Heroic medicine is a term used by some alternative healers for any aggressive conventional medical practice or method of treatment that is perceived to make people suffer, get sick, get weak and run down, and/or die. Physicians do not argue that conventional medicine sometimes causes harm; in some cases, such as surgery, harm is inevitable. Arguably, many forms of alternative medicine such as homeopathy have few or no side effects. However, in many cases there is no scientific evidence of benefits from these practices either.
During the so-called Age of Heroic Medicine (1780 - 1850), educated professional physicians aggressively practiced "heroic medicine", including blood-letting (venesection), intestinal purging (calomel [mercury chloride]), vomiting (tartar emetic), profuse sweating (diaphoretics) and blistering. Also, physicians originally treated diseases like syphilis with salves made from mercury; however, it is now known that mercury is highly toxic. These are all examples of medical treatments that were well-intentioned, and, in some cases, well-accepted by the medical community, but actually harmful to the patient.
The death of George Washington, on December 14, 1799, may have partially resulted from shock from blood-letting. See Washington's own article for more details.
Some alternative healers have called chemotherapy and radiation therapy "the heroic medicine of the modern era". Such categorizations ignore the studies that show the effectiveness of these treatments in curing previously untreatable disease, and it should be noted that before these methods were developed almost all forms of cancer were universally fatal.