Chapter

Exotics and antiseptics

Mark Harrison

in Medicine in an age of Commerce and Empire

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577736
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595196 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577736.003.0007
Exotics and antiseptics

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During the late seventeenth and eighteenth century, bloodletting as a treatment for common tropical diseases such as fevers and dysentery was superseded or supplemented by a host of new remedies. Some, such as the fabled bezoar stone, were of mysterious provenance, but excited great attention in Britain as well as in the colonies. Botanical remedies, such as cinchona bark and other febrifuges, also became very popular throughout the British Empire, their worth being established initially in the tropical colonies. Medical practitioners often engaged in botanical expeditions or entered into dialogue with indigenous practitioners to find other new drugs, some of which were exported from the colonies to Britain. What most of these medicines had in common was that they were supposed to have antiseptic properties: that is, they were able to counteract the putrefaction supposedly characteristic of tropical diseases.

Keywords: antimonial medicines; antiseptics; bezoar stone; botany; cinchona bark; Danish missionaries; drugs; febrifuges; putrefaction; therapeutics

Chapter.  8062 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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