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Clyster Syringe

December 29th, 2015 by Piper Smith

Medical solutions in the 17th century were limited on land and even more so on the sea. The three guilds; physicians, apothecaries, and surgeons often had two rudimentary solutions to ailments. The first, being for the most serious offenses, is blood letting, or the purposeful draining of blood. The second remedy administered most often as a cure-all was an enema. The accepted belief during  the 17th to 19th century was that an internal “lavement” was essential to well-being. It is recorded that King Louis XIII had more than 200 “lavements”  in one year.

Clyster Syringe: Archaic term Clyster comes from the Greek meaning “to wash”.

It is noted that in the 1617 edition of surgeon-author, John Woodall’s book, The Surgeons Mate, Woodall was particularly repetitive about recommending the use of the clyster syringe for ailing seamen. The book was meant to guide novice surgeons’ mates through emergencies peculiar to ships. It can be concluded that the poor diet and harsh environment at sea, for prolonged periods of time, made the importance of a clyster syringe in a ships medical bag a valued necessity.