Monday, April 21, 2014

Civil War Laxatives

By T.A. Wheat
Excerpted from:

At the time of the Civil War, most medical treatment was not only unhelpful but could actually be harmful.

Harsh laxatives, sometimes called "drastics," were often used and included heavy-metal salts such as mercury chloride (calomel and "Blue Mass"). Ironically, an effective treatment for chronic diarrhea—consisting of a diet limited to clear liquids and the use of opiates to slow intestinal contractions—was available and sometimes used in conjunction with other, inappropriate measures. Some surgeons appear to have learned from personal experience and gradually shifted to regimens favoring the more appropriate treatments.


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