LETTER ON TAR-WATER

in the Dublin Journal

8-12 May 1744

DIRECTIONS FOR THE MAKING AND USING TAR-WATER

By the author of Siris

To prevent mistakes in the making tar-water, the public is desired to take notice that Norway tar, which is liquid and of a brown colour, is fittest for this purpose. Four quarts of cold water having been poured on a quart of this tar, and strongly stirred together with a flat stick for three or four minutes, must, after it has stood eight and forty hours to settle, be poured off and kept for use either in battles or other vessels corked up. The same tar will not do well a second time, but may serve for other uses. Water drawn off the tar the second or third time, if long stirred, may be as strong as the first water, but has not that spirit, and is more disagreeable to the stomach.

After various trials I fix on this as a good general rule, which may yet be varied as people have stronger or weaker stomachs. Putting more water or stirring it less makes it weaker, as putting less water or stirring it longer gives it more strength. But it should never be made too strong for the stomach; weaker constitutions require milder medicines. For this everyone’s experience is the best guide. It should not be lighter than French or deeper coloured than Spanish white wine. If a spirit be not sensibly perceived on drinking, either the tar was bad or already used, or the tar-water carelessly made. He that would have it good should see it made himself.

Alteratives in general, taken little and often, mix best with the blood. Of tar-water one pint a day may do in chronical cases, drunk on an empty stomach either at two or four doses, to wit, night and morning and two or three hours after dinner or breakfast; but to children it should be given in less quantity. It may be drunk cold or warm, as anyone likes best, but in acute cases, as fevers of all kinds and pleurisies, it should be drunk warm and in bed, as much and as often as the patient can bear. For instance, half-a-pint or even a whole pint every hour, which will be made easy by the heat and thirst of the patient. I never knew it fail in the most threatening fevers. For outward fomentations or for beasts to drink, it may be made much stronger by infusion of warm water. I am persuaded tar-water may be drunk with great safety and success for the curing of most diseases, particularly all foul cases, ulcers and eruptions, scurvies of all kinds, nervous disorders, inflammatory distempers, decays, etc.