Thursday, 30 April 2020

Blowing the Cobwebs Away


I have just finished "A Dictionary of Sussex Folk Medicine" by Andrew Allen which has sat on my shelf for years. It was one of those books I picked up for 50p at a jumble sale and have previously dipped into from time to time. Reading it properly from cover to cover has been absolutely fascinating as it's lifted the lid on how our ancestors tried to cure ills and maladies when paying a Doctor was prohibitively expensive and beyond the purses of many. Often these "cures" seem like madness to our modern minds, but in some instances there was real science behind it even if people didn't understand why they worked.

One of the entries which really struck me was learning that wounds used to be wrapped in cobwebs to stop the blood from flowing from a very early time. At one time soldiers actually carried boxes of webs as part of their battle kit for this exact reason, but over time the practice was seen as unhygienic and it fell out of favour. Now for the interesting part.....  wads of cobwebs behave like absorbent cotton wool and there are proteins on the silk surface that help blood coagulate. Finally because they are charged with static electricity they repel bacteria with an opposite charge including the one that causes sepsis. Not one you want to be attracting under any circumstances, especially if you are wounded.

It's been such a fascinating read and my one regret is that I left it so long to discover all this!

Arilx

10 comments:

  1. I knew cobwebs were used as wound dressings and assumed it was just for their clotting properties, all the other stuff are new to me, that is amazing. Up here spaghnum moss fills that brief as a wound dressing, also with more positive properties discovered with modern science, where as before it was used 'because it worked' x

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    1. Hadn't heard about the moss. Knew they used honey to treat wounds. It's all fascinating to me. Arilx

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  2. Oh good - an excuse for not sweeping away the cobwebs in my house!

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    1. I think of them as fly catchers so leave them in place too! Arilx

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  3. Several of my Victorian horse books state that cobwebs should always be left in stables, for putting on wounds as well. I didn't know the science behind it but the static charge repelling bacteria sounds like something the medical practitioners should take on board.

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    1. Thank you for that extra tidbit. It all makes even more sense when the science back it up. Arilx

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  4. Never heard of that one before Aril...how interesting. x

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  5. This use of cobwebs is among our clan's scraps of lore dating from the Great Depression. It's said that a granny practiced folk medicine by referring to a Pharmacopeia and a WWI field medic's guide. The cobwebs' box hasn't worried me as much as the jar of leeches...

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    1. They are using leeches here again in the UK for certain operations! Arilx

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