Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/127

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ii a xi. F.



ONIONS AND DEAFNESS (US. xi. 68). Though both Gerard and Culpeper omit to mention the fact, onions had a considerable Tsputation as a remedy for deafness. Lyte says :

" The same iuyce dropped into the eares, is good agaynst deafenesse, and the humming noyse or ringing of the same, and is good to dense the eares from all filthinesse, and corrupt matter of ihe same."

The French writer Lemery, in the list of ailments for which the onion is propre, includes la sourdite ; but he does not say how it was used. In several of our old dispensatories onions are credited with a specific virtue in cases of gatherings in the ear. Thus Quiney :

" These are also in great esteem amongst our ^Surgeons, to draw and suppurate all kinds of Tumours : roasted and applied to the Ear, they help 'to ripen, break, and cleanse away Impostuinations in the Head ; which sometimes cannot be influenc'd by any other means."

This is still practised in folk-medicine, and < though I dare say a hot fig, which is also used for the same purpose, is equally effee- itivs) I have known it answer well.

C. C. B.

I will refer your correspondent to that work which Cuvier called " one of the most precious monuments which antiquity has left us," viz., Pliny's ' Natural History.' In this marvellous and entertaining work there is a great deal about the onion; and in Philemon Holland's translation (1634), vol. ii. p. 42, there occurs this passage, which follows a description of various " vertues " of the onion :

" Also the exculcerations or impostumes within the ears are by it and women's milk cured. And for to amend the ringing and vnkind sound and noise therein, and to recover those that be hard of hearing, many haue vsed to droppe the juice of onions together with Goose grease or els hony.','

The old Herbals copied Pliny, and in the famous Dutch Herbal by Dodoens, issued in London in Lyte's translation, 1586, p. 739, there is this passage :

" Onions sodden and laid to with raisens and figs, do ripe wens and such like cold swellings. The juice of them dropped into the eies cleereth the dimnesse of the sight, and at the beginning remoueth the spots, clouds and hawes of the eies. The same juice dropped into the eares is good against deafnesse, and the humming noise or ringing of the same."

Gerard's Herbal of 1636 says a good deal about onions, but does not refer to their virtue in curing deafness. In the next chapter to that in which he deals with

the onion he treats of the sister vegetable, the leek, and he remarks that the juice of the leek,

" with vinegre, frankincense and milke, or oyle of roses, dropped into the eares mitigateth their paine, and is good for the noyse in them." P. 175.

Among ancient writers besides Pliny, Pythagoras, Columella, and Asclepiades all refer to the onion ; Denham the tra- veller, Swift, and Sydney Smith among moderns. In Hardwicke's Science Gossip, vol. x., there is a very well-informed article on the subject, a most entertain- ing one in All the Year Round, vol. Ixv., and a third in Chambers 's Journal, vol. Ixxvii. In all these there is much curious lore regard- ing the onion, but no reference to it as a cure for deafness. A small paper-covered volume by H. Valentine Knaggs, price 6c?., is called ' Folk-lore relating to those Wonderful Vegetables, Onions and Cress,' 1 91 2. On p. 49 of this book there is a reference to the cure of earache evidently taken from the passages I have quoted in Dodoens and Gerard. The scientific name of the onion is Allium cepa, and under this heading there will be found in Jackson's ' Index Kewensis ' the titles of various scientific papers on the onion. I have notes upon half-a-dozen other books, but as they deal with cultural directions only they need not be specified.


187, Piccadilly, W.

I well remember that when any of us had earache as children more than fifty years ago my mother used to have an onion boiled, which was then pulled asunder until a " core " was left that would just fit into the ear, into which it was put, as hot as possible ; over it was tied a piece of newish bread about the size of the palm of the hand, cut very thick and toasted on both sides, but the toasted surface on the side to be applied to the ear was first pulled or cut away before it was tied on. This made a very pleasant steamy application, and the grateful relief that was caused by the steaming bread and the onion, as one put that side of the head on the pillow, is still a vivid recollection. ERNEST B. SAVAGE, F.S.A.


In ' A Niewe Herball, or Historic of Plantes,' by Bembert Dodoens (1578), p. 640, it states that the juice of onions dropped into the ear is good against deafness and the humming noise or ringing of the same.