My latest, temporary work, apart from leaving me little time or energy to research or write, has also given me some sore finger joints.
So I thought I’d look up historical treatments for them.
The main source I have available is “A leechbook or collection of medical recipes of the fifteenth century”, which is an early 15th century English text transcribed and edited by Warren R. Dawson back in 1934.
Anything like relevant treatments seem to be classified under “Aches” rather than anything to do with joints or rheumatism.
Number 41 on page 28-29 of the Kessler paperback edition, says:
“Ache of the shoulder-joint. Take five drachms of gall of an ox and a drachm of honey, and seethe them till they are thick; and anoint the joint that acheth therewith till it be whole. A drachm is the weight of three pennies.”
I’ve never heard of ox gall having any components which would actually be skin absorbable, but I suspect that putting a warm mass of stuff onto the joint would help.
I couldn’t see anything specifically for the fingers or any other joints, but there are plenty of recipes for headache treatments.
This being an early 15th century work based on the 14th century medical tradition, there’s nothing much about distillation, that is more a late 15th century innovation in England, although books about the healing powers of distilled wine were in circulation from the late 13th century onwards.
I had a look through the mid 15th century English translation of “The book of Quintessence” by John de Roquetaillade or Rupescissa, and there isn’t anything quite like what I am after. There is a recipe for treatment of cramp though, which recofnises that “for as muche as wise men seyn that the craumpe cometh of the hurtynge and the febilness of the seneewis, …” which is accurate enough. All you have to do is drink some quintessence or burning water, which is a nice simple solution and may fuddle your mind enough to relax and take away the feeling of the pain.