SNAIL-WATER Information Sheet

The enclosed recipe was created by Dr Richard Mead in the 18th Century as a medicine for poor people who could not afford more expensive treatments. An alembic is a still to distill the essense of the mixture.


‘Take Garden-Snails cleansed and bruised 6 gallons,

Earthworms washed and bruised 3 Gallons,

Of common Wormwood, Ground-Ivy, and Carduus, each one Pound and half,

Penniroyal, Juniper-berries, Fennelseeds, Aniseeds, each half a Pound,

Cloves and Cubebs bruised, each 3 Ounces,

Spirit of Wine and Spring-water, of each 8 Gallons.

Digest them together for the space of 24 Hours,

And then draw it off in a common Alembick.'

Recipe by Dr Richard Mead (Physician to St. Thomas’s Hospital)

in 'Pharmacopoeia Pauperum' 1718 (compiled by Henry Banyer)


A modern analysis of Snail Water

 by Janet Wrathall ND (Naturopath and modern herbalist)

Janet came to visit the Museum and the Director asked her to look at the Snail Water recipe and see if there were any resonances with modern herbal medicinal practices. Please note the Museum is not recommending any one tries the recipes or the ingredients without medical advice!

Garden snails :

Snail extract powder was discovered by a Spanish clinical oncologist, Dr. Iglesias, in the late 1960’s.

The Snail Extract Powder contains an extraordinary combination of natural ingredients that allows skin to heal and regenerate. It can be used to treat acne, acne scars, age spots, wrinkles, expression lines and many other skin conditions.

The physical and chemical analysis carried out on the extract powder proved that its contents appear in natural form, and includes the following elements:

Comments : The original recipe may have realised that whatever they extracted from “bruised” snails could possibly increase the turnover of skin cells concerning venereal disease and helped the healing of any scars formed from the disease !

Earthworms :

I have personally used a product called Lumbrokinase in practice which is a fibrin dissolving enzyme taken from the humble earthworm. It is used to thin and clear the blood. Possibly our ancestors realised that this ingredient allowed the blood to flow more freely and with venereal disease that would possibly have been helpful in removing any pathogens (disease causing( agents from the bloodstream) alot quicker !


Herbal ingredients


Wormwood : Artemisia absinthium is the most common variety of wormwood that we use today in modern herbal medical practice. I personally use it pretty frequently in parasite cleansing tinctures alongside cloves and black walnut. Used as drops over an 11 week period you can pretty much guarantee the expulsion and elimination of even the most fastidious of parasites.

Ground Ivy (Nepeta hederacea) : I don’t use this one myself in practice but it is still used in herbal medicine today for catarrhal conditions. It is also a vulnerary which means it is good for healing sores...possibly this is why it is in this recipe as many venereal diseases of that day would present as large sores and broken skin.

Carduus marianum : Again a very popular herb still used today. Listed as its latin name, its common name is Milk thistle which is an excellent herb for the liver and gall bladder. Presumably the original recipe used it for its liver reviving properties, afterall a venereal disease would take its toll on this organ.

Penniroyal (Mentha Pulegium): May have been used for pain relief when venereal disease really took hold and caused retracted pain in the patient. It is classed as an anodyne which is basically a pain reliever ! Again it is used regularly in the modern herbal pharmacy.

Juniper berries (Juniperus communis) : Probably included in the recipe for its antiseptic qualities and its use for cystitis ( urinary bladder inflammation) which would no doubt accompany venereal disease. Still used today for exactly that.

Fennel seeds ( Foeniculum vulgare) : This herb is excellent at relieving flatulence and colic. I can only think that with venereal disease the patients gut may have been so disturbed with negative bacteria and parasites that they may well have had swollen stomachs and this may have soothed them as it has calmative (calming ) properties ! Still used today for that purpose.

Aniseeds ( pimpinella anisum) : Suspected this was used for its parasiticide (parasite killing) properties and again is used today as a strong anti parasite tincture. Used for treatment of modern day scabies, which is a venereal disease.

Cloves (Eugenia caryophyllus) : Mentioned already above with wormwood and black walnut for killing parasites. Very useful today for other presentations like boils, abscesses, chronic or acute bronchitis to name but a few !

Cubebs : This is described as a pepper...the nearest thing to this I think in the modern herbal journal is perhaps cayenne pepper, used for a plethora of different ailments. It is interesting that in its write ups, cubeb was and still is used for treatment of intestinal gas and gonorrhea, yet another venerial disease, indeed one of the most serious sexually transmitted diseases going. Not very common in modern western herbal medicine though, more so in countries where this pepper has its origins.


So, potentially we could actually re create this old recipe ...we just need a willing volunteer !!!


Janet Wrathall ND (Naturopath and modern herbalist !)