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The Zombie Apocalypse Will Begin With Good Intentions

Every once in a while you can find something strange in the rare book collections.  This little gem is from The Art of Distillation, or, A Treatise of the Choicest Spagiricall Preparations Performed by Way of Distillation, which was published in London in 1653.  The recipes on these two pages are, needless to say, quite interesting. Consuming body parts for medicinal purposes might seem very, very odd to us now, but it actually has quite a long history - read more about it here.

The recipe that offers the most potential for horror is probably the one for distilling the essence of man’s brains, which calls for the brains of a young man that, “hath dyed a violent death.”  You would take these brains (along with the other nervous tissue), mash them into a paste, add wine, put it in a vessel and surround it in horse dung for six months, then finally distill it in a double boiler.  This gruesome recipe would be “a most infallible medicine against the falling sickness [epilepsy].”

Maybe so, but if you drank enough essence of man’s brains, it could cause an even worse sickness.  Kuru, a fatal brain disorder among the Fore people in Papua New Guinea, was spread through the practice of funerary cannibalism.  Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) is in the same family of prion diseases, and became widespread due to the practice of using blood and bone meal as cattle feed.  Cannibalism is not a path you want to go down, and you should probably not trust medical remedies that utilize it. 

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