When Meriwether Lewis was preparing for the expedition into the Louisiana Territory, he studied under one Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia. Jefferson thought Rush perhaps the best physician in the nation and wanted the doctor to train Lewis in some rudimentary lessons in medicine. After a few weeks of such training, Lewis gathered a number of standard medicines for any number of ailments; as well as a concoction of Rush’s own known as “Rush’s Pills", but were generally referred to as “Thunder-clappers” for the laxative’s sudden effect. The pills were a sort of “cure-all” and were liberally given. Lancets, forceps, syringes, were also present. Beside Rush’s pills, over thirty different drugs were brought. Some of these included laudanum, opium, calomel, and mercury–then the standard medicine used in the treatment of syphilis. Other medicines were used especially for blistering, a constant problem among the Corps. Besides his short training with Benjamin Rush, Lewis doubtless depended upon his own knowledge of healing herbs. This sort of “frontier medicine” was to serve the expedition well during its trip to and from the west coast.
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