The Haven of Health: A Beginners Guide to Healthy Living in the Renaissance: Water: “Cheefest of All Liquors”
Array (  => HIST 3250 Fall 2017  => no-show  => student exhibit )
Water: “Cheefest of All Liquors”
Keeping with the Galenic tradition of bodily humors, Cogan places water above all other beverages consumed by Englishmen. Quoting Galen, Cogan states that cold water which flows from the east, or through clean ground, makes for the highest quality. To sixteenth-century medical practitioners, the body must maintain a balance of the four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, each taking on either a hot or cold attribute. Water’s cold nature balanced the body’s hot humors and aided in the digestion of meat. Renaissance physicians believed water essentially “maketh the meate thate is eaten to be rawe” and therefore digestible. Water became a central beverage in balancing the bodily humors, and Cogan’s emphasis on the “cheefest” of beverages reflects broader contemporary ideas regarding Renaissance medical science.
In addition to aiding in digestion, and cooling the body, Cogan also developed several important uses for water through his own independent observations. Renaissance universities throughout Europe gained much notoriety for the prevalence of drinking amongst the students. Cogan, a professor when writing The Haven of Health, included water as a cure for hangovers.
“I have knowne many by drinking a good draught of colde water to bedward have thereby had quiet rest all night after, and in the morning also it is right wholesome for him that dranke too much overnight, to drinke fasting a cuppe of colde water, especially if hee bee thirstie: for that will clense the stomacke, and represse the vapours and fumes.”
While this recorded observation may not be considered medical science by today’s standards, it illustrates a curiosity and desire to apply contemporary medical science, ideas of humors, vapors and fumes, to solving common medical problems, including the hangovers of sixteenth century university students.