This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
This disease was once very common, particularly among sailors, who were deprived during long voyages, of fresh vegetables, and compelled to live on salt provisions.
The Scurvy comes on gradually, with heaviness, weariness, and unwillingness to move about, together with dejection of spirits, anxiety and oppression at the chest, and considerable loss of strength. As the disease advances the countenance becomes sallow and bloated; respiration is hurried by the least motion; the teeth become loose, the gums are spongy, swelled, and bleed upon the slightest touch; the breath is very offensive, livid spots appear on different parts of the body; old wounds which have been long healed up, break out afresh and discharge a fetid or bloody sanies; severe wandering pains are felt, particularly at night; the skin is dry, and the urine small in quantity, and the pulse is small, frequent, and towards the last, intermitting; but the intellects are for the most part clear and distinct.
As the disease proceeds, the joints become swelled and stiff, the tendons of the legs are rigid and contracted, the patient loses all use of his limbs, general emaciation ensues, haemorrhages break from the nose, ears, bladder, and by stool, and a Diarrhoea or Dysentery arises, which soon ends fatally.
It was discovered more than two hundred years ago, that Lemon juice was both an antidote and a preventive of Scurvy. In 1795 the British Admiralty introduced Lemon juice as an article of diet into the British Navy. The effect, says Sir John Herschel, of this wise measure may be estimated from the following facts: In 1780 the number of cases of Scurvy received into Haslar Hospital was 1457; in 1806 one only, and in 1807, one. He adds: "There are now many surgeons in the Navy who have never seen the disease."
"Dr. Budd however has assured me," says Sir Thomas Watson, "that the Dreadnought, Hospital-ship at Greenwich, was often full of cases of Scurvy; most of the patients so affected having just arrived in merchant ships, from a long voyage. This surely ought not to be. It could not be if the owners of these vessels knew how easily, certainly and cheaply this truly dreadful scourge may be averted." Ho adds:
"My friend, the late Dr. Martin, of Ventnor, believed that the cruciferce, and water cress especially, had more speedy and sure effect in removing Sea-scurvy than even Lemon juice. He assured me that, at St. Helena, he had seen the worst forms of the disease cured in three days by an abundant consumption of water-cresses."
The late Dr. William Baly by observation and investigation ascertained that potatoes were almost as good as green vegetables as a preventive of Scurvy; and it is stated that there was a great prevalence of scorbutic complaints in the British Islands after the potatoe rot of 1846.
In the treatment of Scurvy medicine is of little consequence. The patient must, as quickly as possible, be put on a diet of fresh meat and green vegetables, with beer, and wine. Warm bathing will be serviceable. Where it is impossible to obtain green vegetables, the patient may use an extra allowance of potatoes; and may take from a quarter of a pint to half a pint of fresh Lemon juice daily. It may be mixed with water, and a little sugar added.