February 3, 2023
12 Shocking and Strange Medical Treatments from the Past: A Journey Through the Bizarre World of Historical Medicine
This article takes a look at the strange and unusual medical treatments from history that may seem shocking to us now.
The treatments serve as a testament to how medical practices have evolved over time and how far we've come in terms of understanding and curing ailments.
Medical advancements have come a long way over the centuries, but there have been some bizarre and unusual treatments in the history of medicine that are now considered outdated and even harmful. From drinking urine to using mercury as an ointment, medical practices from the past can be surprising and eye-opening. This article will take a closer look at 12 such strange medical treatments and medicines used throughout recorded history, dating back to ancient civilizations.
Chloroform - Chloroform was used as an anesthetic in the United States in the 19th century. However, it is now known to be toxic due to its ability to cause liver and kidney damage, respiratory depression, and possibly cancer. It was eventually replaced by safer anesthetics.
Bloodletting - Bloodletting was a popular medical practice dating back to ancient Egypt over 3000 years ago. It was used to treat diseases such as smallpox, epilepsy, and the plague and was still in practice until the 19th century. The procedure involved removing blood from the patient's body with a lancet or leech in an attempt to balance the body's "humors" and cure the disease.
Arsenic - Arsenic was a key ingredient in many patent medicines, including "Fowlers Solution," which was a cure for malaria and syphilis in use from the late 18th century until the 1950s. While it was effective in treating these diseases, it was also highly toxic and could lead to arsenic poisoning.
Mercury - Mercury was a popular medical treatment from ancient times until recently. It was used by ancient Persians and Greeks as an ointment and by Chinese alchemists for its supposed ability to increase lifespan and vitality. Mercury was also used to treat syphilis in the form of mercury rubs and was a key ingredient in many patent medicines. However, it is now known to be highly toxic and can cause serious health problems, including kidney damage and neurological symptoms.
Urine Drinking - Urine drinking was a popular medical practice in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and in ancient Indian Yogic and Chinese medical practices. It was believed to have therapeutic properties and was used to treat a variety of ailments, including kidney and liver problems.
Trepanning - Trepanning was a surgical procedure that involved drilling or cutting a hole in the skull. It was used by ancient civilizations as a cure for headaches, seizures, and mental disorders. The procedure was performed without the benefit of modern anesthesia or sterilization and carried a high risk of complications and death.
Leeching - Leeching was a medical practice that involved using leeches for bloodletting or to remove unwanted blood clots. The leeches would attach to the patient's skin and suck blood until they became engorged, at which point they would drop off. Leeching was a popular practice in Europe from the Middle Ages until the 19th century.
Cupping - Cupping was an ancient Chinese medical practice that involved placing heated glass cups on the skin to create a vacuum and improve blood flow. The vacuum would cause the skin and underlying tissue to rise into the cup, and the cup would then be left in place for several minutes. Cupping was believed to improve circulation and treat a variety of ailments.
Mummy Powder - Mummy powder was a medicine made from powdered mummies that was used in medieval Europe. It was believed to have therapeutic properties and was used to cure a variety of ailments, including wounds, headaches, and digestive problems. The use of mummy powder was based on the belief that mummies had special healing powers and was a reflection of the high value placed on mummies during that time.
Nightshade - Nightshade is a poisonous plant that was used as a painkiller and anesthesia in ancient times. It contains alkaloids that can have a sedative effect, but it is also highly toxic and can cause serious health problems, including hallucinations, confusion, and death.
Ether - Ether was a highly flammable and volatile liquid that was used as an anesthetic in the mid-19th century. It was used in surgical procedures and was a major improvement over previous anesthetics, which were often ineffective and caused significant pain. However, ether was also highly flammable and could cause explosions and fires if not handled carefully. It was eventually replaced by safer anesthetics such as nitrous oxide and chloroform.
Mercury Rubs - Mercury rubs were a medical treatment in which mercury was rubbed onto the skin to treat various ailments, including syphilis. Mercury was believed to have therapeutic properties and was used as a cure for many diseases. However, it is now known to be highly toxic and can cause serious health problems, including kidney damage and neurological symptoms. The use of mercury rubs has been discontinued due to the dangers associated with mercury exposure.
It's important to remember that medical knowledge and treatments have evolved over time, and what may have been considered the best course of action in the past may not be so today. The list of strange medical treatments and medicines serves as a reminder of how far we've come in terms of understanding and curing ailments, and how important it is to continually seek out and improve upon modern medical practices. While some of the treatments and medicines on this list may seem strange and unfamiliar to us, they all played a role in the evolution of modern medicine and should be remembered as such.
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Written by Mark Baldwin, FFPM
Mark Baldwin, a firefighting and paramedic expert, has transformed lives through his extensive expertise in IV therapy. His experience in international disaster relief and longevity research has led to innovative practices such as peptides, NAD+, exosomes, and stem cells, which advance health and wellness.
Medically Reviewed by Courtney Williams, FNP-BC
Courtney Williams is a passionate Nurse Practitioner who offers cutting-edge services like Hormone Optimization management and advanced Peptide Therapy to help you achieve optimal health and wellness. Her dedication to longevity and continuous education in anti-aging medicine ensures she is up to date with the latest research and techniques that can help you "live more and age smarter".