LEEK sometimes formed part of quite complicated recipes. The Physicians of Myddfai, for example, conjoined the juice of leeks, goats’ gall and honey, mixed in three equal parts, and then put warm in the ears and nostrils. An early leechdom for an ear salve required the doctor to pound sinfull, which is a Sedum of some kind, latherwort (probably Soapwort), and leek, “put in a glass with vinegar and wring through a cloth and then drip it into the ear”. A prescription for deafness of the 15th century requires one to “take the juice of leaves of a beech-tree, and good vinegar, even portions, and put thereto powder of quick-lime; and then clear it through a cloth; and of this, when it is cleansed, put hot into the sick ear”. CAMOMILE flowers were used in an old recipe for deafness. The patient was to “take camomile and seethe it in a pot, and put it in the ear that is deaf, and wash the ear; and so do for four days or five, and he shall be whole”.

BAY leaves, or rather the juice pressed out of them, “is a remedy for for pain in the eares, and deafnesse, if it be dropped in with old wine and oile of Roses…” Lupton agreed, for “it doth not permit deafness, not other strange sounds to abide in the ear”. Squeezing HOUSELEEK juice into the ear is a famous earache remedy, but it is also claimed to be a cure for deafness, and it formed part of a Welsh prescription. The Physicians of Myddfai had a cure that involved “rams’ urine, the oil of eels, the houseleek, and the juice of traveller’s joy [OldMan’s Beard], and a boiled egg. Let him mix and drop into the ear little by little, and it will cure him…”

A strange remedy is this Irish one involving COWSLIPS. The whole plant, roots, blossoms and leaves is taken, well cleaned, bruised and pressed in a linen cloth. Add honey to the juice pressed out, put it in a bottle, and “pour a few drops into the nostrils and ears of the patient, who is to lie on his back. Then after some time, turn him on his face till the water pours out, carrying away whatever obstruction lay on the brain”!