It is the end of term and it is fair to say that our entire household is looking forward to a rest. We have all suffered from one form of lurgy or another over the last couple of weeks… perhaps not the best state to be in to tackle Christmas. For Christmas in our family means a lot of travelling to visit relatives. Perhaps the following recipe will come to our help.
Nechepso the Egyptian recommends collecting the flower of chamomile when it is fully in bloom; chop it on a flat stone; pound it very fine in a mortar; mould trochiscs [round tablets] of equal size; dry them thoroughly in the shade; and set them aside. When using, pound a trochisc very fine and add a sufficient amount of excellent-quality oil; anoint the entire body from the head to the feet on all those who suffer from fever… And this has been tested on many and it is most useful to have on journeys because it is easily transportable. Aetius 1.38
Nechepso is a mythical ‘Egyptian’ authority, frequently mentioned in ancient medical and magical texts. This particular recipe is transmitted by Aetius (sixth century CE), but recipes attributed to Nechepso are to be found in much earlier texts, dating to the first and second centuries CE. How this recipe could ever alleviate fever is a mystery to me, but perhaps one needs a special magic formula to make it work properly.
As this is indeed a very portable – and very easy to make – remedy, Big Boy T and I decided to give it a go. We did not have fresh chamomile flowers, but used dried ones instead. We crushed them in a mortar and added a bit of water. This created a sort of paste, which T described as having the consistency of horse poo. I can’t say I disagree with him. We used our hands to mould small pastilles, squeezing excess water out as we did so. We then put the pastilles in the oven set on a very low temperature. After half an hour or so the pastilles were dry. I found the smell of the drying chamomile paste particularly unpleasant, but I must say I always dislike the smell of chamomile. We then crushed one of the pastilles in some nice olive oil.
T gave the concoction a try and put some on his arms. He said that it made his skin very soft – he suffers from eczema. Well, I guess that is a result of some sort, and not a particularly surprising one – chamomile is indeed quite good for the skin. Nechepso’ pastilles won’t cure any winter lurgy, but they are indeed a very safe way to soften dry skin.
Merry Christmas everyone!