Home > History of Wine > “As will make it pretty thick”: A quick look at wine and dung

“As will make it pretty thick”: A quick look at wine and dung

When it comes to the subject of wine and animal dung I am accustomed to reading about it in the context of augmenting vineyard soils.  In this sense a “manur’d vine” was one that was “husbanded” or cultivated and not a wild vine.  S.J wrote in The Vineyard (1727) that the soils of France were poor thus manure was applied on a yearly basis.[1]  Applying manure had its critics such as Jethro Tull who wrote in Horse-hoeing Husbandry (1752) that the “dung’d Vineyards in Languedoc produce nauseous Wine”.[2]  Jethro Tull goes on to cite the proverb, “That poor Peoples Wine is best, because they carry no Dung to their Vineyards.”  With such a background I was thus surprised, due to a lack of knowledge about medical recipes, to read of one particular medical cure that involved a mixture of wine and sheep’s dung.

Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) by Anthony van Dyck. Image from Wikimedia.

Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) by Anthony van Dyck. Image from Wikimedia.

The particular recipe was “An infallible Remedy” to remove the markings of small pox in Sir Kenelm Digby’s Choice and Experimented Receipts in Physick and Chirugery (1668). [3]  This is not the first time Sir Kenelm Digby’s wine recipes have struck someone as interesting for Hermione Eyre blends Sir Kenelm Digby and the mysterious death of his wife Lady Venetia Digby in her debut historic-fantasy book Viper Wine.[4]  I simply recommend that your read Hermione Eyre’s description of her work but do know that Viper Wine was a popular “beauty potion” during a time when women applied lead with vinegar to their cheeks and that Anthony Van Dyck painted Lady Venetia Digby on her deathbed.

Jean de Renou’s “A Medicinal Dispensatory: Containing the Whole Body of Physick” 1657.

With my interest caught I took a very quick look at other medical recipes.  The Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh published an “Anti-epileptic Tincture” that contained peacock’s dung with French wine amongst other ingredients.[5]  Sir Richard Blackmore recommended a “strong Expression of Horse Dung” with “French White Wine, or Rhenish” after “copious Bleeding” for consumption.[6]  John Floyer felt that goose dung, celandine, madder root, cinnamon, and saffron infused in wine would help with hot jaundice.[7]  In an older recipe, Jean de Renou noted that patients and doctors avoid dung due to its “ingrateful fapour… Yet, Mouse-dung, with white-wine, is good to break and exclude the stone”.[8]  Many of the recipes call for a mixture of several herbs with the dung and wine. Unfortunately, Sir Kenelm Digby’s “thick” recipe was made from only two ingredients.

An infallible Remedy for the same.

In a wine glass full of Sack dissolve as much Sheeps-dung newly taken out of the Sheeps-gut warm, as will make it pretty thick, yet so, that the Patient may drink it: Let him drink this, and lye quietly in his bed reasonably warm covered : This will make him sweat, and cause the Pox or Measles to come out kindly, and finish the cure very speedily.

[1] S.J. The Vineyard, a treatise, the observations made by a gentleman in his travels. 1727. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=KRIAAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Tull, Jethro. Horse-hoeing Husbandry, Or, An Essay on the Principles of Vegetation and Tillage.  1752. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=MogaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Digby, Kenelm. Choice and Experimented Receipts in Physick and Chirugery. 1668. URL:
[4] Eyre, Hermione. Venetia Stanley: did viper wine kill the 17th century beauty? March 12, 2014. The Telegraph. URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/10680346/Venetia-Stanley-did-viper-wine-kill-the-17th-century-beauty.html
[6] The Dispensatory of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. 1727. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=JuRZAAAAcAAJ&dq=wine%20dung%20physician&pg=PA82#v=onepage&q=wine%20dung%20physician&f=false
[6] Blackmore, Richard. A Treastise of Consumptions and Other Distempers Belonging to the Breast and Lungs. 1724. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=N95bAAAAQAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[7] Floyer, John. The Physicians Pulse-watch. 1710. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=PFVWAAAAcAAJ&pg=PP5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[8] de Renou, Jean. A Medicinal Dispensatory. 1657. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=sfY2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Categories: History of Wine

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