Severe Colonial Cures for Malaria in 1863

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

Burton’s mausoleum, a bedouin tent at St.Mary Magdalens Church, London. He didn’t die of malaria, however, but lived to a good age.

 … 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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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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