Medical inquiries and observations. By Benjamin Rush, M.D. professor of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania.
Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813., Redman, John, 1722-1808, dedicatee., Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. Appendix: containing, the new method of inoculating for the small pox.
Page  133


FROM the present established opinions and prac|tice respecting the cause and cure of haemoptysis, the last medicine that would occur to a regular-bred physician for the cure of it, is COMMON SALT; and yet I have seen and heard of a great number of cases, in which it has been administered with success.

THE mode of giving it, is to pour down from a tea, to a table-spoonful of clean fine salt, as soon as possible after the haemorrhage begins from the lungs. This quantity generally stops it; but the dose must be repeated daily for three or four days, to prevent a re|turn of the disorder. If the bleeding continues, the salt must be continued till it is checked, but in larger doses. I have heard of several instances in which two table-spoonfuls were taken at one time for several days.

IT sometimes excites a sickness at the stomach, and never fails to produce a burning sensation in the throat in its passage into the stomach, and considerable thirst afterwards.

Page  134 I HAVE found this remedy to succeed equally well in haemorrhages, whether they were active or passive, or whether they occurred in young or in old people.

I HAD prescribed it for several years before I could satisfy myself with a theory, to account for its extra|ordinary action upon the human body. My inquiries led me to attend more particularly to the following facts.

1. THOSE persons who have been early instructed in vocal music, and who use their vocal organs mo|derately through life, are seldom affected by an hae|morrhage from the lungs.

2. LAWYERS, players, public cryers, and city watchmen, all of whom exercise their lungs either by long or loud speaking, are less affected by this disor|der, than persons of other occupations.

I ACKNOWLEDGE I cannot extend this observati|on to the public teachers of religion. I have known several instances of their being affected by haemoptysis; but never but one in which the disorder came on in the pulpit, and that was in a person who had been recently cured of it. The cases which I have seen, have generally been brought on by catarrhs.

TO this disorder, the practice of some of our Ame|rican preachers disposes them in a peculiar manner; for it is very common with this class of them, to ex|pose themselves to the cold or evening air immediate|ly after taking, what a celebrated and eloquent preach|er used to call a pulpit sweat.

Page  135 3. THIS haemorrhage chiefly occurs in debilitated habits, or in persons afflicted by such a disposition to consumption, as indicates a weak and relaxed state of the lungs.

4. IT generally occurs when the lungs are in a passive state; as in sitting, walking, and more fre|quently in lying. Many of the cases that I have known, have occurred during sleep, in the middle of the night.

FROM these facts, is it not probable that the com|mon salt, by acting primarily and with great force upon the throat, extends its stimulus to the bleeding vessel, and by giving it a tone, checks the further effusion of blood?

I SHALL only add to this conjecture the following observations.

1. I HAVE never known the common salt perform a cure, where the haemorrhage from the lungs has been a symptom of a consumption. But even in this case, it gives a certain temporary relief.

2. THE exhibition of common salt in the haemop|tysis, should by no means supercede the use of occa|sional bleeding when indicated by plethora, nor of that diet which the state of the pulse, or of the stomach, may require.

3. I HAVE given the common salt in one case with success, in an haemorrhage from the stomach, accom|panied by a vomiting; and have heard of several cases in which it has been supposed to have checked a Page  136 discharge of blood from the nose and uterus, but I can say nothing further in its favor in these last hae|morrhages, from my own experience.

IT may perhaps serve to lessen the prejudices of physicians against adopting improvements in medicine, that are not recommended by the authority of colleges or universities, to add, that we are indebted to an old woman, for the discovery of the efficacy of common salt in the cure of haemoptysis.