Nicholas Culpeper, Drunken Raisins and Scented Thieves

An oval white bowl of golden raisins glisten with a silver spoon set inside. Behind the bowl is a bottle of Seagram's gin.
Drunken raisins plumped with gin may serve up arthritic relief.

A friend showed me her bowl of golden raisins and declared an Octogenarian couple she knew ate nine raisins daily for years and did not suffer arthritis. Another friend told me about “Thieves,” an essential oil mix that one rubs on the bottom of the feet to boost immunity. She also uses the medicine in a diffuser. Her husband emphasizes, “It smells very strong.” I might be skeptical, but one cannot trump successful experiences. Conversations like these remind me of Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654). He is an antecedent to why our culture has such a tug-of-war between the medical establishment (think FDA and American Medical Association) and alternative medicine practitioners.

Curly, shoulder length hair with short bangs, upward turning mustache, wide eyes, and open serious expression describe Nicholas Culpeper, whose left hand holds a small book and his right hand sets on his hip in this portrait.
Portrait of Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) in public domain

In the 1600s, Culpeper actually failed his medical studies at Cambridge and was not licensed by the Apothecary Society in London. Those disadvantages didn’t stop him. He was a passionate herbalist, astrologer, and practitioner of physic. He was righteously angry toward establishment doctors and pharmacists who practiced medicine at exorbitant fees and kept medical writings in Latin. Culpeper disrupted their monopoly. He proceeded to translate 17th century medical information from Latin to English and offer his better receipts (recipes). One of his books, known today as Culpeper’s Herbal, remains in print. This nonconformist died at age 38 from pulmonary tuberculosis, but his legacy lives on.

Because doctors were in short supply in the colonies, many Puritan pastors used his book as they ministered to the sick. The popularity was such that The English Physician became the first medical book printed in the British American colonies in Boston in 1708. Its success helped make printer Nicholas Boone a rich man. To give you an example of Culpeper’s recipes in the language of that time,  I’ve included two “receipts” below from The English Physician by Nicholas Culpeper (edited by Michael A. Flannery, 2007, University of Alabama Press). The book includes a detailed and interesting essay by Flannery on Culpeper’s medical importance.

Also, below are recipes for drunken raisins and scented Thieves. One of the secrets to the raisin mix is the medicinal properties of the juniper berry, from which gin is made. The Thieves concoction has many different tales concerning its origin. One story claims that during the Black Plague era, robbers doused themselves in various herb and spice mixes, which they found protected them as they ransacked the homes of the dead.

Let me know if you have any success with the following home remedies. I wager you are more likely to run out and buy golden raisins and gin rather than an ox bladder!


From Culpeper’s The English PhysicianFor the Joint Ach, and the Gout, most Excellent:

Take the Juice of Sage, Aqua Vitae, the Oil of Bays, Vinegar, Mustard, and of an Oxes Gall, of each a like quantity, put them all together in a large Ox Bladder. Tie it fast, and chase it up and down with your hand, during one hour & half, then keep it for your Use, &anoint the griev’d part Morning and Evening.

From Culpeper’s The English Physician–For an extream Cold or Cough

A display with five shelves of various cold medicines.
How do we spell cold relief in 2016?

Take Hyssop Water 6 Ounces, red Poppy Water 4 Ounces, 6 Dates, 10 Figgs, slice them small, 1 handfull (sic) of Raisins of the Sun stoned, the weight of a Shilling of the Powder of Liquorice; put these into the said Waters, then let them stand 5 or 6 Hours upon warm Embers, close covered, but not Boil; then strain it forth, and put in as much Sugar of Roses as will sweeten it; Drink of this first and last, and at 4 in the Afternoon, four Ounces at a time.”


Drunken Raisins Recipe

1 box of golden raisins (do not substitute black raisins or dried fruit)

2 cups or more of gin–juniper berries key ingredient

Put raisins in a shallow glass container (378 raisins give you the six week supply).

Pour just enough gin over raisins to cover them.

Then, cover the container with cheesecloth or a paper towel and allow to sit at room temperature until raisins absorb the gin and the remaining liquid evaporates (about one week).

Store raisins in glass jar in refrigerator.

Each day, eat nine raisins. (Who came up with that number–why not 10?)

Believers say it takes six weeks to two months for this remedy to work, so experiment with patience.


Homemade Recipe for “Thieves”

In a dark glass bottle add the following essential oils:

40 drops of Clove Essential Oil

35 drops of Lemon Essential Oil

20 drops of Cinnamon Essential Oil

15 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil

10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil

1 drop of recipe is blended in 4 drops of carrier oil like coconut oil. At the first hint of a cold, rub on the bottom of feet at bedtime or use daily for immune support. Check out website below for ideas on other uses.


For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God (Hebrews 6:7–New King James Version).

Carmelite Monastery, Santa Clara, California (photo CSB)
Carmelite Monastery, Santa Clara, California (photo CSB)

Top 10 Reasons God Is the Number One Writer

Have you ever meditated on the many biblical names God is called? Most Jesus followers have their favorites like “Lord,” “Shepherd,” “The Rock,” “The Great I Am,” “Redeemer,” “Prince of Peace,” etc. It is a worthy exercise to write down as many titles as you can and then keep adding to your list.  In my work as a writer I have realized the validity of “God, The Writer.”

The middle section of three panels at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Columbia, Missouri, depicting Moses receiving the 10 Commandments.
The middle section of three panels at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Columbia, Missouri

Here are my Top Ten Reasons to call God “The Number One Writer.”

NUMBER 10: God shows a flashy style when he pens the Ten Commandments on Moses’ tablets (Deut. 10:4, Ex. 19).

NUMBER 9: He offers even more dramatic flair in Daniel 5, when human fingers supernaturally write on the wall of drunken King Belshazzar’s palace: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” (translation: I have numbered your kingdom and put an end to it).The Drunken King Is in Shock.

NUMBER 8: Throughout scripture God has his prophets write for him. For example, he tells Isaiah, “Go now, write it on a tablet for them…that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness” (Is. 30:8). In Revelation 21:5 he declares: “I am making everything new!” Then he says, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

NUMBER 7: Created in his image we are expected to nurture at least one writing method he displays. Proverbs 3:3 commands: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

NUMBER 6: When New Testament Pharisees bring an adulterer to Jesus for judgment, he stoops down twice to write on the ground with his finger (John 8:6-8). Songwriter Michael Card has written a song and entire book about this creative communication.IMG_2078

NUMBER 5: God actively writes moral consciousness into our beings. He declares, “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds” (Heb. 10:16).IMG_2074

NUMBER 4: Even better, he is the “Author and Perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

NUMBER 3: His Bible has been the number one bestseller for centuries. Who can surpass such royalties!

NUMBER 2: He has tattooed our existence into his eternal, resurrected self: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:16).

NUMBER 1: And the Number One reason God should be called “The Number One Writer” is that at some future date he will give us new by-lines. Revelation 2:17 promises, “To the one who overcomes, I will give…a white stone with a new name written on it.”

A white stone shaped like a heart


An Orphan’s Transformation

My Latin American friend asked me to pray for her and her husband. They were feeling a tug to adopt a child, but they wanted to be sure it was the right decision. There would be many hurdles. The praying started in 2005. “Coincidentally,” it was the same year their adopted son was born in the mountainous region of an indigenous tribe in Central America. Meanwhile, they and their two other children were living and working far away.  Adoption of any child would not even be possible until they moved back to their home country a few years later.

A boy's hand holds a fly with his thumb and index finger.
The boy who is interested in lots of little creatures.

Let’s call him Luis, to give him a little anonymity. I recently met him while visiting my friends. What a delightful 10-year-old he is–full of energy, respectful, conversational,  kind-hearted, and very curious about nature’s diverse life. Spiders are a favorite creature to hold and examine and then return to their bushes.

I asked his mother why such a wonderful child would be in an orphanage for so long. She said perhaps it was because he was from an indigenous tribe, or maybe because he was a boy as girls are favored for adoption. She said Luis came to the private orphanage as a toddler, after his feet were injured. He had been brought to a hospital by a relative, who then disappeared.

As Luis grew, surrounded by some eight other orphaned babies and preschoolers, he must have seen many playmates come and then be adopted. I am sure he wondered when it would be his turn to have a daddy and mommy.

His Daddy and Mommy went through the government hurdles to be considered as adoptive parents. After they qualified, they waited until they were called to a social worker’s office and given Luis’s background. After indicating they were still interested they were able to see a picture of him.

At Luis’s orphanage there were three hired caretakers who watched over the children, plus many volunteers who were in and out assisting

The boy who is an artist draws a parrot.
The boy who is an artist.

them. When Luis met his parents for the first time at age seven, he thought they were volunteers helping him with an animal puzzle. He talked with them a little bit and touched his future mother’s hand. He also thoroughly sniffed both of them, drooled like a baby, and walked like a toddler. His mother said she wondered if they were prepared to meet his needs. But they believed this was God’s will, and they were committed.

There were several other family meetings under the watchful eyes of a caseworker and a psychologist.  Luis was able to visit his potential new home, and he met his brother and sister for the first time when they all picked up the children from school. Luis left a toy on the bed in the room he was told would be his very own room. His parents said they thought perhaps he was leaving the toy so he would be sure to return and get it back. The family gave him a picture of themselves, which he kept under his pillow at the orphanage until all the final legal work was completed.

Then the day came when Luis went home with his parents. His mother said he had a huge bag of tattered clothes and broken toys, most of which was eventually thrown away. Luis was daily anxious for two years, asking his mom whether there was enough food for them while she prepared meals. Many simple instructions had to be repeated over and over, but his parents and siblings helped him learn. Love is patient; love is kind.

Most importantly, love is transforming this child. Of course, there will be future difficulties, but I believe God has special plans for Luis because he was placed with such a special family. He is a very special boy.