Monday, 15 November 2021

Queen Victoria smoking dope for menstrual cramps ...

 While researching asthma cigarettes I came across the old chestnut that Queen Victoria smoked cannabis to relieve her menstrual cramps.

Well, she almost certainly didn't. 

Queen Victoria's medical history is more or less unknown and her doctor's notes not accessible so we really don't know a lot about what she was prescribed, but it is the case that in the mid nineteenth century women were sometimes prescribed a tincture of cannabis to relieve menstrual cramps.

(example of American late nineteenth century patent remedy for menstrual cramps containing Cannabis as the principal indgredient)

Furthermore, Queen Victoria suffered a prolapsed womb after the birth of Beatrice in 1857, so  it wouldn't have been at all surprising if she had been prescribed something for pain relief.

The actual genesis of the story seems seems to be an 1890 paper on the uses of cannabis for pain relief by Sir J R Reynolds, Reynolds having been one of Queen Victoria's personal physicians from his appointment in 1878, or some twenty years after the birth of Beatrice.

There seems to have been a case of people putting two and two together to make three,

However, it is the case that William Brooke O'Shaugnessy, one of these polymaths in whom the Victorian era excelled, introduced the use of cannabis into western medicine in the 1840's, so it is entirely possible that one of Queen Victoria's earlier doctors had prescribed it for pain relief.

However, in Victorian times, it was normally prescribed as a tincture, so the image of Queen Vic sitting on the throne with a joint is almost certainly wrong ...

Asthma Cigarettes ....

 Something that I get asked about down at Dow's is Asthma Cigarettes.

Now, as far as I am aware, we don't actually have any examples in our collection, but it's entirely possible that we've a few hiding somewhere.

Most people, understandably find the idea of people smoking a cigarette to alleviate the symptoms of asthma downright weird, but in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century they were most definitely a thing.

However, like a lot of nineteenth century medicine, there was a nugget of good sense in using asthma cigarettes.

If you're asthmatic, or live with one as I do, you'll be familiar with Ventolin puffers. Ventolin however, only came into use in the mid nineteen sixties.

Before then cures varied. Some doctors treated it as principally a psychosomatic disease, and others treated it with corticosteroids, which had to be injected.

However, prior to this in the nineteenth and early twentieth century herbal cigarettes became available containing herbs that helped dilate the blood vessels and relieve the symptoms of asthma.

The original discovery had been made in Madras in 1802 by a Scottish doctor working for the East India company, who discovered that the local cure of inhaling Datura ferox smoke, indeed relieved his asthma.

On his return to Britain he found he could no longer obtain Datura ferox and turned to Thornapple (Datura stramonium) which he found equally effective.

There were and are side effects from inhaling Datura smoke, but if users were careful they probably obtained real benefit from an occasional asthma cigarette.

Individual manufacturers had their own mixes of herbs, but  most contained either Thornapple or Belladona as the active ingredient. Some also contained lobelia leaves, which were also believed to help relieve the symptoms of asthma.

None of them contained tobacco, but some brands contained a small amount of cannabis as a relaxant (Nineteenth century asthmatics were sometimes prescribed a tincture of cannabis to calm them down during a severe attack.)

While we can't say what was used in the mixture for each individual brand, Grimault's was a brand that did definitely contain a little cannabis. We can say this as they advertised the fact.

 After the nineteen twenties, when the use of cannabis in medicine was discouraged asthma cigarettes probably only contained thornapple or belladonna.

Friday, 12 November 2021

The dogfood tablet - six months on

 Way back in April, I bought myself a cheap, in fact the cheapest I could find at the time, tablet to use as an e-reader for public domain books from Google Books and epubs from Project Gutenberg.

Six months on I can say that the idea is a success.

There has been a bit of creep, I've been using the machine more and more tethered via my phone, rather than purely as an offline reader, and I've been using both Amazon's Kindle application and Google Play books more and more to read books rather than the pure model I envisaged originally.

That said, Lithium remains my preferred e-reader of choice for epubs from Gutenberg.

In use performance has been reasonable - good enough to read books and quickly check email and twitter, plus a couple of news sites, and battery life has been good enough, although if I was doing this over again I'd probably go for a device with longer battery life.

The 7" screen format is ideal for reading - about the size of a classic Penguin paperback - and again adequate for text on a screen, and of course the small size makes the device supremely portable, small enough to shove in a backpack or messenger bag.

In use nothing has broken the original premise that a cheap tablet is perfectly acceptable as an ereading device - my $75 device can and does do the job.

Definitely a success ...

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Getting a new mobile in the bush

 Last Wednesday, when I was down at Dow's doing some documentation I looked at my phone screen and realised that what I'd originally thought to be a bad scratch was a spreading crack.

It would be a pain at anytime, but now, when one has to sign in everywhere with QR codes and show one's vaccination status to get into cafes and restaurants, being without a phone would be a major hassle.

The phone was an iPhone 8 I'd bought second hand a couple of years ago, and probably due for replacement sometime soon, so it wasn't really a problem having to replace it early, but the replacement process itself was a tale.

In the small rural town I live in there are no phone shops, or phone repair shops - the best you can do is the local Post Office for a not terribly competitively priced generic Android phone.

There are a couple of phone repair shops in the nearby larger towns, but at around $150 to replace the screen, it probably wasn't worth it - after all you can get a perfectly competent mid range Android phone for between $200 and $250 mail order or from one of the bigger office supplies or home electronics stores, and to be honest I did seriously consider getting one of the higher spec Vivo or Oppo phones.

However I'm a little bit of a snob about phones - I prefer to have a quality phone - for years I had Samsung, and at the moment I have Apple. More because of their track record for reliability and performance than anything else.

However most of the current quality offerings are over a $1000 which was a tad more than I wanted to pay out in a lump.

Now I could have gone for one of these deals whereby I sign up for a plan for 24 months and pay off the phone in monthly installments, and I certainly thought about that to get either one of the newer iPhones, a Samsung, or the new Google Pixel 6.

However, there's a catch.

Where I live you have to have Telstra - coverage from the other networks is simply not reliable enough. I'm sure it'll get better, but for the moment it has to be Telstra.

There's also no 5G coverage. It'll come, but not yet. 

Telstra are not keen to sell you a 5G capable phone on a 4G contract. You can see the logic, but it's annoying as you are paying extra for something you can't use. Admittedly you get extra data, but as I only use less that 5% of my monthly data allocation on my existing contract, that's not a plus.

So, the logic said stay on your existing 4G SIM only contract and buy a decent unlocked 4G phone from one of the big online retailers, which is exactly what I would have done in normal times.

But the times are not normal.

The big online retailers do not have the stock levels they normally have and some phones are on back order. That, and the near collapse of the postal system means it can take two weeks for a package to get here from Sydney or Melbourne.

And remember, I couldn't be without a phone.

Enter Apple.

Apple's online store had stock of the 4G only iPhone SE, and claimed that they could get one to me in a couple of days. They'd also buy back my existing phone, even with a cracked screen.

The deal was a bit more expensive than I'd hoped for, but not disastrously so, and due to the buy back offer, cheaper than a Samsung S20. (Yes, I know the S20's 5G capable and the SE's not, but as we don't have 5G that's not a deal breaker)

So I went for it.

In the event Apple excelled themselves, getting the phone to me for close of business the next day (1655 to be precise). With Apple's data transfer technology I was up and running within half an hour, with all my vaccination and QR code data transferred, rather than spending half a day downloading and installing software as I would have if if I'd changed back to Android.

So, long story short, I'm still an iPhone user due to excellent service from Apple and a rather nifty means of transferring your data from your old phone to your new device ...

(actually the deal turned out better that I imagined. Apple ended up giving me a more generous buy back price than their initial estimate, which meant that while my phone was still more expensive than a well spec'd phone from one of the second tier manufacturers it wasn't too bad overall)