From Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail:
We know that on occasion men of the Corps or members of native tribes were “bled” by Captains Lewis or Clark. This was a common medical practice of the time period, lasting well into the late 19th century. Dr. Benjamin Rush, who provided training to Meriwether Lewis prior to the journey, was a strong believer in bleeding for nearly any medical situation.
Rush was often referred to as “The Bleeder” because he, like many physicians of the day, believed that illnesses were caused by “bad blood.” It was logical in this mindset that you should remove some of the offending substance. So he would repeatedly bleed his patients and suggested anywhere from eight to 80 ounces could be removed! To him, the theory held true because the patient relaxed after a good bloodletting – of course, what really happened was a patient’s blood pressure dropped to the point where they passed out.
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