Heroic medicine

Heroic medicine

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Naturopathy: Heroic medicine, a pioneer

In order to understand the increasing influence and the development of naturopathy at the moment, it is helpful to take trips into history. About 200 years ago, naturopathic treatments experienced a skyrocket when ways out of the rather aggressive treatment with the so-called "Heroic Medicine" (Heroic Medicine) were sought. Combined with a non-specific application, heroic medicine itself was nothing more than an exaggeration of some naturopathic methods, such as bloodletting.

Origin of Heroic Medicine

In the United States, doctor Benjamin Rush, who is considered one of the founding fathers of today's United States, was an ardent advocate and promoter of heroic medicine. Heroic medicine assumed that the organism to be treated had to be relieved of tension or contaminating substances. For example, fever should cause tension in the blood vessels and thereby trigger illness.

For this purpose extensive (up to one and a half liter of blood) bloodletting was practiced. Many famous personalities such as George Washington, the mother of Mozart, Anna Maria Mozart, or Emperor Leopold the Second, are believed to have died as a result of extensive bloodletting (so-called Sanguinis missiones). Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is also said to be frequently consulted by his doctors, Dr. Closset and Dr. Sallaba, having been treated for bloodletting. Something similar is suspected with Johann Sebastian Bach. And the personal physician Johann Wolfgang Goethes, Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, is said to have favored other methods such as emetics and opium, which can also be counted as heroic medicine, in medical treatment in addition to the strong bloodletting.

Calomel (mercury chloride) was considered another cardinal remedy in heroic medicine. The patients should “degum” and drop out. The treatment resulted in the classic symptoms of mercury poisoning: massive mucus discharge, abdominal pain (sometimes with bloody diarrhea), tongue and throat with an ash-gray discolouration, rashes in the mouth area and tooth loss.

Other agents in heroic therapy for vomiting and laxation were tartar (so-called Brechweinstein), castor oil, coal oil and other agents such as opium. Rashes, inflammations or wounds were also treated with red-hot iron. The goal was to "burn out" the disease.

Heroic medicine and naturopathy

Some methods of heroic medicine, such as bloodletting, had existed in naturopathy since Paracelsus and Hildegard von Bingen - but in significantly smaller quantities and with specific indications.

Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy, was treated with calomel at the age of 14. As a result of this treatment, he is said to have later required artificial teeth because of the tooth loosening. Experience at first hand and critical observations in his environment could have been a reason why A.T. Still vehemently rejected medication and justified osteopathy.

Another opponent of heroic medicine was the German doctor Samuel Frederick Hahnemann. Hahnemann and his gentle homeopathy were probably very popular in the USA due to the aggressive treatment with heroic medicine. In addition to Hahnemann, the doctor and well-known writer Oliver Wendell Holmes made himself known as an opponent, especially of bloodletting.

A work that was gaining in popularity at the time was “Primitive Physick” by John Wesley. The preacher Wesley, originally from England, was a co-founder of the Methodists. Wesley, who was also very socially committed, was considered to be an advocate of naturopathic medicine, which should also be applicable to non-medical practitioners.

Historians often assume that the rapid, widespread adoption and acceptance of naturopathic methods, such as osteopathy, homeopathy, and concepts of phrenology or mesmerism, were related to people's desire to return to natural methods of treatment that were as free of side effects as possible.

Heroic medicine today?

Therapies such as nuclear medicine, radiation therapy or chemotherapy from opponents are sometimes referred to as the current counterpart of heroic medicine at that time. This comparison is inappropriate because none of the therapeutic approaches was ever based in naturopathic therapy like some of the forms of treatment in Heroic Medicine. School doctors also counter that the above therapies are the first real therapeutic approaches to enable people with malignant tumors to continue living. Books like "A medical insider unpacks" of the pseudonym Prof. Dr. Peter Yoda may involuntarily help to maintain comparisons between the above therapies and heroic medicine.

By contrast, serious explanatory models that do not come from the field of conspiracy theories tend to compare the often uninhibited use of antibiotics and the lack of follow-up care with the situation at that time. Because in many cases antibiotics have been and are being used unnecessarily and too unspecifically as a means that interferes strongly with the organism. The resulting problems such as damage to the intestinal flora, possibly leaky gut syndrome and the formation of resistant germs (MRSA) give naturopathy a new boost.

The great popularity of procedures from naturopathy in the manual field, such as osteopathy or the fascia distortion model (FDM), which is now recurring, can partly be explained by a tendency towards premature, sometimes unnecessary and unspecific operations. On the other hand, the opposite is also the case if treatment is neglected. Because with the long waiting times for orthopedic examinations and often unspecific manual and physical measures, many complaints such as back pain or neck tension do not seem to be treated across the board and satisfactorily for the patient.

Conclusion for naturopathy

Parts of heroic medicine came from naturopathy and were perverted. Unspecific therapies and healing promises do not belong in the field of naturopathy. It is fundamentally problematic if, in the case of a complicated biological mechanism, such as the human body, a form of therapy claims to have found the ultimate truth. Medicine, whether from the field of naturopathy or conventional medicine, will remain a discipline for seekers and researchers who have to consider their work as a construction site. Personal fame and monetary considerations always have to stand behind the interests of the patients. These are the lessons from the history of Heroic Medicine, which naturopathy should not leave untouched. (tf)

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