old west maladies

"Stay Melodramatic!"

The Insegrevious List of  Old West Maladies

In the days of Melodrama in the Old West, physicians were scarce and poorly educated. Treatments was often based on the now-discredited theory of the four bodily humors that had to be kept in balance. These might include such treatments as bleeding (sometimes using live leeches), cold baths, blistering agents, and other remedies that were worse than the ailments that they were meant to treat! Phrenology was considered a science where the reading of bumps on a head could be used as evidence as to what might "ail" you. Many people placed their faith in patent medicines, pitched by traveling "snake oil" salesmen who never failed to entertain the crowds before offering their cure-alls. Your could hear the salesman say ...

Step right up ladies and gentlemen "Our unrivaled elixir can cure all the ills of man or beast including ..."


ABLEPSY
Blindness

ABSCESS
A localized collection of pus buried in tissues, organs, or confined spaces of the body, often accompanied by swelling and inflammation and frequently caused by bacteria

ABLEPSY
Blindness

ACUTE MANIA
Severe insanity

ADDISON'S DISEASE
A disease characterized by severe weakness, low blood pressure, and a bronzed coloration of the skin, due to decreased secretion of cortisol from the adrenal gland. Also known as bronzed skin disease. Not to be confused with Brown Dropsy which is an inability to process metals in food.

AGUE
Used to define the recurring fever & chills of malarial infection

AMERICAN PLAGUE
Yellow fever

ANASARCA
Generalized massive edema (swelling)

APHONIA
Laryngitis

APHTHA
Thrush

APOPLEXY
Paralysis due to stroke

ASPHYCSIA/ASPHICSIA
Cyanotic and lack of oxygen

ATROPHY
Wasting away (generally from lack of use, i.e. muscles)

BAD BLOOD
Syphilis

BILIOUS FEVER
Typhoid, malaria, hepatitis

BILIOUSNESS
Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease; may also have been any upset leading to vomiting bile or just vomiting

BLACK FEVER
Acute infection with high temperature and dark red skin lesions and high mortality rate

BLACK JAUNDICE
Wiel's Disease; Black Water fever (deadly form of malaria)

BLACK PLAGUE OR DEATH
Bubonic plague

BLACK POX
Black Smallpox

BLACK VOMIT
Vomiting old black blood due to ulcers or yellow fever

BLACKWATER FEVER
Dark urine associated with high temperature (deadly form of malaria)

BLADDER IN THROAT
Diphtheria (not certain but our best guess)

BLOOD POISONING
Bacterial infection; septicemia

BLOODY FLUX
Bloody stools

BLOODY SWEAT
Sweating sickness

BONE SHAVE
Sciatica

BRAIN FEVER
Meningitis

BREAKBONE
Dengue fever

BRIGHT'S DISEASE
Chronic inflammatory disease of kidneys

BRONZE JOHN
Yellow fever

BRUCELLOSIS
Humans become infected by coming in contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with these bacteria. In humans brucellosis can cause a range of symptoms that are similar to the flu and may include fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, and physical weakness. - MILK FEVER

BULE
Boil, tumor or swelling

CACHEXY
Malnutrition

CACOGASTRIC
Upset stomach

CACOSPYSY
Irregular pulse

CADUCEUS
Subject to falling sickness or epilepsy

CAMP FEVER
Typhus; aka Camp diarrhea

CANINE MADNESS
Rabies, hydrophobia

CANKER
Ulceration of mouth or lips or herpes simplex

CATALEPSY
Seizures / trances

CATARRHAL
Nose and throat discharge from cold or allergy

CEREBRITIS
Inflammation of cerebrum or lead poisoning

CHILBLAIN
Swelling of extremities caused by exposure to cold

CHILD BED FEVER
Infection following birth of a child

CHIN COUGH
Whooping cough

CHLOROSIS
Iron deficiency anemia; leukemia

CHOLECYSTITUS
Inflammation of the gall bladder

CHOLELITHIASIS
Gall stones

CHOLERA
Acute severe contagious diarrhea with intestinal lining sloughing

CHOLERA MORBUS
Characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, elevated temperature, etc. Could have been a misdiagnosis of a case of appendicitis.

CHOREA
Disease characterized by convulsions, contortions and dancing

COLD PLAGUE
Ague which is characterized by chills

COLIC
An abdominal pain and cramping

COMMOTION
Concussion

CONGESTION
Any collection of fluid in an organ, like the lungs

CONGESTIVE CHILLS
Malaria

CONGESTIVE CHILLS
Malaria with diarrhea

CONGESTIVE FEVER
Malaria

CONSUMPTION
Tuberculosis; Wasting sickness

CORRUPTION
Infection

CORYZA
A cold

COSTIVENESS
Constipation

CRAMP COLIC
Appendicitis

CROP SICKNESS
Overextended stomach

CROUP
Laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat

CYANOSIS
Dark skin color from lack of oxygen in blood

CYNANCHE
Diseases of throat

CYSTITIS
Inflammation of the bladder

DAY FEVER
Fever lasting one day; sweating sickness

DEBILITY
Lack of movement or staying in bed

DECREPITUDE
Feebleness due to old age

DELIRIUM TREMENS
Hallucinations due to alcoholism

DENGUE
Infectious fever endemic to East Africa

DENTITION
Cutting of teeth

DEPLUMATION
Tumor of the eyelids which causes hair loss

DIARY FEVER
A fever that lasts one day

DIPTHERIA
Contagious disease of the throat

DISTEMPER
Usually animal disease with malaise, discharge from nose and throat, anorexia

DOCK FEVER
Yellow fever

DROPSY
Edema (swelling), often caused by kidney or heart disease

DROPSY OF THE BRAIN
Encephalitis

DRY BELLYACHE
Lead poisoning

DYSCRASY
An abnormal body condition (usually with the blood)

DYSENTERY
Inflammation of colon with frequent passage of mucous and blood

DYSOREXY
Reduced appetite

DYSPEPSIA
Indigestion and a gnawing or burning stomach pain with Bloating and Heartburn connected also with Heart attack symptoms

DYSURY
Difficulty in urination

ECLAMPSY
Symptoms of epilepsy, convulsions during labor

ECSTASY
A form of catalepsy characterized by loss of reason

EDEMA
Nephrosis; swelling of tissues

EDEMA OF LUNGS
Congestive heart failure, a form of dropsy

EEL THING
Erysipelas

ELEPHANTIASIS
A form of leprosy

ENCEPHALITIS
Swelling of brain; aka sleeping sickness

ENTERIC FEVER
Typhoid fever

ENTERITIS
Inflations of the bowels

ENTEROCOLITIS
Inflammation of the intestines

EPITAXIS
Nose bleed

ERYSIPELAS
Contagious skin disease, due to Streptococci with vesicular and bulbous lesions it is caused by group A B-hemolytic streptococcus bacteria..

EXTRAVASTED BLOOD
Rupture of a blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS
Epilepsy

FATTY LIVER
Cirrhosis of liver

FITS
Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity

FLUX
An excessive flow or discharge of fluid like hemorrhage or diarrhea

FLUX OF HUMOUR
Circulation

FRENCH POX
Syphilis

GATHERING
A collection of pus

GLANDULAR FEVER
Mononucleosis

GOUT
An inflammation usually of an extremity

GREAT POX
Syphilis

GREEN FEVER / SICKNESS
Anemia

GRIPPE/GRIP
Influenza like symptoms

GROCER'S ITCH
Skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour

HALLUCINATION
Delirium

HEART SICKNESS
Condition caused by loss of salt from body

HEAT STROKE
Body temperature elevates because of surrounding environment temperature and body does not perspire to reduce heat. Coma and death could result.

HECTICAL COMPLAINT
Recurrent fever

HEMATEMESIS
Vomiting blood

HEMATURIA
Bloody urine

HEMIPLEGY
Paralysis of one side of body

HIP GOUT
Osteomyelitis, a staph infection

HORRORS
Delirium tremens

HYDROCEPHALUS
Enlarged head, water on the brain

HYDROPERICARDIUM
Heart dropsy

HYDROPHOBIA
Rabies

HYDROTHROAX
Dropsy in chest

HYPERTROPHIC
Enlargement of organ, like the heart

IMPETIGO
Contagious skin disease characterized by pustules

INANITION
Physical condition resulting from lack of food

INFANTILE PARALYSIS
Polio

INTESTINAL COLIC
Abdominal pain due to improper diet

JAIL FEVER
Typhus

JAUNDICE
Condition caused by blockage of intestines

KING'S EVIL
Scrofula, a tubercular infection of the throat lymph glands; also syphilis

KRUCHHUSTEN
Whooping cough

LA GRIPPE
Flu or influenza

LOCKJAW
Tetanus or infectious disease affecting the muscles of the neck and jaw. Untreated, it is fatal in 8 days

LONG SICKNESS
Tuberculosis

LUES DISEASE
Syphilis

LUES VENERA
Venereal disease; syphilis

LUMBAGO
Back pain

LUNG FEVER
Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS
Tuberculosis

LYING IN
Time of delivery of infant

MALIGNANT SORE THROAT
Diphtheria

MANIA
Insanity

MARASMUS
Progressive wasting away of body, like malnutrition

MEMBRANOUS CROUP
Diphtheria

MENINGITIS
Inflations of brain or spinal cord

METRITIS
Inflammation of uterus or purulent vaginal discharge

MIASMA
Poisonous vapors thought to infect the air

MILK FEVER
Disease from drinking contaminated milk, like undulant fever or brucellosis

MILK LEG
Phlebitis; a painful swelling of the leg soon after childbirth, due to thrombosis of the large veins; Painful swelling of the leg beginning at the ankle and ascending or at the groin and extending down the thigh... its usual cause is infection after labor; Postpartum thrombophlebitis

MILK SICKNESS
Disease from milk of cattle which had eaten poisonous weeds

MORMAL
Gangrene

MORPHEW
Scurvy blisters on the body

MORTIFICATION
Gangrene of necrotic tissue; Infection

MYELITIS
Inflammation of the spine

MYOCARDITIS
Inflammation of heart muscles

NECROSIS
Mortification of bones or tissue

NEPHROSIS
Kidney degeneration

NEPRITIS
Inflammation of kidneys

NERVOUS PROSTRATION
Extreme exhaustion from inability to control physical and mental activities

NEURALGIA
Described as discomfort, such as "Headache" was neuralgia in head

NOSTALGIA
Homesickness

PALSY
Paralysis or uncontrolled movement of controlled muscles.

PAROXYSM
Convulsion

PEMPHIGUS
Skin disease of watery blisters

PERICARDITIS
Inflammation of heart

PERIPNEUMONIA
Inflammation of lungs

PERITONOTIS
Inflammation of abdominal area

PETECHIAL FEVER
Fever characterized by skin spotting

PHLEGMASIA ALBA DOLENS
Milk Leg - Painful thrombosis of the femoral vein in the leg following childbirth

PHTHIRIASIS
Lice infestation

PHTHISIS
Chronic wasting away or a name for tuberculosis

PLAGUE
An acute febrile highly infectious disease with a high fatality rate

PLEURISY
Any pain in the chest area with each breath

PODAGRA
Gout

POTT'S DISEASE
Tuberculosis of spine

PROTEIN DISEASE
Gomerulonephritis; a once relatively common childhood kidney disease that causes the kidney to leak protein. This is a secondary (allergic) reaction to certain kinds of strep infections. Now uncommon ... go figure.

PUERPERAL EXHAUSTION
Death due to child birth

PUERPERAL EXHAUSTION
Death due to childbirth

PUERPERAL FEVER
Elevated temperature after giving birth to an infant

PUKING FEVER
Milk sickness

PUTRID FEVER
Diphtheria.

QUINSY
Tonsillitis.

REMITTING FEVER
Malaria

RHEUMATISM
Any disorder associated with pain in joints

RICKETS
Disease of skeletal system

ROSE COLD
Hay fever or nasal symptoms of an allergy

RUBEOLA
German measles

SANGUINEOUS CRUST
Scab

SCARLATINA
Scarlet fever

SCARLET FEVER
A disease characterized by red rash

SCARLET RASH
An old west alternative for Roseola

SCIATICA
Rheumatism in the hips

SCIRRHUS
Cancerous tumors

SCOTOMY
Dizziness, nausea and dimness of sight

SCREWS
Rheumatism

SCRIVENER'S PALSY
Writer's cramp

SCROFULA
Tuberculosis of neck lymph glands. Progresses slowly with abscesses and pistulas develop. Young person's disease

SCRUMPOX
Skin disease, impetigo

SCURVY
Lack of vitamin C. Symptoms of weakness, spongy gums and hemorrhages under skin

SEPTICEMIA
Blood poisoning

SHAKES
Delirium tremens

SHAKING
Chills or ague

SHINGLES
Viral disease with skin blisters resulting from the Chicken Pox virus

SHIP FEVER
Typhus

SIRIASIS
Inflammation of the brain due to sun exposure

SLOES
Milk sickness

SMALL POX
Contagious disease with fever and blisters

SOFTENING OF BRAIN
Result of stroke or hemorrhage in the brain, with an end result of the tissue softening in that area

SORE THROAT DISTEMPER
Diphtheria or quinsy

SPANISH INFLUENZA
Epidemic influenza

SPASMS
Sudden involuntary contraction of muscle or group of muscles, like a convulsion

SPINA BIFIDA
Deformity of spine

SPOTTED FEVER
Either typhus or meningitis

SPRUE
Tropical disease characterized by intestinal disorders and sore throat

ST. ANTHONY'S FIRE
Also, erysipelas, but named so because of affected skin areas are bright red in appearance

ST. VITAS DANCE
Ceaseless occurrence of involuntary rapid complex jerking movements.

STOMATITIS
Inflammation of the mouth

STRANGER'S FEVER
Yellow fever

STRANGERY
Rupture

SUDOR ANGLICUS
Sweating sickness

SUMMER COMPLAINT
Diarrhea, usually in infants caused by spoiled milk

SUNSTROKE
Uncontrolled elevation of body temperature due to environment heat. Lack of sodium in the body is a predisposing cause

SWAMP SICKNESS
Could be malaria, typhoid or encephalitis

TEETHING
Tooth infections with inflammation

TETANUS
Infectious fever characterized by high fever, headache and dizziness

THROMBOSIS
Blood clot inside blood vessel

THRUSH
Childhood disease characterized by spots on mouth, lips and throat

TICK FEVER
Rocky Mountain spotted fever

TOXEMIA OF PREGNANCY
Eclampsia

TRENCH MOUTH
Painful ulcers found along gum line, Caused by poor nutrition and poor hygiene

TUSSIS CONVULSIVA
Whooping cough

TYPHUS
Infectious fever characterized high fever, headache, and dizziness

VARIOLA
Smallpox

VENESECTION
Bleeding

VIPER'S DANCE
St. Vitus Dance

WATER ON BRAIN
Enlarged head

WHITE SWELLING
Tuberculosis of the bone

WINTER FEVER
Pneumonia

WOMB FEVER
Infection of the uterus.

WORM FIT
Convulsions associated with teething, worms, elevated temperature or diarrhea

YELLOWJACKET
Another old west term for Yellow fever.



old-west 'elixirs'  and medicine shows

Most of these medicines were at best harmless (unless you might be using heavy machinery). Many actually contained generous quantities of alcohol, opium, or cocaine, ensuring a quick feeling of well-being for first-time customers, followed by the possibility of habitual use. These medicines were widely advertised in magazines, newspapers, mail order catalogs, storefronts, on fence posts, and even barn roofs. These nostrums were pitched far and wide, but no promotion could beat the hoopla of a traveling medicine show. These shows featured music, comedy, juggling, and overblown rhetoric mixed with testimonials and stunts to demonstrate cures. Admission was free, with the performers making a living from the sale of cure-alls and a few assorted other items. The masters of ceremonies would usually add the title of "Doctor" or "Professor" to their names to give themselves a recognizable sense of liquidity.

There was Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root, Dr. Hercules Sanche’s Oxydonor Balm of Gilead, Mullen's Liniment, Rite Wate Fat Reducer compound that promised a safe way to a slender healthy figure, Trilene tablets for all fat people, Hamlin's Wizard Oil Pain Remedy, Simmon's Liver Regulator, Pink Pills for Pale People, and of course Dr. J. Millers vegetable expectorant ... invaluable for all lung troubles. Few of these "cures" actually healed and many didn’t contain promised ingredients, for example:

VITAL SPARKS - Which promised to revitalize masculine virility, It was nothing more than a concoction made by rolling rock candy in powdered aloe.

TIGER FAT - A cure-all balm reportedly made from Royal Bengal tiger backbone, was in reality concocted of Vaseline, camphor, menthol and other aromatic oils.

NERVINE - A purported nerve sedative, had alcohol as its main ingredient (and lots of it). It advertised a cure for nervousness, indigestion, irritability, seasickness and sleeplessness.

KA-TON-KA - A medicine purportedly made from Indian herbs by the Modoc and Nez Perce Indian tribes. In reality, it was made in Pennsylvania, and simply contained a modicum of alcohol, sugar, aloes and baking soda.

PROFESSOR AMCK's MIRACLE ELIXIR OF LIFE - A Medicine that could purportedly cure just about anything that might afflict you. In reality a concentrated black tea extract with herbs and tree bark extract. Since the bark was from the white willow variety the concoction contained naturally occurring salicylic acid which modern day aspirin owes it heritage. And the tannins in the black tea had several calming benefits for the stomach and even if applied topically. So, in comparison to the rest of the elixirs ... Professor Mack almost got it right. It also contained 12% distilled alcohol which explained its popularity and how people kept buying the elixir even though their maladies persisted. Produced until the Professor's disappearance in 1910.

By the early 1900s, suspicion was rising about the value of these nostrums and so called "Elixirs". And so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was established in the 1920s to regulate the nation’s drug industry and Medicine Show became a thing of the past.br>

The golden age of Medicine Shows took advantage of a receptive, unsophisticated public who may have been awed by legitimate scientific discoveries of the time. People such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell and Madame Curie had stirred the public’s dreams for inventions that would make daily life easier. If you looked at the "medical journals" of the time you would be barraged with recommended cures for maladies that have all but vanished in this 20th century.