Hannah Wolley was not only a talented writer, she was a keen and intelligent doctor. As I go through the recipes for food, I am often taken aback and fascinated by the cough syrups, medications, and herb remedies used for illnesses and maladies of the time. One of the most interesting I’ve come across is this contemporaneous recipe for face wash and acne treatment.
The recipe is titled “For Morphew, or Freckles, and to clear the Skin.” Morphew was a blemish of the skin, perhaps a lesion. It’s roots of the word are from the medieval word Morphea, a scledermic like condition. Though this was likely used in the treatment scleroderma, it is much more likely used as a modern acne treatment. Freckles, usually brought about by the sun, were also seen as a sign of the lower classes who were required to work outside. Fair skin, and clear skin, was seen as a beauty ideal.
I will not be attempting the recipe, so I cannot speak to the efficacy. But I do find it absolutely fascinating that this was a published recipe that doctors of the time would prescribe.
Below is the recipe for your perusal.
For Morphew, or Freckles, and to clear the Skin.
Take the Blood of any Fowl or Beast, and wipe your Face all over with it every night when you go to bed for a fortnight together, and the next day wash it all off with White Wine, and white Sugar Candy, and sometimes hold your face over the smoke of Brimstone for a while, and shut your eyes, if you add the Juice of a Limon to the white Wine, it will be the better.
What are your thoughts? Would you try it?
Feature Image by Cornelis Pietersz Bega (circa 1631/1632–1664) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons