause. Thus, the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure. Edema is often more prominent in the lower legs and feet toward the end of the day as a result of pooling of fluid from the upright position usually maintained during the day. Upon awakening from sleeping, people can have swelling around the eyes referred to as periorbital edema.
Quinsy: Peritonsillar abscess (PTA), also known as a quinsy or quinsey, is a recognized complication of tonsillitis and consists of a collection of pus beside the tonsil in what is referred to as peritonsilar space (peri—meaning surrounding).
Torpid liver: Sluggish liver. One old newspaper cutout reported – Torpid liver is responsible not only for many a poor complexion, but for warped views of life as well. One noted physician declares that every woman over 35 should take a dose of calomel at least twice a month.
Wens: a benign encysted tumor of the skin, especially on the scalp, containing sebaceous matter; a sebaceous cyst.