Scurvy, or Scorbulus, denotes a putrescent, or rather dissolvent, state of the blood. This term is often misapplied to a variety of eruptive complaints, which have no specific names.
Symptoms : - Debility ; dejection of spirits ; bleeding and decay of the gums ; fetid breath ; spots of various colours, but mostly of a livid hue, on the thighs, legs, and particularly at the roots of the hair. In the progress of this milady, blood issues from different parts of the body, and ulcers are formed, which emit only an ichorous humour, and are with difficulty healed. The patient is now subject to great pain and fainting, on the least motion; or, when exposed to the fresh air, his feet swell; breathing is impeded; and at length diarrhoea, dropsy, or fainting, terminates his sufferings.
Causes : - Low, and damp habitations ; an inactive life.; suppressed or excessive evacuations ; impure air; inattention to cleanliness; depressing passions; coarse, unwholesome, sailed, and smoked food, when taken for a considerable time, and without a proper share of vegetables; foul water; want of malt liquor - to the influence of all which causes, seafaring persons are peculiarly subject, as well as the inhabitants of northern climates.
Cure: - It is evident from the preceding statement, that the principal relief must be afforded by a diet and regimen exactly opposite. to the cause. Thus, if the scurvy originated from low, damp, or confined air, the patient must be removed to an open, dry, and warmer situation : if it arose from inactivity, a sedentary life, or depressing passions, recourse should be had to exercise in the open air; and he should endeavour to divert his mind by cheerful company and pleasing amusements. Suppressed evacuations must be restored with precaution, and by mild aperients, the scu the most eligible of which are, tamarinds, prunes, cream of tartar, and rhubarb - When the scurvy proceeds chiefly from the long-continued use of salted provisions, it will be necessary to take, medicinally, large portions of the juice of lemons, oranges, limes, tamarinds ; water-cresses, brook-lime, scurvy-grass, and fresh vegetables of every description ; but, where the latter cannot be procured, pickled or preserved cabbages, cucumbers, onions, gooseberries, and other fruits, as well as horse-radish and mustard, may be employed with equal advantage. At first, however, the patient ought to eat or drink the remedies above specified with great moderation ; in order to avoid a diarrhoea or flux. For common beverage, good cyder, perry, whey, spruce-beer, or a simple decoction of the spruce-fir (of which last, two pints are to be drunk every day) will prove highly beneficial: with the same intention, Bishop Berkley recommends tar-water. - One of the most efficacious antiscorbutics, however, is Sauer Kraut, a well-known preparation of the white cabbage, described under the head of Crout ; which alone has often checked the progress of scurvy, under the most alarming appearances. - See also Wort.
Considerable benefit has, in several instances, been derived from a decoction of the Water-Dock (Rumex aquaticus, L.) by boiling one pound of the root in six pints of water, and adding an ounce or two of crystals of tartar, till one-third part of the liquor be evaporated ; of which, from half to a whole pint, is to be drunk every day.
If, during this vegetable course, the body should be costive, and the skin dry, the mild aperients before mentioned, and warm bathing with aromatic plants, may be resorted to with advantage ; though the latter must be omitted, when there is any apprehension of hemorrhages. - The mouth should be rinsed with a decoction of the Peruvian bark, to which a small portion of tincture of myrrh may be added : farther, lint dipped into a simple decoction of the bark, and applied to the ulcers, will be found very useful. Lastly, if the limbs be swollen, or the joints stiff, it will be advisable to foment them with warm vinegar ; or to bathe the, parts affected in tepid water.