Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Bromley Union Lunatic Registers "belladonna plaister"

I was rather taken by surprise to find a number of admissions in the Lunatic registers which on medical examination recorded scars or marks from belladonna plasters.
Belladonna plasters were often used on the breasts of women after childbirth to stop breast milk supply and indeed there are examples found in the registers of such application.
The medical profession had linked belladonna plaster use to episodes of sudden onset behaviour which was uncharacteristic. Bella donna plasters had been commercially manufactured since the 1840's (and continue to be available to this day).
However as The British Medical Journal of 1872 records a letter from the daughter of a patient belladonna plaster had accounted for complete change in her mother's appearance speech and behaviour.
Post partum mood and mental state regularly feature in admissions to Asylums of the period but the Bromley Workhouse Medical Officer is regularly examining women with such plasters or marks of earlier use.
Belladonna plasters are reported to affect mood and behaviour in men. These plasters were often used by doctors to alleviate pain in inflamed arthritic and rheumatic conditions but the varying strength of the toxins were also found to contribute to skin rashes and behavoural changes.
The registers are an interesting link to nineteenth century medicine entering the twentieth century.