Each medical breakthrough takes us a bit further away from older, wackier medicine and treatments that were once new breakthroughs. How will others regard today’s practices in another 100 years?
Here are some of the bizarre treatments doctors and patients swore by many years ago.
Mercury — once a versatile medicine
Until penicillin became available to the public in 1945, doctors used mercury as far back as the 15th century. Ancient China, Egypt, Greece and other cultures used mercury to cure syphilis, combat skin problems and heal wounds. Qin Shi Huang, a Chinese emperor, died from mercury poisoning after drinking it as an elixir to bring immortality.
Bloodletting — 13th-century medicine
As far back as the 13th century, people believed that various ailments would leave the body along with the blood during bloodletting treatment. They used the process to cure pneumonia, syphilis, nosebleeds and headaches. Furthermore, bloodletting was also a method used to cast evil demons from peoples’ bodies.
Although bloodletting as a medical treatment dates back about 2,500 years, it gained popularity in 19th century England. The instruments used ranged from metal lancets to blood-sucking leeches. Interestingly, some people whose bodies overproduce iron continue to use this procedure. However, it is not widespread.
Corpses provided powerful medicine
Epilepsy sufferers in ancient Rome drank fallen gladiators’ blood to cure them. In like manner, other body fluids, body parts and mummy remnants helped cure patients. As a matter of fact, the mystical healing powers of corpses were in high demand.
Egyptians rubbed the deceased’s body fat onto aching muscles and ingested mummy powder to relieve headaches. However, migraine sufferers had to consume bits and pieces of ground-up skulls.
As European history progressed from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance era, the French, English, Italians and Germans of all walks of life used mummy powder for medicinal purposes.
Urotherapy medicine for brighter smiles
Aka Urine therapy. A medical treatment used by Egyptians, ancient Roman, Chinese and Indians who saw urine as an effective treatment for various conditions. They treated aging, strep throat and teeth whitening with urine.
Trepanation — A medical treatment involving the opening of the skull
In the Neolithic era, which was the final part of the Stone Age, trepanation gave evil spirits a chance to leave the body. They believed that evil spirits caused hysteria, psychosis and other psychiatric conditions. The procedure involved cracking open the skull. They did this with the help of a blade and hammer or a drill. Similarly, trepanation was the treatment of choice for those with migraines, skull fractures, bone bruises and epilepsy. This medical procedure lost favor in the 19th century.
Morphine was a home remedy
Morphine remains in use for medical purposes today, but it is restricted to hospitals and only used for severe pain. However, in the period around the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, morphine was available as remedies in most homes. People with menstrual cramps, insomnia and common colds could buy narcotics over the counter.
The narcotics included cocaine, opium, heroin, laudanum and morphine. Doctors recommended the use of cocaine to treat depression. In like manner, Bayer sold heroin to treat all kinds of coughs in children. Interestingly, Sears, Roebuck and Co. offered injection kits for sale in their catalog.
Make sure to read about even more bizarre medical treatments that we THANKFULLY escaped in PART 2 of this post.