Antiques sometimes remind us that grandma's home remedies are still the best. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of leeches by doctors.
Beginning in 200 B.C., medical doctors used leeches to cure a fever. They thought the red color of the face and the fever was caused by too much blood.
There are several types of leeches found in the wild, but they have fewer and fewer places to breed. Leeches look like large worms -- some grow to be 8 inches long. They feed on blood. Many campers have gone swimming and find bloody leeches clinging to their legs when they get out of the water. The leech bite injects an anticoagulant so the blood flows more freely.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, leeches were kept at the apothecary shop in attractive pottery urns with lids. The use of leeches was very popular in the 1860s, then lost favor. But now the animals are used to help heal skin grafts, to treat blocked veins and to aid in surgeries that require the removal of pooled blood under the skin.
Today you can buy medical leeches for about $8 each, but they cannot be returned. Antique leech jars cost much more.
Q: I have a metal box with "HRH Princess Elizabeth, Colonel of the Grenadier Guards" sitting on her horse. The words "Huntley & Palmers Biscuits, Reading & London, England" are stamped on it. Can you tell me what year this was made?
A: Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) became Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards in 1942. She reviewed the troops at the changing of the guard for the first time in 1947. This was also the first time the ceremony was held after the end of World War II. Your tin commemorates this event.
Huntley & Palmers was founded by Joseph Huntley, a baker, and George Palmer, a tinsmith, in 1822. They packed their "biscuits" (cookies) in tins to keep them from crumbling when they were delivered by stagecoach. Their first bakery was located on London Street in Reading, England. The company was the world's largest maker of biscuits by 1900.
It was in business until the 1990s, and after an absence of several years, the company began making biscuits again in Sudbury, England, in 2006. Huntley & Palmers is still in business.
Q: I inherited my grandmother's Victorian upright piano. She was born in 1902. I remember her telling me that her father brought the piano up the driveway on his horse-drawn wagon when she was 13 or 14 years old. Inside the piano it says "A.M. McPhail Piano Co." and it's stamped with the number 21072. Can give me any information?
A: The A.M. McPhail Piano Co. was founded in Boston by Andrew M. McPhail in 1837. The serial number inside your piano indicates that it was made in 1897.
The trade name was bought by Kohler & Campbell in about 1891 and pianos with the McPhail name were made until the late 1950s. People who want to buy a piano look for an instrument in good, playable condition. The age of the piano may be a drawback, but some people want an upright because it takes up less space or because they want to decorate their home with Victorian furniture.
Tip: Try this to remove stains from inside a glass decanter. Put warm water, ½ teaspoon of liquid detergent and some uncooked rice grains into the decanter. Shake well, then rinse.
Terry Kovel's column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.