Thursday, June 12, 2008

today : Medicine Man

I am a great believer in medicine. I guess I have to be, given that I rely on them so much. I take an awful lot of painkillers to relieve chronic pain.

I love Strawberries and Strawberry Jam. My sister and brother cannot abide it. It all goes back to when they were given pills as children. The pills were always concealed in a blob of strawberry jam. Why I was never given jam with my pills, I don't know. But I don't possess that negative association.

Like food, medicines and treatments should taste and feel correct. Let me give you another example. I always take my co-
codamols in soluble form. The act of drinking the bitter dissolved pills is part of a ritual. The taste of them on my tongue is the first stage of pain relief. Taking them in dry tablet form is just not the same.There is a psychological effect in the way they are administered, which feels like it aids the actual chemical effect of them.

Inhaling Vick's does little to actually dispel the symptoms of a cold. But the smell of it conjures priceless memories of being cared for as a child and therefore the smell of Vick's is one of care and of getting better.

The medicine cabinet is full of memories.

A quick off-the-top-of-my-head list of evocative medicinal smells and tastes would include:
Tincture of Myrrh
Buttercup Syrup
Covonia Cough Mixture
Elliman's Rub (it smells like concentrated wood-shavings)

But the palliative effect of medicinal treatments also takes in actual feelings. The beauty of Whitfield's ointment is that it stings like hell for a few moments. Putting it in
between your toes to treat athlete's foot is marvellous. The sting makes me feel like it is actually attacking the fungus. Okay, it stings. But a sting isn't proper pain - it's the extreme cousin of the itch family of sensations.

Al this a prelude to a complaint. I needed some anti-septic ointment due to the fact that I was cruelly
attacked by rose bush whilst dabbling in the garden. Several thorny lacerations ensued. A visit to the chemist initially was disappointing. The only Germolene (my preferred brand due to it's wonderful aroma) available was some new-fangled odourless type. I simply don't understand the idea of odourless anti-septic cream. It's like making non-acidic vinegar or soda flavoured Whisky. I was about to leave empty handed when I spotted TCP ointment. I asked the chemist if the TCP ointment smelled like TCP and he assured me it did. So I bought it.

But when I got home I found that there was something wrong. It did
smell a little like TCP, but not really. The makers of the ointment had decided that adding menthol would somehow help with the odour. It's a bit like that flavouring that in one concentration is used as almond flavour, but is actually nothing like almonds, then in another concentration is supposed to be black cherry, but is actually nothing like black cherry. This TCP had elements of the TCP smell but just wasn't TCP-y enough. The makers had been caught out by their laziness. Not only had they betrayed the aesthetic of their brand by adding menthol to the mix. But they had made their ointment less effective by taking away the reservoir of positive psychological side-effects associated with each user's personal history of TCP.

As a protest, next time I'm getting

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