Heroic medicine

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Benjamin Rush, an important proponent of heroic medicine.

Heroic medicine is a term "invented in the twentieth century to describe the aggressive medical practices" or methods of treatment used until the mid-nineteenth century,[1] particularly the dangerous and unproven treatments that scientific advances later replaced.

Benjamin Rush[edit]

Benjamin Rush (1745–1813), who signed the American Declaration of Independence and is considered one of the “fathers" of American medicine, and who trained in medicine at Edinburgh University (1766–1768), strongly advocated “heroic medicine”.[2]

Age of Heroic Medicine[edit]

During the "Age of Heroic Medicine" (1780–1850),[3][dubious ]educated professional physicians aggressively practiced "heroic medicine," including bloodletting (venesection[3]), intestinal purging (calomel), vomiting (tartar emetic), profuse sweating (diaphoretics) and blistering, stressing already weakened bodies.[1] Physicians originally treated diseases like syphilis with salves made from mercury.[4] While well-intentioned, and often well-accepted by the medical community, these treatments were actually harmful to the patient.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Singh, Simon; Ernst, Edzard (2008). Trick Or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-393-06661-6. 
  2. ^ Barbara Floyd, University Archivist, University of Toledo.From Quackery to Bacteriology: The Emergence of Modern Medicine in 19th Century America Retrieved June 23 2006
  3. ^ a b Weil, Andrew (2004). Health and healing: the philosophy of integrative medicine. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-618-47908-5. 
  4. ^ Dary, David (2008). Frontier medicine: from the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941. Random House, Inc. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-307-26345-2.