More from medical advice from the 1880s

I’ve been reading a bit more from my 1886 medical book.  I have a few excerpts for you.  Let’s see if you can discern why this next bit made me clap my hand to my forehead and say “Duh!”

The London Medical Times relates a curious experiment, tried in Russia, upon some murderers, showing the force of imagination.  they were placed, without knowing it, in four beds where four persons had died of cholera.  They did not take the disease.  They were then told they were to sleep in beds where some persons had died of malignant cholera, but the beds were in fact new, and had not been used at all.  Nevertheless, three of them died of the disease within four hours.

For your enlightenment, you can read this page on cholera, but the important fact is cholera needs a few hours to five days to incubate.  The book does not say how long between these beds the criminals went.  I suspect they didn’t die of imagined cholera but a longer than expected reaction to being exposed to the contaminated beds!

Here is a sign that they may not have understood allergies either.  He was writing how some people would think one medicine did not work but if the doctor lied and gave it a different name and/or a different form, there would be a different reaction.

I knew a lady who could not take powdered rhubarb without it producing a disease of the skin (like a rash), and that a moments after she had swallowed it, and yet she could take it in the form of an infusion without producing the effect.

As per Wikipedia an infusion is: the outcome of steeping plants that have desired chemical compounds or flavors in a solvent such as water or oil or alcohol.  In this lady’s case, the chemical compounds of the rhubarb wasn’t the problem but the structure of the rhubarb that she was allergic to.  Another explanation may lie in the fact that many people with food allergies can’t eat the raw or unprocessed version but can eat it if it has been cooked.  The chemical break down of the cooking process alters the allergen.

Here is a couple of quotes to illustrate the idea that doctors would over prescribe medication to the point of causing more damage than good.  That doesn’t happen today thank God 😉

The epitaph of an Italian count,…. “I was well-I wished to be better. Took physic and died.”

The Emperor Adrian deliberately prepared the following as an inscription for his tomb: “It was the multitude of physicians that killed the emperor.”

And finally, is this the first description of “burn out”?

I do not know that this disease has ever been described before by any medical writer.  I allude to that wear and tear, or state of body and mind, intermediate between that of sickness and health, but nearer the former than the latter, to which I am unable to give a satisfactory name, although it is hourly felt by tens of thousands in the world.  It is not curable by physic, although it makes much work for the doctors, and in the end, by dosing and drugging, a profitable business for the grave-digger.  It is that wear and tear of the living machine, mental and corporeal, which results from over-strenuous labor, or exertion of the intellectual faculties, or rather corporeal powers – for rest assured that vivid excitement, and tempestuous mental emotion, can not last long without destroying the physical fabric…..

Now, because I can’t stand having a posting without a photo I want to show you one of the little surprises I found inside the book…a bonus prize if you will.This really old and crumbling book mark was in the book.  I have no idea how old it is but it is old.  I imagine some young girl (American?) made it for a parent.  I have to figure out how to store it so it doesn’t get any more damaged.


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