The water of life against death

The water of life against death


During a plague outbreak in the 16th century, doctors started prescribing strong alcoholic beverages, which gave the sick a temporary feeling of well-being. The doses were enough to raise a dead person and were given to children as well as adults.
“The perfect water to heal the plague and worms. A man is given a quarter litre, a modest person half a quarter, and a child an eighth. Take half a jug of aqua-vitae and add to it the undermentioned things: gentian tormentilla ditcamnus carlina half an ounce; cooked and skimmed honey as required.” Recipe from the “Experiments” of Catherine de Medici.

 “Fill a glass one third with fine treacle, one third with water of life and another third with the water of a healthy young virgin child and give the sick person a glass of it every morning, on an empty stomach, for three mornings. And, in the year 1504, it was tried in the glorious city of Venice by Mattio Calegaro, who lived in Santa Sofia, and also by his wife.” 
During the terrible plague which struck Northern Italy in 1630, many recipes were tried.

 “In case of suspected plague, take three rue tips, one walnut and a dried fig. Place it all in half a glass of water of life for thee hours, then drink it.”

 “Take some excrement of a 10 to 12 year old boy, dry and make it into a powder, then use the powder in the following way. Place not more than two spoonfuls in a glass of water of life and mix… and this has been done by many experienced people.”

 “take one white-skinned onion and use it to make a juice with apples, vinegar, rue and milfoil, in equal quantities, mix and give two thirds of it to the patient in a glass half full of water of life within six hours, keeping the patient well-covered in bed so that he can sweat.”

 “... it is advisable to be on an empty stomach… without wearing woollen items, since they are contagious and, in the evening, before going to bed it is a good idea to bathe a little with spring water, and even better to drink a glass of good water of life...”.


Poli Distillerie and
Poli Grappa Museum


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