History is full of weird and wacky medical treatments and practices – most of which had no basis in fact. It’s therefore no surprise that very few people in the USA in 1800 could expect to see their 40th birthday. There are many fascinating treatments so it was difficult to choose, but here are 7 of the most 7 bizarre medical treatments of all time!
There is evidence of doctors using bloodletting in the Medieval era and, shockingly, it was still used during the Victorian period. Before important medical advances such as the discovery of bacteria, it was thought that having too much blood in your body was bad for you. So, to remedy this problem, doctors would either cut their patient to let some blood out, or place leeches on the patient’s skin. This did far more harm than good, as sometimes doctors cut too deep and the patient would bleed to death, and infection could also be a killer. A treatment that had absolutely no benefits but could kill you? Brilliant.
Yes, unbelievably, malaria was actually used as a medical treatment. Before the discovery of antibiotics, a little dose of malaria was used as a treatment for syphilis. This may seem a very bizarre medical treatment, but it actually proved to be fairly effective because the high fever of malaria would kill the syphilis bacteria, and the malaria was then treated with quinine. This method is still used in some places.
For centuries, doctors actually prescribed smoking as a cure for a range of illnesses. This may appear to be one of the most bizarre medical treatments now that we know the dangers of smoking, but there is evidence to suggest that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease is much less likely to develop in smokers, and nicotine helps the symptoms of ADHD.
Herbal treatments are, of course, still used today, but they are very different from those used in the Middle Ages and the Tudor period. A popular but very bizarre treatment for gout, for example, was to mix herbs, worms and pigs marrow, boil it in a pot with a red-haired dog and then apply the mixture to the affected area. An apparent cure for baldness was to rub the grease of a fox into the scalp. Truly delightful.
Trepanation is thought to have been used as early as 10000 or 11000 BC. The technique basically involved boring a hole in a patient’s skull, which supposedly cured various psychiatric disorders or abnormalities as it would let the bad demons out of the skull. There are still organizations today that advocate trepanation as a medical treatment.
Purging has ancient origins but is still used today in slightly more sophisticated forms. The general idea is to remove the bad things from your body. The traditional way of doing this was to make the patient vomit repeatedly, but sweat therapy was used to get all of the bad things out of your body through your skin. Just think about how good you feel after a stint in the sauna.
Ok, so this doesn’t appear to be a particularly bizarre medical treatment as it is still used today. But today, urine is chemically tested and usually sent to a laboratory. A few hundred years ago, doctors would take a sample of urine and smell, touch and even taste it. How they would even know what healthy urine is supposed to taste like is a mystery that I don’t like to think about.
All of the treatments here are bizarre and disgusting so it’s hard to believe that any patients would even let these things be done to them, let alone that they actually ever cured anyone. What’s the most bizarre medical treatment that you’ve ever tried?
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