Folk Medicine by D.C. Jarvis M.D.
Sorting through a pile of old small size paperbacks that came from my mum’s, I came across this gem.
My mum was fascinated by health matters in the press, and prone to believing in all sorts of fringe medicine. She had her hair tinted several shades lighter because she read that the browner the hair-dye, the more carcinogenic it is. That is something that could have a basis in science, blonder tones might have half the toxicity, but when the risk is so tiny to start off with, doubling makes no real difference. However, once the Daily Mail gets its hands on the data, you’d think it was a real killer – I preferred her hair a bit darker, but wasn’t going to tell her that. She also had an expensive course of Harley Street hypnosis classes designed to help during childbirth (see more on that here!) – I can’t imagine her being able to focus during contractions somehow.
She loved her super-foods, especially broccoli, plus daily cod liver oil capsules – all proper good things. So it was no surprise at all to find this book on the shelf.
We know that some honeys have healing properties, and that fermented foods are under serious investigation as promoting good gut health – so maybe this isn’t quackery at all and this book is thus ahead of its time! It was written in 1958, the above edition is 1962, and the book was still in print until 2002. The blurb says:
The tough, hard-living mountain folk of the State of Vermont have a time-honoured Folk Medicine.
Dr Jarvis, a fifth-generation native of Vermont, has lived and practised among these sturdy folk for over fifty years. This book is the result of his deep study of their way of life, and in particular of their concepts of diet. These he has been able to test against his formal medical training and prove by long experience.
Here he offers a new theory on the treatment and prevention of a wide variety of ailments – the common cold, hay-fever, arthritis, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, overweight and many others – and holds out a promise of zestful good health for young and old.
Jarvis also extols the virtues of kelp to improve iodine deficiency – another thing we do now too. The first thing he looks at though is this:
The first yardstick of your health is the urine. Folk medicine believes that sickness appears on an alkaline-urine background.
Alkaline diets have been very much in the news during the past years. There is real quackery involved here – I saw a programme on TV about Robert O’Young who is now facing a prison sentence for claiming that he could cure cancer with an alkaline diet. Regardless of this quackery, alkaline diets are currently popular, but are extremely restrictive and my gut instinct is to say no, no, no! There is website after website (mostly American) promoting them as the next big thing in dieting, but it all feels very wrong.
One thing Vermont is very famous for is maple syrup. Sadly, too much makes your urine alkaline – this is what happens to the Vermont maple syrup tappers who are exposed to the tasty resin; a little occasionally for the rest of us will surely be fine though.
What do you need instead? HONEY! which produces slightly acidic urine apparently, as does the apple cider vinegar. Honey, cider-vinegar and kelp are the answer to nearly everything.
He’s not above suggesting changing ways of life too; for instance, on chronic fatigue he suggests the following:
If you are subject to chronic fatigue you must learn by constant practice to rest wherever you are at the moment. I think it was a form president of Dartmouth College who made a famous dictim, ‘I never stand if I can sit; I never run if I can walk; I never sit up if I can lie down.’
For mornings when the chronic fatigue sufferer has no energy, he recommends a hand-bath of apple-cider-vinegar and water. Rubbing it gently into the skin of the upper body. He also advises to cease using soap due to Its alkalinity, not to eat wheat, eat more from the ocean to get iodine, and strangely he recommends baked beans (with added cider vinegar).
Raw apple-cider vinegar, taken 2 teaspoons in a glass of water three times a day is his solution to being overweight. A gentle way to go down a clothes size over a year or so apparently. (I should try it!)
One bit that made me laugh though was the hangover cure he witnessed of a chap who’d been on a fortnight’s binge. It basically consisted of two pounds of honey, administered frequently, six spoonfuls at a time, over the course of a day!
Folk medicine considers overindulgence in alcohol to be evidence of potassium deficiency in the body. Being a good source of potassium, honey counteracts the craving for alcohol and successfully accomplishes the sobering-up process.
I used to prefer doughnuts as a student – fat and sugar did the trick once the stomach could take it.
All of his recommendations are backed up with observations on livestock as well as humans, scientific data too, especially pHs. It’s fascinating stuff and the Wikipedia page for Dr Jarvis confirms that the ideas he espoused then are being looked at again now. This turned out to be more serious book than I’d anticipated and I enjoyed dipping into it!
D.C. Jarvis M.D. – Folk Medicine (Pan, 1971) Paperback, 192 pages.