Everyday Remedies

Black bryony 
Tamus communis

Purple loosestrife 
Lythrum salicaria

The Classical theory of humors spilled over into the treatment of external problems such as bruises, swellings, and almost any kind of skin rash; to the Roman way of thinking, these were outward signs of a disharmony in the underlying mix of humors. Poultices would be needed then, and in the Roman pharmacopaea there were dozens of them, such as the dried rootstock of black bryony that could have applied to the contusions of the battered boxer mentioned earlier;or a liniment of of crushed purple loosestrife leaves that would stauch a bloody wound; or one based on the juices extracted from hemlock that was said to be effective against breast tumors. Each of these medicinals most likely was mixed into a paste with some wine, again to take advantage of its antiseptic powers.

In the poorer area of a city, a slave might seek treatment for a back lacerated by a whipping. If some of the sores had become inflamed by infection, the doctor might cover them with a paste comprising the juice of wild celery—a plant much respected for its "coldness"—and some cheap wine; and perhaps some crushed garlic which, like wine, had well recognized antiseptic properties. Then would come the inevitable purge—perhaps a concoction of sour wine and juice boiled out of the foliage of Alexandrian senna.