Melanagoga, or melancholy purging medicines, are either simple or compound, and that gently, or violently, purging upward or downward. These following purge upward. Asarum, or Asrabecca, which, as Mesue saith, is hot in the second degree, and dry in the third, "it is commonly taken in wine, whey," or as with us, the juice of two or three leaves or more sometimes, pounded in posset drink qualified with a little liquorice, or aniseed, to avoid the fulsomeness of the taste, or as Diaserum Fernelii. Brassivola in Catart. reckons it up amongst those simples that only purge melancholy, and Ruellius confirms as much out of his experience, that it purgeth black choler, like hellebore itself. Galen, lib. G. simplic. and Matthiolus ascribe other virtues to it, and will have it purge other humours as well as this.
Laurel, by Heurnius's method, ad prax. lib. 2. cap. 24. is put amongst the strong purgers of melancholy; it is hot and dry in the fourth degree. Dioscorides, lib. 11. cap. 114. adds other effects to it. Pliny sets down fifteen berries in drink for a sufficient potion: it is commonly corrected with his opposites, cold and moist, as juice of endive, purslane, and is taken in a potion to seven grains and a half. But this and asrabecca, every gentlewoman in the country knows how to give, they are two common vomits.
Scilla, or sea-onion, is hot and dry in the third degree. Brassivola in Catart. out of Mesue, others, and his own experience, will have this simple to purge melancholy alone. It is an ordinary vomit, vinum scilliticum mixed with rubel in a little white wine.
White hellebore, which some call sneezing-powder, a strong purger upward, which many reject, as being too violent: Mesue and Averroes will not admit of it, "by reason of danger of suffocation," "great pain and trouble it puts the poor patient to," saith Dodonæus. Yet Galen, lib. 6. simpl. med. and Dioscorides, cap. 145. allow of it. It was indeed "terrible in former times," as Pliny notes, but now familiar, insomuch that many took it in those days, "that were students, to quicken their wits," which Persius Sat. 1. objects to Accius the poet, Illas Acci ebria veratro. "It helps melancholy, the falling sickness, madness, gout, &c., but not to be taken of old men, youths, such as are weaklings, nice, or effeminate, troubled with headache, high-coloured, or fear strangling," saith Dioscorides. Oribasius, an old physician, hath written very copiously, and approves of it, "in such affections which can otherwise hardly be cured." Hernius, lib. 2. prax. med. de vomitoriis, will not have it used "but with great caution, by reason of its strength, and then when antimony will do no good," which caused Hermophilus to compare it to a stout captain (as Codroneus observes cap. 7. comment. de Helleb.) that will see all his soldiers go before him and come post principia, like the bragging soldier, last himself; when other helps fail in inveterate melancholy, in a desperate case, this vomit is to be taken. And yet for all this, if it be well prepared, it may be securely given at first. Matthiolus brags, that he hath often, to the good of many, made use of it, and Heurnius, "that he hath happily used it, prepared after his own prescript," and with good success. Christophorus a Vega, lib. 3. c. 41, is of the same opinion, that it may be lawfully given; and our country gentlewomen find it by their common practice, that there is no such great danger in it. Dr. Turner, speaking of this plant in his Herbal, telleth us, that in his time it was an ordinary receipt among good wives, to give hellebore in powder to ii.d. weight, and he is not much against it. But they do commonly exceed, for who so bold as blind Bayard, and prescribe it by pennyworths, and such irrational ways, as I have heard myself market folks ask for it in an apothecary's shop: but with what success God knows; they smart often for their rash boldness and folly, break a vein, make their eyes ready to start out of their heads, or kill themselves. So that the fault is not in the physic, but in the rude and indiscreet handling of it. He that will know, therefore, when to use, how to prepare it aright, and in what dose, let him read Heurnius lib. 2. prax. med. Brassivola de Catart. Godefridus Stegius the emperor Rudolphus' physician, cap. 16. Matthiolus in Dioscor. and that excellent commentary of Baptista Codroncus, which is instar omnium de Helleb. alb. where we shall find great diversity of examples and receipts.
Antimony or stibium, which our chemists so much magnify, is either taken in substance or infusion, &c., and frequently prescribed in this disease. "It helps all infirmities," saith Matthiolus, "which proceed from black choler, falling sickness, and hypochondriacal passions;" and for farther proof of his assertion, he gives several instances of such as have been freed with it: one of Andrew Gallus, a physician of Trent, that after many other essays, "imputes the recovery of his health, next after God, to this remedy alone." Another of George Handshius, that in like sort, when other medicines failed, "was by this restored to his former health, and which of his knowledge others have likewise tried, and by the help of this admirable medicine, been recovered." A third of a parish priest at Prague in Bohemia, "that was so far gone with melancholy, that he doted, and spake he knew not what; but after he had taken twelve grains of stibium, (as I myself saw, and can witness, for I was called to see this miraculous accident) he was purged of a deal of black choler, like little gobbets of flesh, and all his excrements were as black blood (a medicine fitter for a horse than a man), yet it did him so much good, that the next day he was perfectly cured." This very story of the Bohemian priest, Sckenkius relates verbatim, Exoter. experiment. ad. var. morb. cent. 6. observ. 6. with great approbation of it. Hercules de Saxonia calls it a profitable medicine, if it be taken after meat to six or eight grains, of such as are apt to vomit. Rodericus a Fonseca the Spaniard, and late professor of Padua in Italy, extols it to this disease, Tom. 2. consul. 85. so doth Lod. Mercatus de inter. morb. cur. lib. 1. cap. 17. with many others. Jacobus Gervinus a French physician, on the other side, lib. 2. de venemis confut. explodes all this, and saith he took three grains only upon Matthiolus and some others' commendation, but it almost killed him, whereupon he concludes, "antimony is rather poison than a medicine." Th. Erastus concurs with him in his opinion, and so doth Ælian Montaltus cap. 30 de melan. But what do I talk? 'tis the subject of whole books; I might cite a century of authors pro and con. I will conclude with Zuinger, antimony is like Scanderbeg's sword, which is either good or bad, strong or weak, as the party is that prescribes, or useth it: "a worthy medicine if it be rightly applied to a strong man, otherwise poison." For the preparing of it, look in Evonimi thesaurus, Quercetan, Oswaldus Crollius, Basil. Chim. Basil. Valentius, &c.
Tobacco, divine, rare, superexcellent tobacco, which goes far beyond all the panaceas, potable gold, and philosopher's stones, a sovereign remedy to all diseases. A good vomit, I confess, a virtuous herb, if it be well qualified, opportunely taken, and medicinally used; but as it is commonly abused by most men, which take it as tinkers do ale, 'tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods, lands, health, hellish, devilish and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul.