Treatment for malaria was a very hit-and-miss affair for colonial explorers and missionaries of the time. The cause was not known (often thought to ‘come’ from rank swamps and wetness) and the treatments were numerous and sometimes very extreme, as the following, described by Sir Richard Burton regarding treatments in West Africa:
… Like Drs. Livingstone and Hutchinson, he [Dr. Ford*] holds fever and quinine “incompatibles,” and he highly approves of the prophylactic adhibition of chinchona used by the unfortunate Douville in 1828.
Experience in his own person and in numerous patients “proves all theoretical objections to the use of six grains an hour, or fifty and sixty grains of quinine in one day or remission to be absolutely imaginary.”
He is “convinced that it is not a stimulant,” and with many apologies he cautiously sanctions alcohol, which should often be the physician’s mainstay.
As he advocated ten-grain doses of calomel by way of preliminary cathartic, the American missionaries stationed on the River have adopted a treatment still more “severe” — quinine till deafness ensues, and half a handful of mercury, often continued till a passage opens through the palate, placing mouth and nose in direct communication.
Dr. Ford also recommends during the invasion or period of chills external friction of mustard or of fresh red pepper either in tincture or in powder, a good alleviator always procurable; and the internal use of pepper-tea, to bring on the stages of reaction and resolution.
*In: ‘Observations on the Fevers of the West African Coast.’ New York 1856
Source: Burton, Two Trips to Gorilla Land, Vol.1, 1871 [trip in 1863]
Another post on malaria is here:
A careful analysation of the attack [of malaria], in all its severe, plaintive, and silly phases. 1871
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