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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

President Lincoln's "Blue Pills"

During the Civil War, the commonly used medication "blue mass", a clay-like compound of mercury and chalk, could lead to serious disfigurement and death.
 
Calomel, or "mercurous chloride" was the foundation for many Civil War treatments including blue mass and "blue pills".
President Lincoln used Blue Mass pills to treat his chronic constipation. The daily recommended dose of these pills contained more than 9,000 times the amount of mercury considered safe by today's standards. 
Calomel was dispensed to those with diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid fever, and many patients suffered from mercury poisoning. Writer Louisa May Alcott, who served as a Union nurse, almost died from mercury toxicity after being treated for typhoid. 

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