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Lydia Estes Pinkham

You can go directly to the LydiaPinkham.org web site or take a few extra minutes to read this introduction about the state of health-care in American and for Women in particular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was during this time that Lydia Estes Pinkham and her family in Lynn, Massachusetts developed and marketed a product for women that is still used by women today. It is the only product that survived what is now known as the Patent Medicine era. LydiaPinkham.org provides a window to the past with information and link resources for today’s women. You would be doing your family or friend a great service if you could provide medical advice that would keep them from being treated by a doctor. For over 2,000 years the medical profession believed your health was based on maintaining a balance of four distinct bodily fluids the "four humours." If you got sick, your doctor would engage in a process to balance your humours. You would be required to drink concoctions that made you vomit and increase your bowel and bladder activity. Your doctor would apply hot burning plasters to your body, feet or head to make you perspire and they would also bleed you by lancing a vein to drain your blood. Bloodletting was used for every disease and injury. The theory was to produce noticeable results. Physicians believed they were drawing "bad blood" which caused the disease. The indiscriminate bleeding was bad enough; however, the amount of blood taken was shocking. Most doctors recommended bleeding until the patient passed out. It has been reported that George Washington was hastened to a premature death by his doctors use of bleeding during a minor illness. This was the process used to balance your humours. Doctors believed the more violently you reacted to this form of treatment, the better chance you had to get well. In the late 1400's, about 150 years after the plague (black death) killed almost one third of Europe's population, doctors began to use mercury, antimony, and sulfuric acid in the concoctions they made their patients drink. These chemicals are extremely toxic and poisonous. They would cause horrible reactions if you drank them. Since the prevailing medical opinion was that the healing process was improved greatly when the patient reacted violently, these poisons became very popular with doctors. They ultimately formed the foundation upon which the medical establishment treated its patients for over 400 years - - lasting well into the 1900's. Basically it went like this - - you got sick and your doctor poisoned you. If you got well, they considered their treatment successful. If you didn't get well, they would continue to poison and bleed you - - until the combination of your illness and the poison killed you. Many patients survived in spite of this, which of course the doctors attributed to their treatment. The longer you were sick, the greater the odds were that you would not survive the doctor's treatment. By the time the Mayflower sailed for America, Calomel was a popular medicinal drink. Made with mercury, it was prescribed by doctors for many different illnesses. Physicians increased the dose when the patient did not get well or failed to respond in an appropriate manner, further hastening the patients demise. For over 400 years their organizations attacked anyone, including any doctor within their ranks, who so much as suggested that this treatment regime was detrimental to a patients health. Herbal remedies and herbal practitioners were viciously attacked by the medical establishment for being ineffective and ignorant and for practicing unsafe medicine - - while doctors poisoned, bled and killed patients by the 100's of thousands. During this period, distrust of doctors was widespread and not without justification. Physicians and surgeons killed almost as many patients as they saved. The medical profession relied on visible symptoms to diagnose disease and had difficulty distinguishing one illness from another. Doctors tended to treat only the patient’s symptoms by using accepted drugs, many of which were poison - - which produced the required results - - perspiration, vomiting, diarrhea and a semi comatose state from bleeding. Physicians considered female reproductive organs the source of almost all female illness. Gynecologists did not hesitate to remove ovaries for little or no reason. The mortality rate for this barbaric practice was as high as 40 percent. By removing a woman's reproductive organs, the primary source of monthly variations in hormone levels was eliminated. Eliminating hormones that affected mood changes and sexual desires, eliminated the "hysteria", ergo hysterectomy. This was the state of medicine in 1875 that encouraged Lydia E. Pinkham to begin producing an herbal formula for women in her kitchen in Lynn Massachusetts. Lydia Estes Pinkham was born on February 9, 1819, the tenth of twelve children of Rebecca and Billy Estes. On May 17, 1893, at the age of sixty-four, eighteen years after she created the only dietary supplement that survived the patent medicine era, Lydia died. The success of her "Vegetable Compound" propelled the company named after her to unprecedented success. Her herbal supplement is the only product, with some minor changes, that survived the patent medicine era. The primary ingredient in her formula is Black cohosh, a native American herb. Black Cohosh is probably one of the most studied herbs in use today. For over 100 years clinical trials have been conducted on this herb in the United States and in Germany. It is now known as the "woman's herb". A book produced by the Lydia E. Pinkham Company and duplicated in its entirety can be found on www.lydiapinkham.org  Titled LYDIA E. PINKHAM'S PRIVATE TEXT-BOOK UPON AILMENTS PECULIAR TO WOMEN it was originally published around 1915, it is a self medication health and maintenance manual for women. It is also an obvious blatant self promotion tool, used to sell Lydia E. Pinkham products. However, considering the status of medicine in America during this time period, it most likely fulfilled a need not provided by a visit to your friendly - - but not so safe - - doctor. Reading the book will give you a new perspective about the prevailing medical knowledge and healing concepts that existed in America during the early 1900's. It is fun to read, sometimes it borders on the hilarious and at other times it is exceptionally relevant in a common sense sort- of-way. Most people are not aware that penicillin only became available for widespread use in 1949. Until then a simple bacterial infection could be death sentence and their was no cure for sexually transmitted diseases. With the use of chemical medicine that began in the late 1400s, a visit to a doctor had the potential to be detrimental to your health and your longevity. You would be doing your family or friend a great service if you could provide medical advice that would keep them from being treated by a doctor. Lydia’s self help books were like a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunlight for women in a world where the medical profession was dominated by men. Medical practitioners often had little or no professional training and used what today would be determined to be barbaric techniques. Medical expertise for women was nearly non-existent. Lydia E. Pinkham, her “Vegetable Compound” and advise for women filled this void and made the Lydia E. Pinkham name famous. Return to the top of this page or visit the website at LydiaPinkham.org  
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