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Water: “Cheefest of All Liquors” 

6hoh The Fountain of Youth
The Fountaint of Youth, 1546

 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

6hoh Water page 205
This page details Cogan's use for drinking water as a cure for hangovers.


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.[4] 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.”[5]


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. 


[1] Lynn Martin, “The Baptism of Wine”, Gastromica vol. 3, no. 4 (Fall 2003), 25.
[2] Thomas Cogan, Haven of Health, USU SCA, 204. 
[3] William Caferro, Contesting the Renaissance, (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 197. 
[4] Phil Withington, “Intoxicants and Society in Early Modern England,” The Historical Journal, (September 2011), 651.
[5] Cogan, Haven of Health, USU SCA, 207