Venereal Disease | 18th Century Medicine


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.


      Editor’s note
      The following is a chapter from the book “Domestic Medicine” written by Dr. William Buchanan in 1785. It provides a fascinating insight into medical knowledge of the time, including the often haphazard and sometimes dangerous techniques used to treat certain injuries and illnesses in the 1700s. We have not edited this book chapter, and as a result it may contain old English spellings of certain words.


      IN a former edition of this book the venereal disease was omitted. The reasons however which at that time induced me to leave it out, have upon more mature consideration vanished. Bad consequences, no doubt, may arise from ignorant persons tampering with medicine in this disorder; but the danger from that quarter seems to be more than balanced by the great and solid advantages, which must arise to the patient from an early knowledge of his case, and an attention to a plan of regimen, which, if it does not cure the disease, will be sure to render it more mild, and less hurtful to the constitution.

      IT is peculiarly unfortunate for the unhappy persons who contract this disease, that it lies under a sort of disgrace. This renders disguise necessary, and makes the patient either conceal his disorder altogether, or apply to those who promise a sudden and secret cure; but who in fact only remove the symptoms for a time, while they fix the disease deeper in the habit. By this means a slight infection, which might have been easily removed, is often converted into an obstinate, and sometimes incurable malady.

      ANOTHER unfavourable circumstance attending this disease is, that it assumes a variety of different shapes, and may with more propriety be called an assemblage of diseases, than a single one. No two diseases can require a more different method of treatment than this does in its different stages. Hence the folly and danger of trusting to any particular nostrum for the cure of it. Such nostrums are however generally administered in the same manner to all who apply for them, without the least regard to the state of the disease, the constitution of the patient, the degree of infection, and a thousand other circumstances of the utmost importance.

      THOUGH the venereal disease is generally the fruit of unlawful embraces, yet it may be communicated to the innocent as well as the guilty. Infants, nurses, midwives, and married women whose husbands lead dissolute lives, are often affected with it, and frequently lose their lives by not being aware of their danger in due time. The unhappy condition of such persons will certainly plead our excuse, if any excuse be necessary, for endeavouring to point out the symptoms and cure of this too common disease.

      TO enumerate all its different symptoms, however, and to trace the disease minutely through its various stages, would require a much larger space than falls to this part of my subject; I shall therefore confine my observations chiefly to circumstances of importance, omitting such as are either trifling, or which occur but seldom. I shall likewise pass over the history of the disease, with the different methods of treatment which it has undergone since it was first introduced into Europe, and many other circumstances of a similar nature; all of which, though they might tend to amuse the reader, yet could afford him little or no useful knowledge.


      THE virulent gonorrhoea is an involuntary discharge of infectious matter from the parts of generation in either sex. It generally makes its appearance within eight or ten days after the infection has been received; sometimes indeed it appears in two or three days, and at other times not before the end of four or five weeks. Previous to the discharge, the patient feels an itching with a small degree of pain in the genitals. Afterwards a thin glary matter begins to distil from the urinary passage, which stains the linen, and occasions a small degree of titillation, particularly in the time of making water; this gradually increasing, arises at length to a degree of heat and pain, which are chiefly perceived about the extremity of the urinary passage, where a slight degree of redness and inflammation likewise begin to appear.

      AS the disorder advances, the pain, heat of urine, and running, increase, while fresh symptoms daily ensue. In men the erections became painful and involuntary, and are more frequent and lasting than when natural. This symptom is most troublesome when the patient is warm in bed. The pain which was at first only perceived towards the extremity, now begins to reach all up the urinary passage, and is most intense just after the patient is done making water. The running gradually recedes from the colour of seed, grows yellow, and at length puts on the appearance of matter.

      WHEN the disorder has arrived at its height, all the symptoms are more intense; the heat of urine is so great, that the patient dreads the making water, and though he feels a constant inclination this way, yet it is rendered with the greatest difficulty, and often only by drops: the involuntary erections now become extremely painful and frequent; there is also a pain, heat, and sense of fulness about the seat, and the running is plentiful and sharp, of a brown, greenish, and sometimes of a bloody colour.

      BY a proper treatment the violence of the symptoms gradually abates; the heat of urine goes off; the involuntary and painful erections, and the heat and pain about the seat become easier; the running also gradually decreases, grows whiter and thicker, till at last it entirely disappears.

      BY attending to these symptoms, the gonorrhoea may be generally distinguished from any other disease. There are however some few disorders for which it may be mistaken, as an ulcer in the kidnies or bladder, the fluor albus or whites in women, &c. But in the former of these, the matter comes away only with the urine, or when the sphincter of the bladder is open; whereas in a gonorrhoea, the discharge is constant. The latter is more difficult to distinguish, and must be known chiefly from its effects, as pain, communicating the infection, &c.

      REGIMEN: when a person has reason to suspect that he has caught the venereal infection, he ought most strictly to observe a cooling regimen, to avoid every thing of a heating nature, as wines, spirituous liquors, rich sauces, spiced, salted, high-seasoned and smoke-dried provisions, &c. as also all aromatic and stimulating vegetables, as onions, garlic, shallot, nutmeg, mustard, cinnamon, mace, ginger, and such like. His food ought chiefly to consist of mild vegetables, milk, broths, light puddings, panado, gruels, &c. His drink may be barley-water, milk and water, decoctions of marsh-mallows and liquorice, linseed-tea, or clear whey. Of these he ought to drink plentifully. Violent exercise of all kinds, especially riding on horseback, and venereal pleasures, are to be avoided. The patient must beware of cold, and when the inflammation is violent, he ought to keep his bed.

      MEDICINE: a virulent gonorrhoea cannot always be cured speedily and effectually at the same time. The patient ought therefore not to expect, nor the physician to promise it. It will often continue for two or three weeks, and sometimes for five or six, even where the treatment has been very proper.

      SOMETIMES indeed a slight infection may be carried off in a few days, by bathing the parts in warm milk and water, and injecting frequently up the urethra a little sweet oil or linseed-tea about the warmth of new milk. Should these not succeed in carrying off the infection, they will at least have a tendency to lessen its virulence.

      TO effect a cure, however, astringent injections will generally be found necessary. These may be various ways prepared, but I think those made with the white vitriol are both most safe and efficacious. They can be made stronger or weaker as circumstances may require, but it is best to begin with the more gentle, and increase their power if necessary. I generally order a drachm of white vitriol to be dissolved in eight or nine ounces of common, or rose-water, and an ordinary syringe full of it to be thrown up three or four times a-day. If this quantity does not perform a cure, it may be repeated, and the dose increased. Although it is now very common to cure the gonorrhoea by astringent injections, there are still many practitioners who do not approve this mode of practice. I can, however, from much experience, assert that it is both of the most easy, elegant, and efficacious method of cure; and that any bad consequences arising from it must be owing to the ignorance or misconduct of the practitioner himself, and not to the remedy. Many, for example, use strong preparations of lead, all of which are dangerous when applied to the internal surfaces of the body; others use escharotics, which inflame and injure the parts. I have known a gonorrhoea actually cured by an injection made of green-tea, and would always recommend gentle methods where they will succeed.

      WHETHER injections be used or not, cooling purges are always proper in the gonorrhoea. They ought not however to be of the strong or drastic kind. Whatever raises a violent commotion in the body increases the danger and tends to drive the disease deeper into the habit. Procuring two or three stools every second or third day for the first fortnight, and the same number every fourth or fifth day for the second, will generally be sufficient to remove the inflammatory symptoms, to diminish the running, and to change the colour and consistence of the matter, which gradually becomes more clear and ropy as the virulence abates. If the patient can swallow a solution of salts and manna, he may take six drachms, or, if his constitution requires it, an ounce of the former, with half an ounce of the latter. These may be dissolved in an English pint of boiling water, whey, or thin water-gruel, and taken early in the morning. If an infusion of senna and tamarinds be more agreeable, two drachms of the former, and an ounce of the latter, may be infused all night in an English pint of boiling water. The infusion may be strained next morning, and half an ounce of Glauber’s salts dissolved in it. A tea-cupful of this infusion may be taken every half-hour till it operates. Should the patient prefer an electuary, the following will be found to answer very well. Take of the lentitive electuary four ounces, cream of tartar two ounces, jalap in powder two drachms, rhubarb one drachm, and as much of the syrup of pale roses as will serve to make up the whole into a soft electuary. Two or three tea-spoonfuls of this may be taken over-night, and about the same quantity next morning, every day that the patient chuses to take a purge. The doses of the above medicines may be increased or diminished according as the patient finds it necessary. We have ordered the salts to be dissolved in a large quantity of water, because it renders their operation more mild.

      WHEN the inflammatory symptoms run high, bleeding is always necessary at the beginning. This operation, as in other topical inflammations, must be repeated according to the strength and constitution of the patient, and the vehemence and urgency of the symptoms.

      MEDICINES which promote the secretion of urine are likewise proper in this stage of the disorder. For this purpose, an ounce of nitre and two ounces of gum arabic, pounded together, may be divided into twenty-four doses, one of which may be taken frequently, in a cup of the patient’s drink. If these should make him pass his urine so often as to become troublesome to him, he may either take them less frequently, or leave out the nitre altogether, and take equal parts of gum arabic and cream of tartar. These may be pounded together, and a tea-spoonful taken in a cup of the patient’s drink four or five times a-day. I have generally found this answer extremely well both as a diuretic, and for keeping the body gently open.

      WHEN the pain and inflammation are seated high towards the neck of the bladder, it will be proper frequently to throw up an emollient clyster, which, besides the benefit of procuring stools, will serve as a fomentation to the inflamed parts.

      SOFT poultices, when they can conveniently be applied to the parts, are of great service. They may be made of the flour of linseed, or of wheat-bread and milk, softened with fresh butter or sweet oil. When poultices cannot be conveniently used, cloths wrung out of warm water, or bladders filled with warm milk and water, may be applied. I have often known the most excruciating pains, during the inflammatory state of the gonorrhoea, relieved by one or other of these applications.

      FEW things tend more to keep off inflammation in the spermatic vessels, than a proper truss for the scrotum. It ought to be so contrived as to support the testicles, and should be worn from the first appearance of the disease till it has ceased some weeks.

      THE above treatment will sometimes remove the gonorrhoea so quickly, that the person will be in doubt whether he really laboured under that disease. This, however, is too favourable a turn to be often expected. It more frequently happens, that we are able only to procure an abatement or remission of the inflammatory symptoms, so far as to make it safe to have recourse to the great antidote mercury.

      MANY people, on the first appearance of a gonorrhoea, fly to the use of mercury. This is a bad plan. Mercury is often not at all necessary in a gonorrhoea; and when taken too early, it does mischief. It may be necessary to complete the cure, but can never be proper at the commencement of it.

      WHEN bleeding, purging, fomentations, and the other things recommended above have eased the pain, softened the pulse, relieved the heat of urine, and rendered the involuntary erections less frequent, the patient may begin to use mercury in any form that is least disagreeable to him.

      lF he takes the common mercurial pill, two at night and one in the morning will be a sufficient dose at first. Should they affect the mouth too much, the dose must be lessened; if not at all, it may be gradually increased to five or six pills in the day. If calomel be thought preferable, two or three grains of it, formed into a bolus with a little of the conserve of hips, my be taken at bed-time, and the dose gradually increased to eight or ten grains. One of the most common preparations of mercury now in use is the corrosive sublimate. This may be taken in the manner afterwards recommended under the confirmed lues or pox. I have always found it one of the most safe and efficacious medicines when properly used.

      THE above medicines may either be taken every day or every other day, as the patient is able to bear them. They ought never to be taken in such quantity as to raise a salivation, unless in a very slight degree. The disease may be more safely, and as certainly, cured without a salivation as with it. When the mercury runs off by the mouth, it is not so successful in carrying off the disease, as when it continues longer in the body, and is discharged gradually.

      SHOULD the patient be purged or griped in the night by the mercury, he must take an infusion of senna, or some other purgative, and drink freely of water-gruel to prevent bloody stools, which are very apt to happen should the patient catch cold, or if the mercury has not been duly prepared. When the bowels are weak, and the mercury is apt to gripe or purge, these disagreeable consequences may be prevented by taking, with the above pills or bolus, half a drachm or two scruples of diascordium, or of the Japonic confection.

      TO prevent the disagreeable circumstance of the mercury’s affecting the mouth too much, or bringing on a salivation, it may be combined with purgatives. With this view the laxative mercurial pill has been contrived, the usual dose of which is half a drachm, or three pills, night and morning, to be repeated every other day; but the safer way is for the patient to begin with two, or even with one pill, gradually increasing the dose.

      TO such persons as can neither swallow a bolus nor a pill, mercury may be given in a liquid form, as it can be suspended even in a watery vehicle, by means of gum-arabic; which not only serves this purpose, but likewise prevents the mercury from affecting the mouth, and renders it in many respects a better medicine. Take quicksilver one drachm, gum-arabic reduced to a mucilage two drachms; let the quicksilver be rubbed with the mucilage, in a marble mortar, until the globules of mercury entirely disappear: afterwards add gradually, still continuing the trituration, half an ounce of balsamic syrup, and eight ounces of simple cinnamon-water. Two table-spoonfuls of this solution may be taken night and morning. Some reckon this the best form in which quicksilver can be exhibited for the cure of a gonorrhoea.

      IT happens very fortunately for those who cannot be brought to take mercury inwardly, and likewise for persons whose bowels are too tender to bear it, that an external application of it will answer equally well, and, in some respects, better. It must be acknowledged, that mercury, taken inwardly for any length of time, greatly weakens and disorders the bowels; for which reason, when a plentiful use of it becomes necessary, we would prefer rubbing to the mercurial pills. The common mercurial, or blue ointment, will answer very well. Of that which is made by rubbing together equal quantities of hog’s-lard and quicksilver, about a drachm may be used at a time. The best time for rubbing it on is at night, and the most proper place the inner side of the thighs. The patient should stand before the fire when he rubs, and should wear flannel drawers next his skin at the time he is using the ointment. If ointment of a weaker or stronger kind be used, the quantity must be increased or diminished in proportion.

      IF, during the use of the ointment, the inflammation of the genital parts, together with the heat and feverishness, should return, or if the mouth should grow sore, the gums tender and the breath become offensive, a dose or two of Glauber’s salts, or some other cooling purge, may be taken, and the rubbing intermitted for a few days. As soon, however, as the signs of spiting are gone off, if the virulency be not quite corrected, the ointment must be repeated, but in smaller quantities, and at longer intervals than before. Whatever way mercury is administered, its use must be persisted in as long as any virulency is suspected to remain.

      DURING this, which may be called the second stage of the disorder, though so strict a regimen is not necessary as in the first or inflammatory state, yet intemperance of every kind must be avoided. The food must be light, plain, and of easy digestion; and the greatest indulgence that may be allowed with respect to drink is, a little wine diluted with a sufficient quantity of water. Spirituous liquors are to be avoided in every shape. I have often known the inflammatory symptoms renewed and heightened, the running increased, and the cure rendered extremely difficult and tedious, by one fit of excessive drinking.

      WHEN the above treatment has removed the heat of urine, and soreness of the genital parts; when the quantity of running is considerably lessened, without any pain or swelling in the groin or testicle supervening; when the patient is free from involuntary erections; and lastly, when the running becomes pale, whitish, thick, void of ill smell, and tenacious or ropy; when all or most of these symptoms appear, the gonorrhoea is arrived at its last stage, and we may gradually proceed to treat it as a gleet with astringent and agglutinating medicines,


      A GONORRHOEA frequently repeated, or improperly treated, often ends in a gleet, which may either proceed from relaxation, or from some remains of the disease. It is, however, of the greatest importance in the cure of the gleet, to know from which of these causes it proceeds. When the discharge proves very obstinate, and receives little or no check from astringent remedies, there is ground to suspect that it is owing to the latter; but if the drain is inconstant, and is chiefly observable when the patient is stimulated by lascivious ideas, or upon straining to go to stool, we may reasonably conclude that it is chiefly owing to the former.

      IN the cure of a gleet proceeding from relaxation, the principal design is to brace, and restore a proper degree of tension to the debilitated and relaxed vessels. For this purpose, besides the medicines recommended in the gonorrhoea, the patient may have recourse to stronger and more powerful astringents, as the Peruvian bark, alum, vitriol, galls, tormentil, bistort, balaustines, tincture of gum kino, &c. The injections may be rendered more astringent by the addition of a few grains of alum, or increasing the quantity of vitriol as far as the parts are able to bear it. The Peruvian bark may be combined with other astringents, and prepared in the following manner: Take of Peruvian bark bruised six drachms, of fresh galls bruised two drachms: boil them in a pound and a half of water to a pound: to the strained liquor add three ounces of the simple tincture of the bark. A small tea-cupful of this may be taken three times a day, adding to each cup fifteen or twenty drops of the acid elixir of vitriol.

      THE last remedy which we shall mention in this case is the cold bath, than which there is not perhaps a more powerful bracer in the whole compass of medicine. It ought never to be omitted in this species of gleet, unless there be something in the constitution of the patient which renders the use of it unsafe. The chief objections to the use of the cold bath are, a full habit, and an unsound state of the viscera. The danger from the former may always be lessened, if not removed, by purging and bleeding, but the latter is an insurmountable obstacle, as the pressure of the water, and the sudden contraction of the external vessels, by throwing the blood with too much force upon the internal parts, are apt to occasion ruptures of the vessels, or a flux of humours upon the diseased organs. But where no objection of this kind prevails, the patient ought to plunge over head in water every morning fasting, for three or four weeks together. He should not, however, stay long in the water, and should take care to have his skin dried as soon as he comes out.

      THE regimen proper in this case is the same as was mentioned in the last stage of the gonorrhoea: the diet must be drying and astringent, and the drink Spa, Pyrmont, or Bristol waters, with which a little claret or red wine may sometimes be mixed. Any person may now afford to drink these waters, as they can be every where prepared at almost no expence, by a mixture of common chalk and oil of vitriol.

      WHEN the gleet does not in the smallest degree yield to these medicines, there is reason to suspect that it proceeds from ulcers. In this case, recourse must be had to mercury, and such medicines as tend to correct any predominant acrimony with which the juices may be affected, as the decoction of china, sarsaparilla, sassafras, or the like.

      MR. FORDYCE says, he has seen many obstinate gleets of two, three, or four years standing, effectually cured by a mercurial inunction, when almost every other medicine has been tried in vain. Dr. Chapman seems to be of the same opinion; but says, he has always found the mercury succeeds best in this case when joined with terebinthinate and other agglutinating medicines. For which reason, the Doctor recommends pills made of calomel and Venice turpentine; and desires that their use may be accompanied with a decoction of guaiacum or sarsaparilla. Take Venice turpentine, boiled to a sufficient degree of hardness, half an ounce, calomel half a drachm. Let these be mixed and formed into sixty pills, of which five or six may be taken night and morning. If, during the life of these pills, the mouth should grow sore, or the breath become offensive, they must be discontinued till these symptoms disappear.

      THE last kind of remedy which we shall mention for the cure of ulcers in the urinary passage, are the suppurating candles or bougies; as these are prepared various ways, and are generally to be bought ready made, it is needless to spend time in enumerating the different ingredients of which they are composed, or teaching the manner of preparing them: Before a bougie be introduced into the urethra, however, it should be smeared all over with sweet oil, to prevent it from stimulating too suddenly; it may be suffered to continue in from one to seven or eight hours, according as the patient can bear it. Obstinate ulcers are not only often healed, but tumours and excrescences in the urinary passages taken away, and an obstruction of urine removed, by means of bougies.


      THE swelled testicle may either proceed from infection lately contracted, or from the venereal poison lurking in the blood: the latter indeed is not very common, but the former frequently happens both in the first and second stages of a gonorrhoea; particularly when the running is unseasonably checked, by cold, hard drinking, strong drastic purges, violent exercise, the too early use of astringent medicines, or the like.

      IN the inflammatory stage bleeding is necessary, which must be repeated according to the urgency of the symptoms. I have been of use, for some time past, to apply leeches to inflamed testicles, which practice has always been followed with the most happy effects. The food must be light, and the drink diluting. High-seasoned food, flesh, wines, and every thing of a heating nature, are to be avoided. Fomentations are of singular service. Poultices of bread and milk, softened with fresh butter or oil, are likewise very proper, and ought constantly to be applied when the patient is in bed: when he is up, the testicle should be kept warm, and supported by a bag or truss, which may easily be contrived in such a manner as to prevent the weight of the testicle from having any effect.

      IF it should be found impracticable to clear the testicle by the cooling regimen now pointed out, and extended according to circumstances, it will be necessary to lead the patient through such a complete antivenereal course as shall ensure him against any future uneasiness. For this purpose, besides rubbing the mercurial ointment on the part, if free from pain, or on the thighs, as directed in the gonorrhoea, the patient must be confined to bed, if necessary, for five or six weeks, suspending the testicle all the while with a bag or truss, and plying him inwardly with strong decoctions of sarsaparilla.

      WHEN these means do not succeed, and there is reason to suspect a scrophulous or cancerous habit, either of which may support a scirrhous induration, after the venereal poison is corrected, the parts should be fomented daily with a decoction of hemlock, the bruised leaves of which may likewise be added to the poultice, and the extract at the same time taken inwardly. The extract of hemlock may be made into pills, and taken in the manner directed under the article Cancer. This practice is strongly reommended by Dr. Stork in scirrhous and cancerous cases; and Mr. Fordyce assures us, that by this method he has cured diseased testicles of two or three years standing, even when ulcerated, and when the scirrhus had begun to be affected with pricking and lancing pains.


      VENEREAL buboes are hard tumours seated in the groin, occasioned by the venereal poison lodged in this part. They are of two kinds; viz. such as proceed from a recent infection, and such as accompany a confirmed lues.

      THE cure of recent buboes, that is, such as appear soon after impure coition, may be first attempted by dispersion, and, if that should not succeed, by suppuration. To promote the dispersion of a buboe, the same regimen must be observed as was directed in the first stage of a gonorrhoea. The patient must likewise be bled, and take some cooling purges, as the decoction of tamarinds and senna, Glauber’s salts, and the like. If, by this course, the swelling and other inflammatory symptoms abate, we may safely proceed to the use of mercury, which must be continued till the venereal virus is quite subdued. For the dispersion of a bubo, a number of leeches applied to the part affected will be found equally efficacious as in the inflamed testicle.

      BUT if the bubo should, from the beginning, be attended with great heat, pain, and pulsation, it will be proper to promote its suppuration. For this purpose the patient may be allowed to use his ordinary diet, and to take now and than a glass of wine. Emollient cataplasms, consisting of bread and milk softened with oil or fresh butter, may be applied to the part and, in cold constitutions, where the tumour advances slowly, white-lily roots boiled, or sliced onions raw, and a sufficient quantity of yellow basilicon, may be added to the poultice.

      WHEN the tumour is ripe, which may be known by its conical figure, the softness of the skin, and a fluctuation of matter plainly to be felt under the finger, it may be opened either by caustic or a lancet, and afterwards dressed with digestive ointment,

      IT sometimes, however, happens that buboes can neither be dispersed nor brought to a suppuration, but remain hard, indolent tumours. In this case the indurated glands must be consumed by caustic; if they should become scirrhous, they must be dissolved by the application of hemlock, both externally and internally, as directed in the scirrhous testicle.


      CHANCRES are superficial, callous, eating ulcers; which may happen either with or without a gonorrhoea. They are commonly seated about the glans, and make their appearance in the following manner: First a little red pimple arises, which soon becomes pointed at top, and is filled with a whitish matter inclining to yellow. This pimple is hot, and itches generally before it breaks: afterwards it degenerates into an obstinate ulcer, the bottom of which is usually covered with a viscid mucus, and whose edges gradually becomes hard and callous. Sometimes the first appearance resembles a simple excoriation of the cuticle; which, however, if the cause be venereal, soon becomes a true chancre.

      A CHANCRE is sometimes a primary affection, but it is much oftener symptomatic, and is the mark of a confirmed lues. Primary chancres discover themselves soon after impure coition, and are generally seated in parts covered with a thin cuticle, as the lips, the nipples of women, the glans penis of men, &c. When venereal ulcers arc seated in the lips, the infection may be communicated by kissing. I have seen very obstinate venereal ulcers in the lips, which I had all the reason in the world to believe were communicated in this manner. Nurses ought to beware of suckling infected children, or having their breasts drawn by persons tainted with the venereal disease. This caution is peculiarly necessary for nurses who reside in in the neighbourhood of great towns.

      WHEN a chancre appears soon after impure coition, its treatment is nearly similar to that of the virulent gonorrhoea. The patient must observe the cooling regimen, lose a little blood, and take some gentle doses of salts and manna. The parts affected ought frequently to be bathed, or rather soaked, in warm milk and water, and, if the inflammation be great, an emollient poultice or cataplasm may be applied to them. This course will, in most cases, be sufficient to abate the inflammation, and prepare the patient for the use of mercury.

      SYMPTOMATlC chancres are commonly accompanied with ulcers in the throat, nocturnal pains, scurfy eruptions about the roots of the hair, and other symptoms of a confirmed lues. Though they may be seated in any of the parts mentioned above, they commonly appear upon the private parts, or the inside of the thigh. They are also less painful, but frequently much larger and harder than primary chancres. As their cure must depend upon that of the pox, of which they are only a symptom, we shall take no further notice of them, till we come to treat of a confirmed lues. I have found it answer extremely well to sprinkle chancres twice a day with calomel. This will often perform a cure without any other application whatever. If the chancres are upon the glans, they may be washed with milk and water, a little warm, and afterwards the calomel may be applied as above.

      THUS we have related most of the symptoms which accompany or succeed a virulent gonorrhoea, and have also given a short view of their proper treatment; there are however, several others which sometimes attend this disease, as a strangury or obstruction of urine, a phymosis, paraphymosis, &c.

      A STRANGURY may be occasioned either by a spasmodic constriction, or an inflammation of the urethra and parts about the neck of the bladder. In the former case, the patient begins to void his urine with tolerable ease; but, as soon as it touches the galled or inflamed urethra, a sudden constriction takes place, and the urine is voided by spurts, and sometimes by drops only. When the strangury is owing to an inflammation about the neck of the bladder, there is a constant heat and uneasiness of the part, a perpetual desire to make water, while the patient can only render a few drops, and a troublesome tenesmus, or constant inclination to go to stool.

      WHEN the strangury is owing to spasm, such medicines as tend to dilute and blunt the salts of the urine will be proper. For this purpose, besides the common diluting liquors, soft and cooling emulsions, sweetened with the syrup of poppies, may be used. Should these not have the desired effect, bleeding, and emollient fomentations, will be necessary.

      WHEN the complaint is evidently owing to an inflammation about the neck of the bladder, bleeding must be more liberally performed, and repeated according to the urgency of the symptoms. After bleeding, if the strangury still continues, soft clysters, with a proper quantity of laudanum in them, may be administered, and emollient fomentations applied to the region of the bladder. At the same time, the patient may take every four hours a tea-cupful of barley-water, to an English pint of which six ounces of the syrup of marsh-mallows, four ounces of the oil of sweet almonds, and half an ounce of nitre, may be added. If these remedies should not relieve the complaint, and a total suppression of urine should come on, bleeding must be repeated, and the patient set in a warm bath up to the middle. It will be proper, in this case, to discontinue the diuretics, and to draw off the water with a catheter; but as the patient is seldom able to bear its being introduced, we would rather recommend the use of mild bougies. These often lubricate the passage, and greatly facilitate the discharge of urine. Whenever they begin to stimulate or give any uneasiness, they may be withdrawn.

      THE phymosis in such a constriction of the prepuce over the glans, as hinders it from being drawn backwards; the paraphymosis, on the contrary, is such a constriction of the prepuce behind the glans, as hinders it from being brought forward.

      THE treatment of these symptoms is so nearly the same with that of the virulent gonorrhoea, that we have no occasion to enlarge upon it. In general, bleeding, purging, poultices, and emollient fomentations are sufficient. Should these, however, fail of removing the stricture, and the parts be threatened with a mortification, twenty or thirty grains of ipecacuanha, and one grain of emetic tartar, may be given for a vomit, and may be worked off with warm water or thin gruel.

      IT sometimes happens, that, in spite of all endeavours to the contrary, the inflammation goes on, and symptoms of a beginning mortification appear. When this is the case, the prepuce must be scarified with a lancet, and if necessary, divided, in order to prevent a strangulation, and set the imprisoned glans at liberty. We shall not describe the manner of performing this operation, as it ought always to be done by a surgeon. When a mortification has actually taken place, it will be necessary, besides performing the above operations, to foment the parts frequently with cloths wrung out of a strong decoction of camomile flowers and bark, and to give the patient a drachm of the bark in powder every two or three hours.

      WITH regard to the priapism, chordee, and other distortions of the penis, their treatment is no way different from that of the gonorrhoea. When they prove very troublesome, the patient may take a few drops of laudanum at night, especially after the operation of a purgative through the day.


      WE have hitherto treated of those affections in which the venereal poison is supposed to be confined chiefly to the particular part by which it was received, and shall next take a view of the lues in its confirmed state, that is, when the poison is actually received into the blood, and, circulating with it through, every part of the body, mixes with the several secretions, and renders the whole habit tainted.

      THE symptoms of a confirmed lues are, buboes in the groin, pains of the head and joints, which are peculiarly troublesome in the night, or when the patient is warm in bed; scabs and scurfs in various parts of the body, especially on the head, of a yellowish colour, resembling a honey-comb; corroding ulcers in various parts of the body, which generally begin about the throat, from whence they creep gradually, by the palate, towards the cartilage of the nose, which they destroy; excrescences or exostoses in the middle of the bones, and their spongy ends become brittle, and break upon the least accident; at other times, they are soft, and bend like wax; the conglobate glands become hard and callous, and form, in the, neck, armpits, groin, and mensentery, hard moveable tumours, like the king’s evil; tumours of different kinds are likewise formed in the lymphatic vessels, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, as the gummata, ganglia, nodes, tophs, &c. the eyes are affected with itching, pain, redness, and sometimes with total blindness, and the ears with a singing noise, pain, and deafness, whilst their internal substance is exulcerated and rendered carious; at length all the animal, vital, and natural functions are depraved; the face becomes pale and livid; the body emaciated and unfit for motion, and the miserable patient falls into an atrophy or wasting consumption.

      WOMEN have symptoms peculiar to the sex; as cancers of the breast; a suppression or overflowing of the menses; the whites; hysteric affections; an inflammation, abscess, scirrhus, gangrene, cancer, or ulcer of the womb; they are generally either barren or subject to abortion; or, if they bring children into the world, they have an universal erysipelas, are half rotten, and covered with ulcers.

      SUCH is the catalogue of symptoms attending this dreadful disease in its confirmed state. Indeed they are seldom all to be met with in the same person, or at the same time; so many of them, however, are generally present as are sufficient to alarm the patient; and if he has reason to suspect the infection is lurking in his body, he ought immediately to set about the expulsion of it, otherwise the most tragical consequences will ensue.

      THE only certain remedy hitherto known in Europe, for the cure of this disease, is mercury, which may be used in a great variety of forms, with nearly the same success. Some time ago it was reckoned impossible to cure a confirmed lues without a salivation; this method is now, however, pretty generally laid aside, and mercury is found to be as efficacious, or rather more so, in expelling the venereal poison, when administered in such a manner as not to run off by the salivary glands.

      THOUGH many are of opinion, that the mercurial ointment is as efficacious as any other preparation of that mineral; yet experience has taught me to think otherwise. I have often seen the most obstinate venereal cases, where great quantities of mercurial ointment had been used in vain, yield to the saline preperations of mercury. Nor am I singular in this opinion. My ingenious friend, Mr. Clare, an eminent surgeon of this city, assures me, that for some time past he has employed, in venereal cases, a saline preparation of mercury with most happy success. This preparation, rubbed with a sufficient quantity of any mild powder, he applies, in small portions, to the tongue, where, with a gentle degree of friction, it is immediately absorbed, and produces its full effect upon the system, without doing the least injury to the stomach or bowels; a matter of the greatest importance in the application of this most active and powerful remedy.

      IT is impossible to ascertain either the exact quantity of medicines that must be taken, or the time they ought to be continued in order to perform a cure. These will ever vary according to the constitution of the patient, the season of the year, the degree of infection, the time it has lodged in the body, &c. But though it is difficult, as Astruc observes, to determine, a priori, what quantity of mercury will, in the whole, be necessary to cure this distemper completely; yet it may be judged of a posteori, from the abatement and ceasing of the symptoms. The same author adds, that commonly not less than two ounces of the strong mercurial ointment is sufficient, and not more than three or four ounces necessary.

      THE only chemical preparation of mercury which we shall take notice of, is the corrosive sublimate. This was some time ago brought into use for the venereal disease, in Germany, by the illustrious Baron Van Swieten; and was soon after introduced into Britain by the learned Sir John Pringle, at that time physician to the army. The method of giving it is as follows: One grain of corrosive sublimate is dissolved in two ounces of French brandy or malt spirits; and of this solution, an ordinary table-spoonful, or the quantity of half an ounce, is to be taken twice a day, and to be continued as long as any symptoms of the disorder remain. To those whose stomach cannot bear the solution, the sublimate may be given in form of pill. The sublimate may be given in distilled water, or any other liquor that the patient chuses. I commonly order ten grains to be dissolved in an ounce of the spirit of wine, for the conveniency of carriage, and let the patient take twenty or thirty drops of it night and morning in half a glass of brandy or other spirits. Mr. Debraw, an ingenious chemist of this place, informs me, that he prepares a salt of mercury much more mild and gentle in its operation than the sublimate, though equally efficacious.

      SEVERAL roots, woods, and barks, have been recommended for curing the venereal disease; but none of them have been found, upon experience, to answer the high encomiums which had been bestowed upon them. Though no one of these is to be depended upon alone, yet, when joined with mercury, some of them are found to be very beneficial in promoting a cure. One of the best we know yet is sarsaparilla, which may be prepared and taken according to the directions in the Appendix. See Appendix. Decoct. of Sarsaparilla.

      THE mezereon-root is likewise found to be a powerful assistant to the sublimate, or any other mercurial. It may either be used along with the sarsaparilla, as directed in the Appendix, or by itself. Those who chuse to use the mezereon by itself, may boil an ounce of the fresh bark, taken from the root, in twelve English pints of water to eight, adding towards the end an ounce of liquorice. The dose of this is the same as of the decoction of sarsaparilla.

      WE have been told that the natives of America cure the venereal disease, in every stage, by a decoction of the root of a plant called the Lobelia. It is used either fresh or dried; but we have no certain accounts with regard to the proportion. Sometimes they mix other roots with it, as those of the ranunculus, the ceanothous, &c. but whether these are designed to disguise or assist it, is doubtful. The patient takes a large draught of the decoction early in the morning, and continues to use it for his own ordinary drink through the day. Though we are still very much in the dark with regard to the method of curing this disease among the natives of America, yet it is generally affirmed, that they do cure it with speed, safety, and success, and that without the least knowledge of mercury. Hence it becomes an object of considerable importance to discover their method of cure. This might surely be done by making trials of the various plants which are found in those parts, and particularly of such as the natives are known to make use of. All people in a rude state take their medicines chiefly from the vegetable kingdom, and are often possessed of valuable secrets with regard to the virtues of plants, of which more enlightened nations are ignorant. Indeed we make no doubt but some plants of our own growth, were proper pains taken to discover them, would be found as efficacious in curing the venereal disease as those of America. It must however be remembered, that what will cure the venereal disease in one country, will not always be found to have equal success in another.

      MANY other roots and woods might be mentioned which have been extolled for curing the venereal disease, as the china-root, the roots of soap-wort, burdock, &c., as also the wood of guaiacum and sassafras; but as none of these have been found to possess virtues superior to those already mentioned, we shall, for the sake of brevity, pass them over, and shall conclude our observations on this disease with a few general remarks concerning the proper management of the patient, and the nature of the infection.


      THE condition of the patient ought always to be considered previous to his entering upon a course of mercury in any form. It would be equally rash and dangerous to administer mercury to a person labouring under any violent acute disease, as a putrid fever, pleurisy, peripneumony, or the like. It would likewise be dangerous in some chronic cases; as a slow hectic fever, or the last stage of a consumption. Sometimes, however, these diseases proceed from a confirmed lues; in which case it will be necessary to give mercury. In chronic diseases of a less dangerous nature, as the asthma, the gravel, and such like, mercury, if necessary, may be safely administered. If the patient’s strength has been greatly exhausted by sickness, labour, abstinence, or any other cause, the use of mercury must be postponed, till by time, rest, and a nourishing diet, it can be sufficiently restored.

      MERCURY ought not to be administered to women during the menstrual flux, or when the period is near at hand. Neither should it be given in the last stage of pregnancy. If, however, the woman be not near the time of her delivery, and circumstances render it necessary, mercury may be given, but in smaller doses, and at greater intervals than usual: with these precautions, both the mother and child may be cured at the same time; if not, the disorder will at least be kept from growing worse, till the woman be brought to bed, and sufficiently recovered, when a more effectual method may be pursued, which, if she suckles her child, will in all probability be sufficient for the cure of both.

      MERCURY ought always to be administered to infants with the greatest caution. Their tender condition unfits them for supporting a salivation, and makes it necessary to administer even the mildest preparations of mercury to them with a sparing hand. A similar conduct is recommended in the treatment of old persons, who have the misfortune to labour under a confirmed lues. No doubt the infirmities of age must render people less able to undergo the fatigues of a salivation; but this, as was formerly observed, is never necessary; besides, we have generally found, that mercury had much less effect upon very old persons than on those who were younger.

      HYSTERIC and hypochondriac persons, and such as are subject to habitual diarrhoea or dysentery, or to frequent and violent attacks of the epilepsy, or who are afflicted with the scrophula, or the scurvy, ought to be cautious in the use of mercury. Where any one of these disorders prevails, it ought either, if possible, to be cured, or at least palliated, before the patient enters upon a course of mercury. When this cannot be done, the mercury must be administered in smaller doses, and at longer intervals than usual.

      THE most proper seasons for entering upon a course of mercury, are the spring and autumn, when the air is of a moderate warmth; if the cirumstances of the case, however, will not admit of delay, we must not defer the cure on account of the season, but must administer the mercury; taking care, at the same time, to keep the patient’s chamber warmer or cooler, according as the season of the year requires.

      THE next thing to be considered is the preparation necessary to be observed before we proceed to administer a course of mercury. Some lay great stress upon this circumstance, observing, that by previously relaxing the vessels, and correcting any disorder which may happen to prevail in the blood, not only the mercury will be disposed to act more kindly, but many other inconveniencies will be prevented.

      WE have already recommended bleeding and gentle purges, previous to the administration of mercury, and shall only now add, that these are always to be repeated according to the age, strength, constitution, and other circumstances of the patient. Afterwards, if it can be conveniently done, the patient ought to bathe once or twice a-day, for a few days, in lukewarm water. His diet in the mean time must be light, moist, and cooling. Wine, and all heating liquors, also violent bodily exercise, and all great exertions of the mind, are carefully to be avoided.

      A PROPER regimen is likewise to be observed by such as are under a course of mercury. Inattention to this not only endangers the patient’s life, but often also disappoints him of a cure. A much smaller quantity of mercury will be sufficient for the cure of a person who lives low, keeps warm, and avoids all manner of excess, than of one who cannot endure to put the smallest restraint upon his appetites: indeed it but rarely happens that such are thoroughly cured.

      THERE is hardly any thing of more importance, either for preventing or removing venereal infection, than cleanliness. By an early attention to this, the infection might often be prevented from entering the body; and, where it has already taken place, its effects may be greatly mitigated. The moment any person has reason to suspect that he has received the infection, he ought to wash the parts with water and spirits, sweet oil, or milk and water; a small quantity of the last may likewise be injected up the urethra, if it can be conveniently done. Whether this disease at first took its rise from dirtiness is hard to say; but wherever that prevails, the infection is found in its greatest degree of virulence, which gives ground to believe that a strict attention to cleanliness would go far towards extirpating it altogether. I have not only often seen a recent infection carried off in a few days by means of cleanliness, viz. bathing, fomentations, injections, &c. but have likewise found it of the greatest advantage in the more advanced stages of the disease. Of this I had lately a very remarkable instance, in a man whole penis was almost wholly consumed by venereal ulcers: the matter had been allowed to continue on the sores, without any care having been taken to clean them, till, notwithstanding the use of mercury and other medicines, it had produced the effects above-mentioned. I ordered warm milk and water to be injected three or four times a day into all the sinuous ulcers, in order to wash out the matter; after which they were stuffed with dry lint to absorb the fresh matter as it was generated. The patient at the same time took every day half a grain of the corrosive sublimate of mercury, dissolved in an ounce of brandy, and drank an English quart of the decoction of sarsaparilla. By this treatment, in about six weeks, he was perfectly cured and, what was very remarkable, a part of the penis was actually regenerated. Doctor Gilchrist has given an account of a species of the lues venerea which prevails in the west of Scotland, to which the natives give the name of Sibbins or Sivvins. The Doctor observes, that the spreading of this disease is chiefly owing to a neglect of cleanliness, and seems to think, that by due attention to that virtue, it might be extirpated. The treatment of this disease is similar to that of a confirmed lues or pox. The yaws, a disease which is now very common both in America and the West India islands, may also be cured in the same manner.

      WHEN the venereal disease has been neglected, or improperly treated, it often becomes a disorder of the habit. In this case the cure must be attempted by restoratives, as a milk diet, the decoction of sarsaparilla, and such like, to which mercury may be occasionally added. It is a common practice in North Britain to send such patients to drink goat-whey. This is a very proper plan, provided the infection has been totally eradicated before-hand; but when that is not the case, and the patient trusts to the whey for finishing his cure, he will often be disappointed. I have frequently known the disease return with all its virulence after a course of goat-whey, even when that course had been thought quite sufficient for completing the cure.

      ONE of the most unfortunate circumstances attending patients in this disease, is the necessity they are often laid under of being soon well. This induces them to take medicine too fast, and to leave it off too soon. A few grains more of medicine, or a few days longer confinement, would often be sufficient to perfect the cure; whereas, by neglect of these, a small degree of virulence is still left in the humours, which gradually vitiates, and at length contaminates the whole mass. To avoid this, we would advise, that the patient should never leave off taking medicine immediately upon the disappearing of the symptoms, but continue it for some time after, gradually lessening the quantity, till there is sufficient ground to believe that the disease is entirely eradicated.

      IT is not only difficult, but absolutely impossible, to ascertain the exact degree of virulence that may attend the disease; for which reason it will always be a much safer rule to continue the use of medicine too long, than to leave it off too soon. This seems to be the leading maxim of a modern practitioner of some note for the venereal disease, who always orders his patient to perform a quarantine of at least forty days, during which time he takes forty bottles of, I suppose, a strong decoction of sarsaparilla, or some other anti-venereal simple. Whoever takes this method, and adds a sufficient quantity of corrosive sublimate, or some other active preparation of mercury to the decoction, will seldom fail to cure a confirmed Lues.

      IT is peculiarly unfortunate for the cure of this disease, that not one in ten of those who contract it, are either able or willing to submit to a proper plan of regimen. The patient is willing to take medicine, but he must follow his business, and, to prevent suspicions, must eat and drink like the rest of the family. This is the true source of nine-tenths of all the mischief arising from the venereal disease. I never knew the cure attended with any great difficulty or danger where the patient strictly followed the physician’s advice: but a volume would not be sufficient to point out the dreadful consequences which proceed from an opposite conduct. Scirrhous testicles, ulcerous sore throats, madness, consumptions, carious bones, and a rotten progeny, are a few of the blessings derived from this source.

      THERE is a species of false reasoning, with regard to this disease, which proves fatal to many. A person of a sound constitution contracts a slight degree of the disorder. He gets well without taking any great care, or using much medicine, and hence concludes that this will always be the case. The next time the disease occurs, though ten times more virulent, he pursues the same course, and his constitution is ruined. Indeed, the different degrees of virulence in the small-pox are not greater than in this disease, though, as the learned Sydenham observes, in some cases the most skilful physicians cannot cure, and in others, the most ignorant old woman cannot kill the patient in that disorder. Though a good constitution is always in favour of the patient, yet too great stress may be laid upon it. It does not appear from observation, that the most robust constitution is able to overcome the virulence of the venereal contagion, after it has got into the habit. In this case, a proper course of medicine is always indispensably necessary.

      ALTHOUGH it is impossible, on account of the different degrees of virulence, &c. to lay down fixed and certain rules for the cure of this disease, yet the following general plan will always be found safe, and often successful, viz. to bleed and administer gentle purges with diuretics during the inflammatory state, and as soon as the symptoms of inflammation are abated, to administer mercury, in any form that may be most agreeable to the patient. The same medicine, assisted by the decoction of sarsaparIlla, and a proper regimen, will not only secure the constitution against the further progress of a confirmed pox, but will generally perform a complete cure.

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