Most of us are probably familiar with the practice of going to the doctor and being prescribed or given something, whether that be medicine or cream or something to get us feeling better. And with scientists and doctors working hard there are always new medical breakthroughs and new information telling us whether certain meds are still okay to use or if we should steer clear of them. In a sense, it’s always been like that. Take, for instance, heroin. We are now fully aware that kids shouldn’t take it in an attempt to cure their cough. Do we have your attention now? Great. Enjoy learning about these shocking treatments once used by doctors.
In the late 1740’s it wasn’t uncommon to attempt to treat asthma with boiled carrots, thanks to British evangelist John Wesley. Spoiler alert: this does not work.
Around the mid-1880s cocaine was used to treat a number of ailments from tooth pain to nervousness and headaches. The drawback? Only a lack of sleep, eating problems, depression, and hallucinations. Before the Harrison Narcotic Act in 1914, cocaine bars existed, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, there were an estimated 200,000 cocaine addicts in the United States alone.
Let’s shoot way back to the 3rd century when patients were being told to treat malaria with a magic word. Yeah, we’re serious. Patients were to write the word ‘abracadabra’ (solid word choice) over and over on a piece of paper, using one less letter each time; then the paper was to be worn around their neck for nine days before tossing it in an east-running stream. Simple enough, right?
Impotent? Try shock therapy! At least that’s how it was “treated” in the late 1800s. Not only were these electroshock belts said to cure impotence, but they also claimed to help cure kidney pains, sciatic nerve issues, backaches, headaches, and nervous exhaustion.
Last, but not least, using mercury to treat syphilis. From roughly the 16th century well into the 20th century, mercury was either eaten or applied topically to treat syphilis and other issues such as constipation.
Now we could go on for days about the crazy treatments doctors once believed worked to cure ailments, but we won’t bore you. However, if you’ve always been into weird medical history or you just found your new niche and you’re itching to know more, there are a ton of articles and podcasts out there brimming with information we have about years gone by. And if curling up with a good book is your idea of a good time, we highly recommend snagging a copy of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine. (get it here!)