This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
This is an inflammation of the serous membrane lining the abdominal cavity, and investing the viscera, and may be either acute or chronic. During the early stages of the disease there is a feeling of lassitude, pain in the back and limbs, chills alternating with flushes of heat, headache and a feeling of uneasiness about the abdomen. As soon as the febrile action is established, the pain becomes sharp and severe. The abdomen is very tender, the slightest pressure by the hand causing most intense pain. The patient lies on his back, with his knees drawn up and shoulders elevated, finding that this relaxes the abdominal muscles, and prevents pressure by the bedclothes. Nausea, vomiting, thirst, constipation and suppression of urine, are frequent symptoms. The face is pale and contracted, respiration is oppressed, each inspiration aggravates the pain; pulse is frequent and small, tongue moist, and the patient is generally wakeful. The abdomen becomes tympanitic, and when a fatal termination is approached it becomes very much distended. The pulse also becomes feeble and quick, and the countenance assumes a ghastly appearance. It is very rapid in its course, death sometimes occurring within twenty-four hours. Puerperal peritonitis is only another variety of this disease, and attacks women in child-bed. It may arise idiopathically, or it may be caused by wounds, blows, falls, etc.
TREATMENT. -- The stomach and bowels should be evacuated by an emetic and purge. If associated with malarial influence quinine should be given. The fever should be controlled by veratrum. A large mustard plaster or turpentine stupe should be applied to the abdomen. Large doses of opium to allay the pain are also indicated. The patient should drink freely of marsh-mallow or flaxseed tea, and be supported by tonics, beef-tea, etc.