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Oskar Diethelm Library, Weill Cornell Medical College


August Flower for Dyspepsia and Liver Complaint
August Flower for Dyspepsia and Liver Complaint

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the medical field in America suffered from a distinct lack of infrastructure. Physicians were often not formally trained and many held other occupations in addition to practicing medicine. Most physicians could not offer treatments that were significantly more effective than home remedies. Although French physician Pierre Louis had proven in 1830 that therapy based on Galen’s theory of the four bodily humors was invalid, it was still the accepted basis of all medical treatment. At times, traditional treatment was more painful than the medical problem it aimed to fix, and to the patient, seemed to rarely work. “Heroic medicine” took a rather violent and aggressive stance towards therapy. Advocated by Benjamin Rush, bloodletting, purging, and blistering were seen as cures for almost everything. The opinion “the more dangerous the disease, the more painful the remedy must be” (Pernick, 1983) pervaded early nineteenth century American thoughts on medicine. As a reaction to this, in the mid-nineteenth century alternative medicine sects grew in popularity, focusing on painless treatments. Americans looked to other remedies such as homeopathic medicine and patent medicines as substitutes for the harsh practices of “heroic medicine.”