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JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology:
Rheumatology Retrospective

Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689), on Scorbutical Rheumatism: 1717

Dorwart, Bonnie Brice MD, FACP

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From the Lankenau Hospital, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Reprints: Bonnie Brice Dorwart, MD, FACP, 124 Maple Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004-3031. E-mail:

“The pain seizes sometimes this part, sometimes that, but seldom occasions [the] swelling [seen in other kinds of rheumatism]; neither is it accompany'd [sic] with a fever, nor is it fix'd [sic] so long, but is of a more wandring [sic] nature...It does not respond to bleeding, purging or various powders.” His treatment: “Take of the fresh conserve of garden scurvy-grass 2 ounces; of wood-sorrel one ounce; of the compound powder of wake-robin 6 drams [1/8 ounce, or 1/16 oz, avoirdupois weight]; make electuary [medicationmelting in the mouth] with a sufficient quantity of syrup of oranges: the dose is 2 drams to be taken thrice a day for a month, drinking upon it 3 ounces of...water” containing garden scurvy grass, watercress and brooklime, sage, mint, peels of 6 oranges, nutmegs, and Brunswick mum.

Editor's comment: Sydenham recognized the typical scorbutic periosteal pain resulting from local extravasation of blood, the absence of constitutional symptoms in this arthropathy, and its improvement with dietary intervention. He omitted mention of occasional hemarthroses. Citrus fruits, fresh vegetables and herbs still serve world-wide to prevent and treat vitamin C deficiency.

Sydenham, Thomas. In: Pechey, John, The Whole Works of that excellent Physician, Dr. Thomas Sydenham, 7th ed., London: Printed for M. Wellington; 1717: 204–205.

From the Historical Medical Library, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19103-3097. Web Site: Click on Library & Wood Institute, and then on Historical Library.

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69th American College of Rheumatology Meeting

San Diego, California, USA

November 13–17, 2005

Web site:


scorbutical rheumatism; scurvy; scorbutic arthropathy

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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