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Edward Waring on Borax as medicine in India


Waring published the book in several Indian languages and another publication Supplement to the Pharmacopoeia of India, written by Moodeen Sherriff, an Indian doctor working for the colonial administration, provided the translations and medical plant knowledge in 14 different languages. In the introduction to his book, Waring argued his reasons for publishing the book was to provide laymen and professionals the ability to procure medicines in any market in India. Shipping drugs from Europe was expensive and often the drugs would spoil before they could be used. He organized the book alphabetically, according to the Latin nomenclature of the medicinal plants. Throughout the text, Waring describes many cures specifically for “women ailments” which reveals how nineteenth century doctors obsessed over “curing” South Asian female bodies which would then be safe for British men to encounter. If the cure was for European men, then it is gender and racial neutral. If it is for women or “natives” or both, the distinction is made. By using neutral language, the doctor classifies and assumes that European male bodies are normal bodies, and anything different from those bodies is abnormal and in need of different treatments. This ignores the fact that while female and male bodies are not the same, they do share many common ailments which affect their bodies (and body parts) in exactly the same way--the common cold for example.
While it is not odd for one medicine to cure several different ailments, it is extraordinary how many drugs listed by Waring are meant to treat women. For example, in the several ailments cured by Borax ointment, there is an entire page and a half dedicated to the treatment of women ranging from sore nipples due to nursing, to higher doses used to quicken labor or cause abortion, to treating irregular menstruation, and for “Chronic Uterine Affections.” (p. 31) The intimate nature of these cures does not prove that Waring himself administered these cures, but it does suggest that his informants may have been indigenous women, particularly in relation to the birth and abortion uses. However, Waring provided several warnings in the index of the book to not trust indigenous nannies (ayas) and midwives. 


(Page, 29)

53. Borax. Biborate of Soda
Sohágá, Tinkál (Hind.), Sohágá (Beng., Duk., Punj.), Vávut, Váwuth (Kash.), Venkáram (Tam.), Elegáram (Tel.), Ponkáram, Vellákaram (Mal.), Biligára (Can.), Vengáram, Puskara (Cing.), Lakhiya, Let-khya (Burm.), Pijar (Malay). 
    54. Borax of good quality is met with in most bazaars; if good it should be in transparent, colourless, crystalline masses or pieces of various sizes, inodorous, with a cool saltish taste.  After having been exposed to the air for some time, as that found in the bazaars has generally been, it becomes covered with a whitish powder or efflorescence, which being removed shows the transparent crystal beneath. If brown or dirty, or otherwise impure, it may be rendered fit for medical use by dissolving one pound of it with one drachm of quicklime in three pints of water, straining through cloth and evaporating by exposure to the sun in an open vessel or over a gentle fire. Dose from 20 to 40 grains for an adult.
    56. To Sore Nipples a solution of Borax, one drachm to one ounce of water, should be applied before an after suckling the infant, or it may be employed in the form of ointment (a drachm of Borax to an ounce of gee). These applications are also serviceable when applied to inflamed and painful Piles.
    57. As a means of ellaying the distressing Irritation of the Genital Organs, both males and females, the latter especially, a solution of Borax (half an ounce) in eight ounces of water or Camphor julep (67) sometimes affords more relief than anything else. Cloths saturated with it should be kept to the parts, and in the case of women it should also be sued in the form of vaginal injection.  It also proves very useful in allaying the Irritation of Nettle-rash, Prickly Heat, and other Skin Diseases.
    58.  In prolonged and tedious Labours dependent apparently on want of action or power in the uterus to expel the fœtus, and in Abortion under the same circumstances, 30 grains of Borax with 10 grains of powdered Cinnamon, in a little warm conjee, may be given every one or two hours to the extent of three or four doses.  This may also be given in Convulsions attendant on Labours. In doses of 10 grains, 10 with of Cinnamon, thrice daily, it also occasionally proves useful in Suspension or Irregularity of the Menstrual Discharge and in some Chronic Uterine Affections.    

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"Edward Waring on Borax as medicine in India ," in World History Commons, [accessed June 12, 2024]