The 20 most bizarre medical treatments used throughout history show just how lucky we are to live in a time when medicine is so advanced.
You will never believe the gruesome stuff our ancestors did to their bodies just because they thought it could cure them. Urban myths and the lack of scientific information meant that as long as it did not kill the ones before them, it was worth a try.
1. Tapeworms For Weight Loss
What if we tell you that having meter long tapeworms going through your body can be good for you?
Let’s start by saying that the method works. However, it is dangerous and gross enough to determine people to go for diet, exercise, or Photoshop.
Tapeworms work by hijacking the body and extracting nutrients from the food we eat. In some extreme cases, the parasites extend their damage beyond the digestive system and can even cause death.
The method was first used in the early 1900s and survived until today in some parts of the world. Yep, people pay good bucks to get parasites inside their body, just so that they can keep eating as much as they want.
Don’t be fooled. Replacing your dietitian with tapeworms is just to get you started. The next bizarre method will make you feel incredibly uncomfortable.
2. Lobotomy To Cure Homosexuality
Let’s just say that up until 1973 doctors considered homosexuality a mental disorder.
Therefore, the scientific community was working overtime to find a “cure.” Our inquiry goes no further than the XX century. If you think it was a good period to trust your physicians fully, you should think twice.
Lobotomy is the procedure that creates intentional damage in the brain, hoping to bring everything back to normal. Yep, it was mostly guesswork, and results were contradictory.
Even so, the procedure was fun to perform and probably satisfied some sadistic instincts hidden behind the scrubs.
While first lobotomies would have to pierce through the skull in a crude way, the perfected method involved an ice pick and the eye socket. The thought of that was enough to make you a straight person.
The pharmacy of the medieval period was genuinely disgusting. Just read what people ingested to repel something as simple as a headache!
3. Mummy Powder For Headaches
If your kids hate swallowing even the basic simple aspirin, just tell them it tastes better than mummy powder.
When science was not around, the traditional medicine used a lot of long shots to figure out what is good or not. As you suspect, the Placebo effect was around the corner, just waiting to mess with people minds and make them believe weird stuff.
Powdering the remains of the ancient dead and ingesting them on an empty stomach was the least disgusting thing you could do to treat a headache. More extreme methods involved cracking the skull open and even chopping the head altogether.
Mummy powder was an over-the-counter drug you could acquire in almost every pharmacy between the XII and the XX century. Good thing the European Commission issued a ban on it.
Don’t miss the next medical procedure that makes today’s surgery look like a massage!
4. Cure Bed-Wetting And Everything Else With Dead Mouse Paste
Mouse-based products were a staple product in every pharmacy of the past.
However, the benefits of the shy rodent were accessible even to the ordinary folks from the countryside. Cutting a mouse in two and applying it on the skin was a known remedy for warts. It mysteriously survived until the last century.
It doesn’t end there. People back then were convinced that ingesting a paste made out of mice works in mysterious ways to treat all sorts of real and imaginary conditions.
Hysterical women and kids wetting the bed were also forced to swallow the bad medicine. Packed with the poor dental hygiene standard to that times, what results is beyond the grotesque.
Our ancestors possessed a crude way of practicing medicine. Check out the next bizarre medical treatment that will make you bless the modern age.
5. Tongue Cutting For Stuttering
Cutting the tongue and letting the blood flee the body was a practice widely believed to be therapeutical.
Physicians of the time were so thrilled about the procedure that they used it to treat almost anything. A defect as simple as stuttering would have made you hate your parents for calling the creepy man with the scalpel.
Let’s just add the fact that almost every incision led to an infection. With no knowledge of the microorganism just waiting to penetrate the human flesh, the complications following the intervention appeared as a reflection of that person’s sins.
Although not implying blood or eating disgusting stuff, the next bizarre technique would make you grind your teeth. Just watch!
6. Snake Massage
Even the modern times have their fair share of weird stuff. Snake massage is a big thing in some parts of the world and is taking over the industry at a phenomenal rate.
Nothing beats a deep muscle massage. But hour-long sessions can leave even the most experienced masseurs exhausted and dread the job.
As always, nature comes to the rescue and puts on our backs a creature that applies pressure and caresses other animals for a living. Meet the python, anaconda, and boa. They are constrictor snakes, which means they kill their prey by restricting blood flow through the body.
Although it sounds dangerous, you need to know that the snakes used in massage parlors are fed before the session starts, just to make any naughty thoughts go away.
The next bizarre medical treatment was so random it is unbelievable. Modern scientists were amazed of the discovery!
7. Moldy Bread To Disinfect Wounds
What did the ancient Egyptians do with spoiled bread? Why, rub it on their injuries, silly!
At this point, it’s important to understand the shaky start of medical science. It was enough for someone to observe a positive effect and trace it down across multiple cases. Once the word was out, everyone would use the method.
We don’t know what led the first to try moldy bread on a wound, but it worked. As you probably know, penicillin is very similar to fungi that ruin old food in your fridge.
You will be surprised to know that what Alexander Fleming discovered in 1928 was already in use for a long time.
Check out the hilarious way people thought they could fight the plague!
8. Using Goat Farts To Fight The Plague
If you believe goats are good at one thing only, you are wrong.
Back when the plague hit Europe in the XIV century, people were desperate to find a solution to keep them and their families alive. Ingenious individuals went as far as to suggest farts can limit the reach of the devastating disease.
Although it looks like another long shot, there was a real reason that made people believe what is utter nonsense to us. Medieval folks considered that the Black Death spread through toxic vapors in the air.
Using the common misconception of the time that “like cures like,” people felt that the gasses of their animals (and even their own) could keep the plague away.
We owe to those troubled times the practice of smelling each other’s farts as a way of bonding and establishing trust between individuals.
Moving on to the next bizarre practice, it seems that letting disgusting creatures eat your blood is good for you.
9. Leech Therapy
Leech therapy goes hand in hand with bloodletting. To be more exact, ancient people thought one is sick for having too much blood in the system.
Let’s make it clear from the beginning. There is no scientific proof to back that and the positive effects experienced after removing some of the blood are just psychological.
Despite all that, the practice survived and is very popular as we speak. There will always be someone wearing a white coat and sitting on the fringes of mainstream science saying you should treat your heart condition with leeches.
Despite the nonsense, leech therapy survived because it poses no threat. In controlled conditions, letting those blood-suckers feed on you can even turn fun.
On the other hand, donating blood for someone in need is what normal people do when they fell they have too much inside them.
It hurts just to see! Check out the incredibly uncomfortable procedure people undergo to become taller.
10. Bone Fractures To Make The Legs Longer
When being tall is associated with success, people let nothing stand in their way.
Excruciating pain, being stuck in a hospital bed for months in a row, and a long process of recovery are the downsides of performing orthopedic surgery to lengthen the leg bones.
Yep, you heard right! No miraculous drug makes you grow over night. Instead, those unsatisfied with Mother Nature’s blueprints have no other option than to perform a complicated surgery.
Bones are cut in two and medics mess with the healing process so that extra material adds up. The practice became very popular in China, a country whose population is known for the small average height.
How do rational people deal with being short? They wear shoes with higher heels and try to come to terms with their disadvantage. Just take Tom Cruise or Nicolas Sarkozy as your role model.
Check out the next bizarre and rudimentary technique!
11. Ant Mandible Sutures
You are stranded in the middle of the jungle with a deep wound you need to close before it gets infected.
Left without the strings of modern medicine, you could make use of an ancient technique that is as effective as it is creepy. Ant mandibles work as an excellent replacement for the surgical thread.
The technique is simple. All you need to do is piss off some soldier ants (the big one guarding the colony). Once their mandibles get a good hold of each side of the wound, they will never let go.
The next step is to separate the head from the rest of the body. You don’t want ants crawling inside your scar tissue. There you go! Good as new!
Don’t leave just yet! The next bizarre medical procedure taken out of folklore relies on the belief that “one nail drives out another.”
12. Malaria To Cure Syphilis
Forget what they told you in medical school.
Some diseases are good because they drive others away. However, the method fails to specify how the circle ends.
Malaria infection was intentionally used to treat advanced syphilis. You need to know the backstory. Before antibiotics became available, syphilis was one of the worst diseases you could get your hands on (or other body parts).
The late stages of syphilis are so painful that people would accept any other end. Malaria looks like a simple cold when you put next to the prospect of having your brain ruined.
To be more precise, it was the high fever that physician sought. Ancient Greeks first sensed the technique in an entirely different context. Good thing we have penicillin now!
The next bizarre medical treatment most likely caused WW2.
13. Crystal Meth Instead Of Coffee
Have you ever been curious why Hitler always showed himself inexhaustible to the masses?
It was not coffee that gave the Fuhrer his legendary stamina. Many decades after his fall it was revealed that Hitler abused crystal meth in a way that ruined any remains of clear thinking.
Pervitin was the name of the drug based on Methamphetamine and given to German soldiers during WWII. They relied on its stimulating effect on the nervous system to keep fighters alert and ready for combat.
Some go as far as saying that the fulminant success of the Wehrmacht in the early stages of the war was because Germans (starting from the very top) used drugs.
Beauty products also made use of weird substances. Check out the following bizarre popular belief thoroughly disproven by modern science.
14. Arsenic As A Cosmetic
Suffering for beauty has roots that stretch a long way back in time.
Everyone knows today that arsenic equals poison. However, before it came under scrutiny, the metalloid was a common ingredient in many beauty recipes.
Yep, desperate to look beautiful, women put all kind of weird stuff on their faces. Arsenic remained in the makeup box as recent as the Victorian era.
Just search for ads promoting old beauty products. They wrote “Arsenic” in bold with the same pride they use today to highlight the importance of natural ingredients.
We will end the list in style. Check an incredible belief that prevailed throughout the Middle Ages.
15. Powder Of Sympathy For Sword Wounds
Medieval medicine was heading in the right direction when it stated that you should focus on the cause instead of the symptoms.
However, they went miles beyond common sense. The Powder of Sympathy was a magical compound believed to heal sword wounds. We are sorry to make you sick in the stomach, but we have to tell you the ingredients.
The “medics” of the time used earthworms, pigs’ brain, rust, and the polyvalent mummy powder. You will be relieved to know patients were not required to ingest it. The odd mixture was applied not on the skin, but on the weapon that caused the harm.