The history of modern medicine is fascinating.
But do you know about all the wacky shit doctors did through the ages in the name of advancing science (and, of course, their money and reps)?
Hemp seedsStrychnineBleachAll of the above
Strychnine has been used since Medieval times as a poison — a high dose causes severe muscle spasms and eventually asphyxiation. However, when taken in tiny doses, the authors say, it zings the nervous system in kind of the same way caffeine does. So it was basically Victorian-era Red Bull. Seriously: In 1896 one medical student wrote about micro-dosing with strychnine while cramming for an exam; he took about 0.02 ounces and experienced a near-fatal overdose. In conclusion: Stick with coffee.
"Doctors report: Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels!""20,679 physicians say Luckies are less irritating!""Give your throat a vacation...smoke a fresh cigarette!""More doctors agree: Your lungs will thank you for Pall Malls!"None of the above/they're all real.
Painkiller for toothachesAnesthetic for dental surgeryAnesthetic for eye surgeryHemorrhoidsAll of the aboveNone of the above
All of the above
Cocaine has been used as a topical anesthetic during eye surgery, as a numbing agent for dental surgery, as a suppository for hemorrhoids, and as drops for toothaches. Remember, cocaine is a schedule II drug the DEA says has "limited medical usage!," so definitely stick to Motrin.
A metal tool used to slice open the abdomen to remove poisonous material from a person's stomach before it could be digestedA small ball made of earth, red clay, and arsenic, which, when rubbed on a wound, was thought to have antiseptic propertiesA mass made of undigested food, plant matter, or hair found in an animal's digestive tract that was thought to be an antidote to deadly poisonsA wooden buckle thought to prevent toxic humors from circulating throughout the body
A mass made of undigested food, plant matter, or hair found in an animals digestive tract that was thought to be an antidote to deadly poisons
According to the authors, people believed that undigested matter from the digestive tracts of deer, porcupines, fish, and humans could be made into small stones that could counteract deadly poisons when swallowed. Probs a better call to just let the poison do its thing tbh. :(
Yanking bad teeth and boil drainageBloodletting and leechingAmputationsAll of the above
All of the above
Tonsures were barber-surgeons. Yup, spa day in ancient Rome meant getting a fresh one, softer hands and feet, and some good old-fashioned blood loss/major surgery. IDK about you but I like my barbers to be barbers and my surgeons to be surgeons.
Getting your stomach pumpedHaving your blood let to the point of heart failureHaving your shoulder broken and re-setBeing dunked in ice-cold water repeatedlyAll of the above
Having your blood let to the point of heart failure
The authors explain that Jacques Ferrand wrote a book on the surgical cures for lovesickness, one of which included bloodletting to the point of heart failure. FFS, eat a poundcake and listen to "Unbreak My Heart" like the rest of us!
LobotomyTrepanning, aka creating a hole in the skull"15th century haircut," aka scalpingLeucotomy, aka removing some of the brain's white matter
Trepanning, aka creating a hole in the skull
What's pictured above is trepanning, or creating a hole in the skull in order to do anything from removing a clot or even pieces of skull after a fracture to relieving pressure. In this painting, which is called Cutting the Stone, the trepanning is being performed in order to remove a stone that was thought to reside inside the head, causing "madness, idiocy, and dementia," according to the authors. Bonus question: Why is the surgeon wearing a funnel on his head and the onlooker wearing a book on hers?
Cold water enemasCauterizing them with a hot ironMassaging them until their irritating properties were releasedAll of the above
Cauterizing them with a hot iron
Sorry to make you think about this, but according to the authors, Hippocrates used a red hot iron to cauterize hemorrhoids. :(
A poultice of cooled mudA poultice of lentils and vegetablesOlive oilWineAny of the above
A poultice of lentils and vegetables
The authors say that Hippocrates recommended applying vegetables and lentils to the anus after your hemorrhoid treatment. Go plant-based or go home!
Cascading anus cleanserInternal fountain bathInterior soaking sprayInner cleansing geyser
Internal fountain bath
The authors explain that enemas were a popular treatment due to the belief in "autointoxication" — that the waste inside our bowels is poisoning us from within and the only way to avoid the many health problems it caused would be enemas. Lots of enemas. Fortunately, we know now that unless you're directed to by your doctor, you really don't need to do enema after enema (after enema) to keep yourself healthy. In fact, you probably shouldn't...
To wash the genitals and prevent infectionTo cure hysteria by giving women an orgasmTo cure hysteria by numbing the clitorisTo relieve incontinence by stimulating the urethra
To cure hysteria by giving women an orgasm
The pelvic douche was "a high-pressure water jet aimed at the genitals" in order to cure hysteria in women, explain the authors. In 1843 a French doctor explained that it creates "so agreeable a sensation" that it was important to limit each treatment to four or five minutes. OK, I can see this curing what ails you tbh.
A patient whose testicle was accidentally sliced offHis assistant, whose fingers were accidentally cut offAn onlooker, who dropped dead when Dr. Liston's knife almost slashed himAll of the above
All of the above
Dr. Liston was so well-known for his lightning-quick amputations, the authors say, that spectators would gather in the galleries to watch. But his speed came at a bit of a price, precision-wise. He once accidentally sliced off a patient's testicle. In another surgery he accidentally amputated the fingers of his assistant (who was holding the patient's leg in place and later died of gangrene), and in that same procedure his knife came so close to a spectator that he (the spectator) dropped dead "of terror." Not a great batting average for the good doctor.
A physician gave it to a patient thinking it was oxygen and the patient fell into a prolonged deep sleepA neurosurgeon used it as an anesthetic for trepanning patientA dentist inhaled it before pulling out his own toothMedical students were using it recreationally when one of them huffed too much and fell into a deep sleep from which he couldn't be awakened
A dentist inhaled it before pulling out his own tooth
In 1844, an American dentist by the name of Horace Wells pulled out his own tooth while under nitrous oxide's influence and discovered he felt no pain. He went on to develop an apparatus that allowed patients to breathe it in before surgery. Voilà!
in the 19th century, a physician found that inhaling chloroform caused giddiness and heavy limbs, followed by unconsciousness. This made it seem like a great candidate for anesthesia and it was used before surgery as well as recreationally. Because it was a great numbing agent, it was later used in cough syrups and lozenges. Unfortunately chloroform turned out to also be lethal, and once a few too many healthy patients died from inhaling it, doctors stopped using it as a sedative. Good call!
Anywhere on the pelvis was acceptableOn the lower right abdomen, or the "womb quadrant"On the vulva or cervixOn the temples as physicians believed that menstrual cramps were a psychosomatic afflication
On the vulva or cervix
Bad news, gang. According to the authors, leeches were placed on the upper thighs as well as on the vulva and sometimes on the cervix to treat menstrual cramps. Yikes.