Send For The Doctor

Anne here, and today I'm diving down another research rabbit-hole — medical treatments in Regency-era England. (And be warned, this blog is a little bit gruesome.)

Leeches

Whenever I have a character who is injured or falls sick in one of my novels, I research it. I choose the disease or injury that the plot requires and consult helpful friends — I have two doctors, several nurses and a very knowledgable paramedic in my circle, and they're all very good about having their brains picked.

Of course they know how the injury or disease will unfold today, but I'm writing about a time when there were no antibiotics, and even germ theory was barely born. Most doctors in the Regency era simply didn't believe in such nonsense as germs or bacteria. Surgery was performed with no regard for cleanliness, doctors wore filthy coats—often coming directly from the autopsy room to the operating room—with pride.

Bloodletting_200_305_31588So researching the treatments that were common in my historical era is fascinating—and horrifying. To my modern eye they read like a torture manual.

For instance if a character caught the 'flu or pneumonia, measles, smallpox, and most kinds of fevers, the common medical practice was to first to bleed them, cutting into the skin (no anaesthetic back then) and draining the blood into a bowl — a pint (half a litre) or more was not uncommon. This was mostly performed by barber-surgeons, not by physicians. Scarification was another method — using a spring-loaded instrument to produce a series of small cuts.

The purpose of this was to "balance the humors". Disease was believed to result from an imbalance in the natural humors, or fluids, of the body—they being blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm — a theory dating back to ancient Greek medicine.

By the 19th century, "One British medical text recommended bloodletting for acne, asthma, cancer, cholera, coma, convulsions, diabetes, epilepsy, gangrene, gout, herpes, indigestion, insanity, jaundice, leprosy, ophthalmia, plague, pneumonia, scurvy, smallpox, stroke, tetanus, tuberculosis, and for some one hundred other diseases. 

Bloodletting was even used to treat most forms of hemorrhaging such as nosebleed, excessive menstruation, or hemorrhoidal bleeding. Before surgery or at the onset of childbirth, blood was removed to prevent inflammation. Before amputation, it was customary to remove a quantity of blood equal to the amount believed to circulate in the limb that was to be removed." (Source)
HomeMedicineChest

In 1799 George Washington died while being treated for a nasty throat infection resulting from severe weather exposure. Within a ten-hour period, more than 5 pints (around two and a half litres) of blood was taken from him. He died.

Louis XIV's oldest son, the Grand Dauphin, grandson (the Duke of Burgundy), and his wife, the Duchess, and their oldest son, the Duke of Brittany, all died within a year and a half because their doctor tried to cure smallpox and measles with bleeding. (Source)

Hith-bloodletting-2

Medicines routinely contained mercury, arsenic and other chemicals we would not dream of using today. Opium was widely used — laudanum (which contains opium) was routinely prescribed. To read more about the contents of the home medicine chest pictured, click on the link,

So widespread was the belief in the benefits of bleeding that even healthy people sometimes had themselves regularly bled as a preventative measure. Blood-letting was “recommended in spring and the beginning of September, its benefits…included sound sleep, toning up of the spirits, calmness, and better sight and hearing.” [Porter, p116,  Norton, NY. 1998]

Leeches were also widely used for the same purpose, and they are coming back into medical use today, though not to "balance the humors". Hungry leeches are placed against the patient's skin, where they feed on their blood until sated, and drop off. At the same time they inject a thinning agent into the person's blood, which kept the blood flowing.

Cupping

Another common treatment was cupping, which also seems to be having a resurgence today in the alternative medicine area. (That's a modern-day photo)  Cupping involved the heating of a small class or ceramic cup, then applying it, inverted to the patient's skin. It created a vacuum and broke the small blood vessels under the skin, resulting in bleeding under the skin. It also left livid bruise-like marks on the patients' skin. Purge

Purging was also a standard treatment for all kinds of diseases — influenza, pneumonia, and many more — presumably balancing the black bile and yellow bile humors. They induced vomiting and diarrhea. The most common purgative was Calomel (mercury chloride) and while I have no statistics on the results of such treatment, a common result was the loss of teeth and hair. And often, death. (See above to the link for the contents of that home medicine chest)

Truly, the more I read, the more I wonder how such treatments stayed in use for so long. Bleeding as a treatment for pneumonia was still included in at least one medical textbook as late as 1942. (William Osler’s 14th edition of Principles and Practice of Medicine).

But a friend of mine, a big believer in alternative medicine, suggested that some of these extreme treatments might have stimulated the body's immune system — a bit like giving a non-performing fruit tree a good hard prune to stimulate its fruiting survival response. Who knows? But certainly even the finest and most fashionable doctors of the time persisted with these treatments, so they must have believed they did some good.

However including this kind of thing in novels can provoke a backlash in some readers. When I wrote The Perfect Kiss, the heroine's best friend's father was thought to be dying. After relentless bleeding and purging, the poor man was on his last legs and his daughter was in despair. My heroine sacked the doctor, and let a local wise-woman take over, figuring that at least he would die in some sort of peace. 

In fact the man's illness had been suggested by one of my doctor friends, who also described for me the progress it would take and the best treatment for it (with no modern medicine). So of course in my book the man recovered.

But I got several emails and one or two reviews to the effect of "How dare that heroine think she knew better than the doctor! How arrogant!"  There was also a lot of skepticism abut the hero's recovery in The Perfect Stranger — another scenario I'd run past a doctor friend.

So I guess research can only take you so far. Readers will always think what they want to think, and trust in doctors, no matter what the century or treatment, is obviously a powerful thing. 

Medicine has come a very long way, and I have to say I'm grateful to be living in the 21st century and not in the 19th century. But I wouldn't be surprised if some treatments we think of as routine today will, in the future, be regarded as rather barbarous.

Have you experienced any treatments like these? Can you think of any modern treatments that future people will wince at? Share your thoughts. . . 

125 thoughts on “Send For The Doctor”

  1. Morning, Anne!
    Leeches are still used in medicine even now, for those who have had a limb/finger/toe reattachment. There’s the benefit of keeping the blood flowing due to their thinning enzymes and because of that, much less tissue loss and faster healing. It’s fascinating. I used dried, ground leeches put into the heroine’s father’s food by an adversary to kill him, rather like an overdose of coumadin would do today.
    Bleeding on the other hand is so barbaric to me and frankly, a Lot of people probably died before their time because of it.
    As to those who malign a story, they can’t think beyond modern terms to what was actually not only available at the time, but also what people were subjected to. You’ll never get them to see otherwise. :/
    PS: sent you an email 🙂

    Reply
  2. Morning, Anne!
    Leeches are still used in medicine even now, for those who have had a limb/finger/toe reattachment. There’s the benefit of keeping the blood flowing due to their thinning enzymes and because of that, much less tissue loss and faster healing. It’s fascinating. I used dried, ground leeches put into the heroine’s father’s food by an adversary to kill him, rather like an overdose of coumadin would do today.
    Bleeding on the other hand is so barbaric to me and frankly, a Lot of people probably died before their time because of it.
    As to those who malign a story, they can’t think beyond modern terms to what was actually not only available at the time, but also what people were subjected to. You’ll never get them to see otherwise. :/
    PS: sent you an email 🙂

    Reply
  3. Morning, Anne!
    Leeches are still used in medicine even now, for those who have had a limb/finger/toe reattachment. There’s the benefit of keeping the blood flowing due to their thinning enzymes and because of that, much less tissue loss and faster healing. It’s fascinating. I used dried, ground leeches put into the heroine’s father’s food by an adversary to kill him, rather like an overdose of coumadin would do today.
    Bleeding on the other hand is so barbaric to me and frankly, a Lot of people probably died before their time because of it.
    As to those who malign a story, they can’t think beyond modern terms to what was actually not only available at the time, but also what people were subjected to. You’ll never get them to see otherwise. :/
    PS: sent you an email 🙂

    Reply
  4. Morning, Anne!
    Leeches are still used in medicine even now, for those who have had a limb/finger/toe reattachment. There’s the benefit of keeping the blood flowing due to their thinning enzymes and because of that, much less tissue loss and faster healing. It’s fascinating. I used dried, ground leeches put into the heroine’s father’s food by an adversary to kill him, rather like an overdose of coumadin would do today.
    Bleeding on the other hand is so barbaric to me and frankly, a Lot of people probably died before their time because of it.
    As to those who malign a story, they can’t think beyond modern terms to what was actually not only available at the time, but also what people were subjected to. You’ll never get them to see otherwise. :/
    PS: sent you an email 🙂

    Reply
  5. Morning, Anne!
    Leeches are still used in medicine even now, for those who have had a limb/finger/toe reattachment. There’s the benefit of keeping the blood flowing due to their thinning enzymes and because of that, much less tissue loss and faster healing. It’s fascinating. I used dried, ground leeches put into the heroine’s father’s food by an adversary to kill him, rather like an overdose of coumadin would do today.
    Bleeding on the other hand is so barbaric to me and frankly, a Lot of people probably died before their time because of it.
    As to those who malign a story, they can’t think beyond modern terms to what was actually not only available at the time, but also what people were subjected to. You’ll never get them to see otherwise. :/
    PS: sent you an email 🙂

    Reply
  6. Thanks, Theo, yes, I discovered the modern resurgence of the use of leeches in medicine when I had a hero treated with leeches and was doing research for it. It’s fascinating. Maggots are also used in modern medicine, which also seems quite medieval. But I couldn’t go into that here — this blog is already far too long.
    And yes, I’m certain a LOT of people died before their time because of these practices — George Washington for one. Stonewall Jackson was another one who was bled extensively for pneumonia, and died. Though he’d also had an amputation, so that probably contributed.

    Reply
  7. Thanks, Theo, yes, I discovered the modern resurgence of the use of leeches in medicine when I had a hero treated with leeches and was doing research for it. It’s fascinating. Maggots are also used in modern medicine, which also seems quite medieval. But I couldn’t go into that here — this blog is already far too long.
    And yes, I’m certain a LOT of people died before their time because of these practices — George Washington for one. Stonewall Jackson was another one who was bled extensively for pneumonia, and died. Though he’d also had an amputation, so that probably contributed.

    Reply
  8. Thanks, Theo, yes, I discovered the modern resurgence of the use of leeches in medicine when I had a hero treated with leeches and was doing research for it. It’s fascinating. Maggots are also used in modern medicine, which also seems quite medieval. But I couldn’t go into that here — this blog is already far too long.
    And yes, I’m certain a LOT of people died before their time because of these practices — George Washington for one. Stonewall Jackson was another one who was bled extensively for pneumonia, and died. Though he’d also had an amputation, so that probably contributed.

    Reply
  9. Thanks, Theo, yes, I discovered the modern resurgence of the use of leeches in medicine when I had a hero treated with leeches and was doing research for it. It’s fascinating. Maggots are also used in modern medicine, which also seems quite medieval. But I couldn’t go into that here — this blog is already far too long.
    And yes, I’m certain a LOT of people died before their time because of these practices — George Washington for one. Stonewall Jackson was another one who was bled extensively for pneumonia, and died. Though he’d also had an amputation, so that probably contributed.

    Reply
  10. Thanks, Theo, yes, I discovered the modern resurgence of the use of leeches in medicine when I had a hero treated with leeches and was doing research for it. It’s fascinating. Maggots are also used in modern medicine, which also seems quite medieval. But I couldn’t go into that here — this blog is already far too long.
    And yes, I’m certain a LOT of people died before their time because of these practices — George Washington for one. Stonewall Jackson was another one who was bled extensively for pneumonia, and died. Though he’d also had an amputation, so that probably contributed.

    Reply
  11. Thank you, Anne, interesting post. I enjoy stories that have the medical practices of the time part of the narrative and the reminder of how far we have come, and what has not changed. I often wonder if I would consent to leeching if faced with it. My sister is a pharmacy technician and she told me someone has to be assigned to feed the leeches that are kept on hand. Yuk.

    Reply
  12. Thank you, Anne, interesting post. I enjoy stories that have the medical practices of the time part of the narrative and the reminder of how far we have come, and what has not changed. I often wonder if I would consent to leeching if faced with it. My sister is a pharmacy technician and she told me someone has to be assigned to feed the leeches that are kept on hand. Yuk.

    Reply
  13. Thank you, Anne, interesting post. I enjoy stories that have the medical practices of the time part of the narrative and the reminder of how far we have come, and what has not changed. I often wonder if I would consent to leeching if faced with it. My sister is a pharmacy technician and she told me someone has to be assigned to feed the leeches that are kept on hand. Yuk.

    Reply
  14. Thank you, Anne, interesting post. I enjoy stories that have the medical practices of the time part of the narrative and the reminder of how far we have come, and what has not changed. I often wonder if I would consent to leeching if faced with it. My sister is a pharmacy technician and she told me someone has to be assigned to feed the leeches that are kept on hand. Yuk.

    Reply
  15. Thank you, Anne, interesting post. I enjoy stories that have the medical practices of the time part of the narrative and the reminder of how far we have come, and what has not changed. I often wonder if I would consent to leeching if faced with it. My sister is a pharmacy technician and she told me someone has to be assigned to feed the leeches that are kept on hand. Yuk.

    Reply
  16. This subject is kind of fascinating to me. I loved the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. It has a lot of these kinds of treatments in it. I don’t know what the future will think of our medical treatments, but I’m grateful for how far we’ve come. 🙂

    Reply
  17. This subject is kind of fascinating to me. I loved the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. It has a lot of these kinds of treatments in it. I don’t know what the future will think of our medical treatments, but I’m grateful for how far we’ve come. 🙂

    Reply
  18. This subject is kind of fascinating to me. I loved the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. It has a lot of these kinds of treatments in it. I don’t know what the future will think of our medical treatments, but I’m grateful for how far we’ve come. 🙂

    Reply
  19. This subject is kind of fascinating to me. I loved the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. It has a lot of these kinds of treatments in it. I don’t know what the future will think of our medical treatments, but I’m grateful for how far we’ve come. 🙂

    Reply
  20. This subject is kind of fascinating to me. I loved the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. It has a lot of these kinds of treatments in it. I don’t know what the future will think of our medical treatments, but I’m grateful for how far we’ve come. 🙂

    Reply
  21. Like Misti above, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the advances I’ve seen even in my own lifetime. Vaccines, and improvement in treatments have come a long way, even in my 77 years.
    When I was a child, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and even the flu could be deadly. And the treatments for things like tuberculosis, epilepsy, downs syndrome, etc., seem almost primitive now.
    I had an uncle who had tuberculosis living with us for a period of time. Because of that, we had to go to the county health department and be tested for TB for a period of time.
    And some people (today) complain because they have to wear masks for public health reasons.
    Great blog.

    Reply
  22. Like Misti above, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the advances I’ve seen even in my own lifetime. Vaccines, and improvement in treatments have come a long way, even in my 77 years.
    When I was a child, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and even the flu could be deadly. And the treatments for things like tuberculosis, epilepsy, downs syndrome, etc., seem almost primitive now.
    I had an uncle who had tuberculosis living with us for a period of time. Because of that, we had to go to the county health department and be tested for TB for a period of time.
    And some people (today) complain because they have to wear masks for public health reasons.
    Great blog.

    Reply
  23. Like Misti above, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the advances I’ve seen even in my own lifetime. Vaccines, and improvement in treatments have come a long way, even in my 77 years.
    When I was a child, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and even the flu could be deadly. And the treatments for things like tuberculosis, epilepsy, downs syndrome, etc., seem almost primitive now.
    I had an uncle who had tuberculosis living with us for a period of time. Because of that, we had to go to the county health department and be tested for TB for a period of time.
    And some people (today) complain because they have to wear masks for public health reasons.
    Great blog.

    Reply
  24. Like Misti above, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the advances I’ve seen even in my own lifetime. Vaccines, and improvement in treatments have come a long way, even in my 77 years.
    When I was a child, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and even the flu could be deadly. And the treatments for things like tuberculosis, epilepsy, downs syndrome, etc., seem almost primitive now.
    I had an uncle who had tuberculosis living with us for a period of time. Because of that, we had to go to the county health department and be tested for TB for a period of time.
    And some people (today) complain because they have to wear masks for public health reasons.
    Great blog.

    Reply
  25. Like Misti above, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the advances I’ve seen even in my own lifetime. Vaccines, and improvement in treatments have come a long way, even in my 77 years.
    When I was a child, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and even the flu could be deadly. And the treatments for things like tuberculosis, epilepsy, downs syndrome, etc., seem almost primitive now.
    I had an uncle who had tuberculosis living with us for a period of time. Because of that, we had to go to the county health department and be tested for TB for a period of time.
    And some people (today) complain because they have to wear masks for public health reasons.
    Great blog.

    Reply
  26. I have often thought that if I (modern day licensed practical nurse) time traveled to that historical era that I would be one hell of a doctor 😳 and then my daughter tells me I would be burned as a witch.
    I hope that someday chemo and radiation will be considered hopelessly barbaric .

    Reply
  27. I have often thought that if I (modern day licensed practical nurse) time traveled to that historical era that I would be one hell of a doctor 😳 and then my daughter tells me I would be burned as a witch.
    I hope that someday chemo and radiation will be considered hopelessly barbaric .

    Reply
  28. I have often thought that if I (modern day licensed practical nurse) time traveled to that historical era that I would be one hell of a doctor 😳 and then my daughter tells me I would be burned as a witch.
    I hope that someday chemo and radiation will be considered hopelessly barbaric .

    Reply
  29. I have often thought that if I (modern day licensed practical nurse) time traveled to that historical era that I would be one hell of a doctor 😳 and then my daughter tells me I would be burned as a witch.
    I hope that someday chemo and radiation will be considered hopelessly barbaric .

    Reply
  30. I have often thought that if I (modern day licensed practical nurse) time traveled to that historical era that I would be one hell of a doctor 😳 and then my daughter tells me I would be burned as a witch.
    I hope that someday chemo and radiation will be considered hopelessly barbaric .

    Reply
  31. Thanks, Denise. When I was researching the use of leeches — then and now — I decided that the worst thing about leeches was the “ick” factor. As far as I can tell, you hardly even felt them, whereas opening a vein or “scarifying” would be painful and gory.
    When I was younger I did a lot of bushwalking and I remember several occasions where I had to roll up my pants and roll down my socks and pick off leeches. Generally that was because someone in the small group said “while we’re stopping, check for leeches.” I wish now I’d taken more notice.

    Reply
  32. Thanks, Denise. When I was researching the use of leeches — then and now — I decided that the worst thing about leeches was the “ick” factor. As far as I can tell, you hardly even felt them, whereas opening a vein or “scarifying” would be painful and gory.
    When I was younger I did a lot of bushwalking and I remember several occasions where I had to roll up my pants and roll down my socks and pick off leeches. Generally that was because someone in the small group said “while we’re stopping, check for leeches.” I wish now I’d taken more notice.

    Reply
  33. Thanks, Denise. When I was researching the use of leeches — then and now — I decided that the worst thing about leeches was the “ick” factor. As far as I can tell, you hardly even felt them, whereas opening a vein or “scarifying” would be painful and gory.
    When I was younger I did a lot of bushwalking and I remember several occasions where I had to roll up my pants and roll down my socks and pick off leeches. Generally that was because someone in the small group said “while we’re stopping, check for leeches.” I wish now I’d taken more notice.

    Reply
  34. Thanks, Denise. When I was researching the use of leeches — then and now — I decided that the worst thing about leeches was the “ick” factor. As far as I can tell, you hardly even felt them, whereas opening a vein or “scarifying” would be painful and gory.
    When I was younger I did a lot of bushwalking and I remember several occasions where I had to roll up my pants and roll down my socks and pick off leeches. Generally that was because someone in the small group said “while we’re stopping, check for leeches.” I wish now I’d taken more notice.

    Reply
  35. Thanks, Denise. When I was researching the use of leeches — then and now — I decided that the worst thing about leeches was the “ick” factor. As far as I can tell, you hardly even felt them, whereas opening a vein or “scarifying” would be painful and gory.
    When I was younger I did a lot of bushwalking and I remember several occasions where I had to roll up my pants and roll down my socks and pick off leeches. Generally that was because someone in the small group said “while we’re stopping, check for leeches.” I wish now I’d taken more notice.

    Reply
  36. Thanks, Misti — I find it fascinating too. I read a few excerpts from that book that were quoted on-line, but haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, when I look back at the few times I’ve been sick in my life, I’m grateful to be born in these times. The child death-rate back then is horrific.

    Reply
  37. Thanks, Misti — I find it fascinating too. I read a few excerpts from that book that were quoted on-line, but haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, when I look back at the few times I’ve been sick in my life, I’m grateful to be born in these times. The child death-rate back then is horrific.

    Reply
  38. Thanks, Misti — I find it fascinating too. I read a few excerpts from that book that were quoted on-line, but haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, when I look back at the few times I’ve been sick in my life, I’m grateful to be born in these times. The child death-rate back then is horrific.

    Reply
  39. Thanks, Misti — I find it fascinating too. I read a few excerpts from that book that were quoted on-line, but haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, when I look back at the few times I’ve been sick in my life, I’m grateful to be born in these times. The child death-rate back then is horrific.

    Reply
  40. Thanks, Misti — I find it fascinating too. I read a few excerpts from that book that were quoted on-line, but haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, when I look back at the few times I’ve been sick in my life, I’m grateful to be born in these times. The child death-rate back then is horrific.

    Reply
  41. Yes, Mary, I think we can all see amazing progress in medical knowledge and treatment — and disease prevention — in our lifetimes, however long or short. It’s another reason why knowing history is so important. Thanks for commenting.

    Reply
  42. Yes, Mary, I think we can all see amazing progress in medical knowledge and treatment — and disease prevention — in our lifetimes, however long or short. It’s another reason why knowing history is so important. Thanks for commenting.

    Reply
  43. Yes, Mary, I think we can all see amazing progress in medical knowledge and treatment — and disease prevention — in our lifetimes, however long or short. It’s another reason why knowing history is so important. Thanks for commenting.

    Reply
  44. Yes, Mary, I think we can all see amazing progress in medical knowledge and treatment — and disease prevention — in our lifetimes, however long or short. It’s another reason why knowing history is so important. Thanks for commenting.

    Reply
  45. Yes, Mary, I think we can all see amazing progress in medical knowledge and treatment — and disease prevention — in our lifetimes, however long or short. It’s another reason why knowing history is so important. Thanks for commenting.

    Reply
  46. LOL about being burned as a witch, Tricia. I would hope that you’d be cunning enough not to raise people’s fears. But yes, they were scary attitudes back then. It’s amazing to me how women using largely plant-based treatments were sometimes feared and could be regarded as witches, whereas men who cut into you and burned you —and often killed with their extreme treatments — were venerated.
    My friend who said maybe these 19th C treatments might work to stimulate the immune system was of the same opinion about the barbarity of chemo and radiation treatments. I too hope they come up with better treatments in the future.

    Reply
  47. LOL about being burned as a witch, Tricia. I would hope that you’d be cunning enough not to raise people’s fears. But yes, they were scary attitudes back then. It’s amazing to me how women using largely plant-based treatments were sometimes feared and could be regarded as witches, whereas men who cut into you and burned you —and often killed with their extreme treatments — were venerated.
    My friend who said maybe these 19th C treatments might work to stimulate the immune system was of the same opinion about the barbarity of chemo and radiation treatments. I too hope they come up with better treatments in the future.

    Reply
  48. LOL about being burned as a witch, Tricia. I would hope that you’d be cunning enough not to raise people’s fears. But yes, they were scary attitudes back then. It’s amazing to me how women using largely plant-based treatments were sometimes feared and could be regarded as witches, whereas men who cut into you and burned you —and often killed with their extreme treatments — were venerated.
    My friend who said maybe these 19th C treatments might work to stimulate the immune system was of the same opinion about the barbarity of chemo and radiation treatments. I too hope they come up with better treatments in the future.

    Reply
  49. LOL about being burned as a witch, Tricia. I would hope that you’d be cunning enough not to raise people’s fears. But yes, they were scary attitudes back then. It’s amazing to me how women using largely plant-based treatments were sometimes feared and could be regarded as witches, whereas men who cut into you and burned you —and often killed with their extreme treatments — were venerated.
    My friend who said maybe these 19th C treatments might work to stimulate the immune system was of the same opinion about the barbarity of chemo and radiation treatments. I too hope they come up with better treatments in the future.

    Reply
  50. LOL about being burned as a witch, Tricia. I would hope that you’d be cunning enough not to raise people’s fears. But yes, they were scary attitudes back then. It’s amazing to me how women using largely plant-based treatments were sometimes feared and could be regarded as witches, whereas men who cut into you and burned you —and often killed with their extreme treatments — were venerated.
    My friend who said maybe these 19th C treatments might work to stimulate the immune system was of the same opinion about the barbarity of chemo and radiation treatments. I too hope they come up with better treatments in the future.

    Reply
  51. I’ve also researched historical medicine, and tend to be too squeamish to write about some of the more ghastly treatments! It’s useful having medical friends to vet what I want to write.

    Reply
  52. I’ve also researched historical medicine, and tend to be too squeamish to write about some of the more ghastly treatments! It’s useful having medical friends to vet what I want to write.

    Reply
  53. I’ve also researched historical medicine, and tend to be too squeamish to write about some of the more ghastly treatments! It’s useful having medical friends to vet what I want to write.

    Reply
  54. I’ve also researched historical medicine, and tend to be too squeamish to write about some of the more ghastly treatments! It’s useful having medical friends to vet what I want to write.

    Reply
  55. I’ve also researched historical medicine, and tend to be too squeamish to write about some of the more ghastly treatments! It’s useful having medical friends to vet what I want to write.

    Reply
  56. I am intensely grateful for modern medicine. I have been fortunate to live in modern times and to live in highly resourceful medical areas. Growing up in St. Louis, my doctors were association with Washington University (Barnes Clinic) and St. Louis University. From the age of 5 until he died when I was 11, my primary care doctor was Max Goldstein, founder of the Central Institute of the Deaf. He saved my life and my hearing.
    In the NYC area my doctor (allergist and general practicioner) was associated with Presbyterian St. Lukes, and here in Columbin University Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the state.
    I feel very blessed in my medical supervision.

    Reply
  57. I am intensely grateful for modern medicine. I have been fortunate to live in modern times and to live in highly resourceful medical areas. Growing up in St. Louis, my doctors were association with Washington University (Barnes Clinic) and St. Louis University. From the age of 5 until he died when I was 11, my primary care doctor was Max Goldstein, founder of the Central Institute of the Deaf. He saved my life and my hearing.
    In the NYC area my doctor (allergist and general practicioner) was associated with Presbyterian St. Lukes, and here in Columbin University Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the state.
    I feel very blessed in my medical supervision.

    Reply
  58. I am intensely grateful for modern medicine. I have been fortunate to live in modern times and to live in highly resourceful medical areas. Growing up in St. Louis, my doctors were association with Washington University (Barnes Clinic) and St. Louis University. From the age of 5 until he died when I was 11, my primary care doctor was Max Goldstein, founder of the Central Institute of the Deaf. He saved my life and my hearing.
    In the NYC area my doctor (allergist and general practicioner) was associated with Presbyterian St. Lukes, and here in Columbin University Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the state.
    I feel very blessed in my medical supervision.

    Reply
  59. I am intensely grateful for modern medicine. I have been fortunate to live in modern times and to live in highly resourceful medical areas. Growing up in St. Louis, my doctors were association with Washington University (Barnes Clinic) and St. Louis University. From the age of 5 until he died when I was 11, my primary care doctor was Max Goldstein, founder of the Central Institute of the Deaf. He saved my life and my hearing.
    In the NYC area my doctor (allergist and general practicioner) was associated with Presbyterian St. Lukes, and here in Columbin University Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the state.
    I feel very blessed in my medical supervision.

    Reply
  60. I am intensely grateful for modern medicine. I have been fortunate to live in modern times and to live in highly resourceful medical areas. Growing up in St. Louis, my doctors were association with Washington University (Barnes Clinic) and St. Louis University. From the age of 5 until he died when I was 11, my primary care doctor was Max Goldstein, founder of the Central Institute of the Deaf. He saved my life and my hearing.
    In the NYC area my doctor (allergist and general practicioner) was associated with Presbyterian St. Lukes, and here in Columbin University Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the state.
    I feel very blessed in my medical supervision.

    Reply
  61. I realize that the thought processes were much different way back when…..authority is always right, etc. But, from where I am now, I cannot imagine that someone along the way did not think, “Golly Gee, maybe taking blood from this person is not a good idea.” I love the idea of a female mind deciding that there must be a better way.
    Thanks for the post. And I do things holistically if possible….no antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. But I am darn glad no one is giving me arsenic to make me feel better. And if I saw a leech coming at me, I would probably die on the spot. So much for a cure.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  62. I realize that the thought processes were much different way back when…..authority is always right, etc. But, from where I am now, I cannot imagine that someone along the way did not think, “Golly Gee, maybe taking blood from this person is not a good idea.” I love the idea of a female mind deciding that there must be a better way.
    Thanks for the post. And I do things holistically if possible….no antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. But I am darn glad no one is giving me arsenic to make me feel better. And if I saw a leech coming at me, I would probably die on the spot. So much for a cure.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  63. I realize that the thought processes were much different way back when…..authority is always right, etc. But, from where I am now, I cannot imagine that someone along the way did not think, “Golly Gee, maybe taking blood from this person is not a good idea.” I love the idea of a female mind deciding that there must be a better way.
    Thanks for the post. And I do things holistically if possible….no antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. But I am darn glad no one is giving me arsenic to make me feel better. And if I saw a leech coming at me, I would probably die on the spot. So much for a cure.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  64. I realize that the thought processes were much different way back when…..authority is always right, etc. But, from where I am now, I cannot imagine that someone along the way did not think, “Golly Gee, maybe taking blood from this person is not a good idea.” I love the idea of a female mind deciding that there must be a better way.
    Thanks for the post. And I do things holistically if possible….no antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. But I am darn glad no one is giving me arsenic to make me feel better. And if I saw a leech coming at me, I would probably die on the spot. So much for a cure.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  65. I realize that the thought processes were much different way back when…..authority is always right, etc. But, from where I am now, I cannot imagine that someone along the way did not think, “Golly Gee, maybe taking blood from this person is not a good idea.” I love the idea of a female mind deciding that there must be a better way.
    Thanks for the post. And I do things holistically if possible….no antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. But I am darn glad no one is giving me arsenic to make me feel better. And if I saw a leech coming at me, I would probably die on the spot. So much for a cure.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  66. Great article, Anne! Very informative. I especially liked your final comment re: what readers will think on the take away. No matter what your research reveals, readers will believe what they want to believe. It’s interesting when writing historical novels to get feedback such as “My research shows me you should check your research,” when in fact as an author your own research involves days, hours, years, even–and a circle of experts, as you’ve shown! You’ll never please everyone. No getting around it, I guess.

    Reply
  67. Great article, Anne! Very informative. I especially liked your final comment re: what readers will think on the take away. No matter what your research reveals, readers will believe what they want to believe. It’s interesting when writing historical novels to get feedback such as “My research shows me you should check your research,” when in fact as an author your own research involves days, hours, years, even–and a circle of experts, as you’ve shown! You’ll never please everyone. No getting around it, I guess.

    Reply
  68. Great article, Anne! Very informative. I especially liked your final comment re: what readers will think on the take away. No matter what your research reveals, readers will believe what they want to believe. It’s interesting when writing historical novels to get feedback such as “My research shows me you should check your research,” when in fact as an author your own research involves days, hours, years, even–and a circle of experts, as you’ve shown! You’ll never please everyone. No getting around it, I guess.

    Reply
  69. Great article, Anne! Very informative. I especially liked your final comment re: what readers will think on the take away. No matter what your research reveals, readers will believe what they want to believe. It’s interesting when writing historical novels to get feedback such as “My research shows me you should check your research,” when in fact as an author your own research involves days, hours, years, even–and a circle of experts, as you’ve shown! You’ll never please everyone. No getting around it, I guess.

    Reply
  70. Great article, Anne! Very informative. I especially liked your final comment re: what readers will think on the take away. No matter what your research reveals, readers will believe what they want to believe. It’s interesting when writing historical novels to get feedback such as “My research shows me you should check your research,” when in fact as an author your own research involves days, hours, years, even–and a circle of experts, as you’ve shown! You’ll never please everyone. No getting around it, I guess.

    Reply
  71. Hi Anne, I read a Pulitzer-winning biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe that described a period in which she was treated with calomel. The result was she nearly went blind and her hands shook so much she couldn’t use them.
    Fortunately, at that time the “water cure” offered at Saratoga Springs was all the rage, so Beecher STowe went to be treated. They did a lot of crazy stuff: enemas, wrapping the body in damp rags, etc., but they also made her drink a lot of water. We can thank the curative powers of water for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    Reply
  72. Hi Anne, I read a Pulitzer-winning biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe that described a period in which she was treated with calomel. The result was she nearly went blind and her hands shook so much she couldn’t use them.
    Fortunately, at that time the “water cure” offered at Saratoga Springs was all the rage, so Beecher STowe went to be treated. They did a lot of crazy stuff: enemas, wrapping the body in damp rags, etc., but they also made her drink a lot of water. We can thank the curative powers of water for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    Reply
  73. Hi Anne, I read a Pulitzer-winning biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe that described a period in which she was treated with calomel. The result was she nearly went blind and her hands shook so much she couldn’t use them.
    Fortunately, at that time the “water cure” offered at Saratoga Springs was all the rage, so Beecher STowe went to be treated. They did a lot of crazy stuff: enemas, wrapping the body in damp rags, etc., but they also made her drink a lot of water. We can thank the curative powers of water for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    Reply
  74. Hi Anne, I read a Pulitzer-winning biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe that described a period in which she was treated with calomel. The result was she nearly went blind and her hands shook so much she couldn’t use them.
    Fortunately, at that time the “water cure” offered at Saratoga Springs was all the rage, so Beecher STowe went to be treated. They did a lot of crazy stuff: enemas, wrapping the body in damp rags, etc., but they also made her drink a lot of water. We can thank the curative powers of water for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    Reply
  75. Hi Anne, I read a Pulitzer-winning biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe that described a period in which she was treated with calomel. The result was she nearly went blind and her hands shook so much she couldn’t use them.
    Fortunately, at that time the “water cure” offered at Saratoga Springs was all the rage, so Beecher STowe went to be treated. They did a lot of crazy stuff: enemas, wrapping the body in damp rags, etc., but they also made her drink a lot of water. We can thank the curative powers of water for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    Reply
  76. I have always thought that ‘bleeding the patient’ was one of the sure fire ways of killing people!! Who in their right mind thought this was a good thing for people.
    Also I can’t imagine a world without antibiotics. As someone who suffers from kidney infections I would be in terrible trouble without them.
    Great, informative post!

    Reply
  77. I have always thought that ‘bleeding the patient’ was one of the sure fire ways of killing people!! Who in their right mind thought this was a good thing for people.
    Also I can’t imagine a world without antibiotics. As someone who suffers from kidney infections I would be in terrible trouble without them.
    Great, informative post!

    Reply
  78. I have always thought that ‘bleeding the patient’ was one of the sure fire ways of killing people!! Who in their right mind thought this was a good thing for people.
    Also I can’t imagine a world without antibiotics. As someone who suffers from kidney infections I would be in terrible trouble without them.
    Great, informative post!

    Reply
  79. I have always thought that ‘bleeding the patient’ was one of the sure fire ways of killing people!! Who in their right mind thought this was a good thing for people.
    Also I can’t imagine a world without antibiotics. As someone who suffers from kidney infections I would be in terrible trouble without them.
    Great, informative post!

    Reply
  80. I have always thought that ‘bleeding the patient’ was one of the sure fire ways of killing people!! Who in their right mind thought this was a good thing for people.
    Also I can’t imagine a world without antibiotics. As someone who suffers from kidney infections I would be in terrible trouble without them.
    Great, informative post!

    Reply
  81. Whoever thought that bleeding people was a good thing?! All they did was weaken the patient. Also a world without antibiotics is unthinkable. As someone who suffers from kidney infections, frequently, I would be lost without them.
    Leeches, yeuck!!!
    Great post and very informative.

    Reply
  82. Whoever thought that bleeding people was a good thing?! All they did was weaken the patient. Also a world without antibiotics is unthinkable. As someone who suffers from kidney infections, frequently, I would be lost without them.
    Leeches, yeuck!!!
    Great post and very informative.

    Reply
  83. Whoever thought that bleeding people was a good thing?! All they did was weaken the patient. Also a world without antibiotics is unthinkable. As someone who suffers from kidney infections, frequently, I would be lost without them.
    Leeches, yeuck!!!
    Great post and very informative.

    Reply
  84. Whoever thought that bleeding people was a good thing?! All they did was weaken the patient. Also a world without antibiotics is unthinkable. As someone who suffers from kidney infections, frequently, I would be lost without them.
    Leeches, yeuck!!!
    Great post and very informative.

    Reply
  85. Whoever thought that bleeding people was a good thing?! All they did was weaken the patient. Also a world without antibiotics is unthinkable. As someone who suffers from kidney infections, frequently, I would be lost without them.
    Leeches, yeuck!!!
    Great post and very informative.

    Reply
  86. Yes, my medical friends are very generous and helpful. It’s a fine line including much of the historical medical treatment. I generally research it madly, write it in . . . then take it out.

    Reply
  87. Yes, my medical friends are very generous and helpful. It’s a fine line including much of the historical medical treatment. I generally research it madly, write it in . . . then take it out.

    Reply
  88. Yes, my medical friends are very generous and helpful. It’s a fine line including much of the historical medical treatment. I generally research it madly, write it in . . . then take it out.

    Reply
  89. Yes, my medical friends are very generous and helpful. It’s a fine line including much of the historical medical treatment. I generally research it madly, write it in . . . then take it out.

    Reply
  90. Yes, my medical friends are very generous and helpful. It’s a fine line including much of the historical medical treatment. I generally research it madly, write it in . . . then take it out.

    Reply
  91. Sue, what a blessing to have such medical expertise available. And Max Goldstein sounds like he did a wonderful thing for you, too. We are so lucky to live in the times we do.

    Reply
  92. Sue, what a blessing to have such medical expertise available. And Max Goldstein sounds like he did a wonderful thing for you, too. We are so lucky to live in the times we do.

    Reply
  93. Sue, what a blessing to have such medical expertise available. And Max Goldstein sounds like he did a wonderful thing for you, too. We are so lucky to live in the times we do.

    Reply
  94. Sue, what a blessing to have such medical expertise available. And Max Goldstein sounds like he did a wonderful thing for you, too. We are so lucky to live in the times we do.

    Reply
  95. Sue, what a blessing to have such medical expertise available. And Max Goldstein sounds like he did a wonderful thing for you, too. We are so lucky to live in the times we do.

    Reply
  96. Yes, Annette, it’s hard to wrap our heads around it, I agree. It sounds like they removed around half of all the blood in George Washington’s body — no wonder he died. And all to cure a bad throat infection!
    Mind you, leeches are coming back into medical use, and they do real good. Of all the treatments I listed, leeches were probably the least damaging.

    Reply
  97. Yes, Annette, it’s hard to wrap our heads around it, I agree. It sounds like they removed around half of all the blood in George Washington’s body — no wonder he died. And all to cure a bad throat infection!
    Mind you, leeches are coming back into medical use, and they do real good. Of all the treatments I listed, leeches were probably the least damaging.

    Reply
  98. Yes, Annette, it’s hard to wrap our heads around it, I agree. It sounds like they removed around half of all the blood in George Washington’s body — no wonder he died. And all to cure a bad throat infection!
    Mind you, leeches are coming back into medical use, and they do real good. Of all the treatments I listed, leeches were probably the least damaging.

    Reply
  99. Yes, Annette, it’s hard to wrap our heads around it, I agree. It sounds like they removed around half of all the blood in George Washington’s body — no wonder he died. And all to cure a bad throat infection!
    Mind you, leeches are coming back into medical use, and they do real good. Of all the treatments I listed, leeches were probably the least damaging.

    Reply
  100. Yes, Annette, it’s hard to wrap our heads around it, I agree. It sounds like they removed around half of all the blood in George Washington’s body — no wonder he died. And all to cure a bad throat infection!
    Mind you, leeches are coming back into medical use, and they do real good. Of all the treatments I listed, leeches were probably the least damaging.

    Reply
  101. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, readers will always think what they think. I think it was Jo Beverley who said “Readers are often in error but never in doubt” — or words to that effect.
    We just have to do our best.

    Reply
  102. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, readers will always think what they think. I think it was Jo Beverley who said “Readers are often in error but never in doubt” — or words to that effect.
    We just have to do our best.

    Reply
  103. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, readers will always think what they think. I think it was Jo Beverley who said “Readers are often in error but never in doubt” — or words to that effect.
    We just have to do our best.

    Reply
  104. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, readers will always think what they think. I think it was Jo Beverley who said “Readers are often in error but never in doubt” — or words to that effect.
    We just have to do our best.

    Reply
  105. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, readers will always think what they think. I think it was Jo Beverley who said “Readers are often in error but never in doubt” — or words to that effect.
    We just have to do our best.

    Reply
  106. Elf, yes, Calomel was incredibly dangerous — they thought of mercury as a healer!!!— but so widely used it was even included in those “family home medicine” cases.

    Reply
  107. Elf, yes, Calomel was incredibly dangerous — they thought of mercury as a healer!!!— but so widely used it was even included in those “family home medicine” cases.

    Reply
  108. Elf, yes, Calomel was incredibly dangerous — they thought of mercury as a healer!!!— but so widely used it was even included in those “family home medicine” cases.

    Reply
  109. Elf, yes, Calomel was incredibly dangerous — they thought of mercury as a healer!!!— but so widely used it was even included in those “family home medicine” cases.

    Reply
  110. Elf, yes, Calomel was incredibly dangerous — they thought of mercury as a healer!!!— but so widely used it was even included in those “family home medicine” cases.

    Reply
  111. Teresa it must have worked in some cases. Maybe it was good for high blood pressure — I don’t know. And it stunned me that healthy people would regularly have themselves bled to ensure continued good health. Apart from the loss of blood, there was also the risk of infection from whatever knife was used and the bandaging afterward. Leeches were probably the safest thing,

    Reply
  112. Teresa it must have worked in some cases. Maybe it was good for high blood pressure — I don’t know. And it stunned me that healthy people would regularly have themselves bled to ensure continued good health. Apart from the loss of blood, there was also the risk of infection from whatever knife was used and the bandaging afterward. Leeches were probably the safest thing,

    Reply
  113. Teresa it must have worked in some cases. Maybe it was good for high blood pressure — I don’t know. And it stunned me that healthy people would regularly have themselves bled to ensure continued good health. Apart from the loss of blood, there was also the risk of infection from whatever knife was used and the bandaging afterward. Leeches were probably the safest thing,

    Reply
  114. Teresa it must have worked in some cases. Maybe it was good for high blood pressure — I don’t know. And it stunned me that healthy people would regularly have themselves bled to ensure continued good health. Apart from the loss of blood, there was also the risk of infection from whatever knife was used and the bandaging afterward. Leeches were probably the safest thing,

    Reply
  115. Teresa it must have worked in some cases. Maybe it was good for high blood pressure — I don’t know. And it stunned me that healthy people would regularly have themselves bled to ensure continued good health. Apart from the loss of blood, there was also the risk of infection from whatever knife was used and the bandaging afterward. Leeches were probably the safest thing,

    Reply

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