The good old days: Indigestion

A form of indigestion occurs in persons of naturally good constitutional powers and digestion. It is generally induced by excess in eating and drinking, and is, in most cases, connected with more or less biliary disorder.

The appetite fails, the tongue is much furred, there is often sickness and vomiting of bile, the bowels are rather irregular than confined, the urine is high-coloured and deposits red or pink sediments, there is heart burn and acidity, generally headache and often pain between the shoulders extending to the back of the head.

The condition, in fact, is in a great degree similar to that which precedes an attack of British or bilious cholera, and often ends in a ‘sick headache’, or ‘bilious attack’. In this form of dyspepsia, abstinence and exercise may effect a cure, but it is much facilitated by proper medicine; it is in such cases that the calomel or blue pill and black draught method are the most useful if properly employed. The system at large, and the whole of the digestive organs, are oppressed and over-loaded, and one or more doses of the above medicines clear them in a way that nothing else will, bringing away large quantities of acrid, dark bile, with immediate relief. After this remedy has been repeated the bowels ought to be kept lax by means of the blue pill and compound rhubarb or blue pill and compound colocynth pill at bedtime. If the tongue remains furred and the appetite deficient, two or three doses during the day of effervescing mixture, with the addition of a tea-spoonful of tincture of calumba or of tincture of gentian to each will be of service; or a mixture composed of a drachm of carbonate of potash, half an ounce of nitrous ether, and 12 ounces of infusion of calumba or of gentian may be used, a wine-glassful being taken twice a day.

In this form of dyspepsia also, the infusion of dandelion, either alone or combined with one of the bitters, is very serviceable.

This form of dyspepsia does not call for change of air and scene, although questionably — especially if the attack has been a severe one — these remedies are of service, if taken advantage of after the organs have been relieved, and the functions regulated by medical treatment. 

From A Dictionary of Domestic Medicine and Household Surgery, by Spencer Thomson MD LRCS and J C Steele MD, published in 1882 by Charles Griffin and Company, London

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