Old Medical Treatments

Medical treatments throughout history are often unbelievable, amusing and sometimes even terrifying. Thankfully and for very good reason, we no longer use many of them. See if you agree…

I’m guessing you might concur that today’s antioxidants, antibiotics, antibacterial medicines, etc. are a far more appealing method of treatment than drawing out toxins by strapping a dead chicken to a person. Yes, that was actually a thing.

The practice of “bleeding people” was also used in an effort to rid people of infections, as it was believed that too much blood could cause an imbalance in the body. There were various methods for bloodletting, including attaching leeches to the body so that they could suck out the offending “extra” blood. The possibly even more astounding part is that bleeding, first adopted by early Egyptians, was popular for more than 3,000 years!

Today, thank goodness, we understand that there are four types of infections: bacterial infections, which we treat with antibiotics; fungal infections, which we treat with antifungal medicine; parasitic infections, which are treated with antiparasitics and viral infections, which are treated with antiviral medications.

An interesting lot, the ancient Egyptians also blended mice with other ingredients – which are not nearly significant enough to list after mention of the dead mouse – to make a poultice for treating pain. If you think that was the gross part, you are in for a real surprise because this dead mouse poultice was also commonly placed in the mouth to treat toothaches! There were plenty more disgusting and ineffective poultices used throughout history, but we’ll just let you chew on that one for a while.

Apparently dead mice were pretty commonly used for all sorts of medical treatments throughout history. Maybe it was because they had so many mice and rats….enough, in fact, to spur the onset of a plague or two; but I digress. In Elizabethan England, for example, if you wanted to rid yourself of a wart, you simply had to apply a slice of mouse.

Mental illness also shares an interesting history with outrageous medical treatments. A particularly entertaining one is treating hysteria in women with orgasms. Hmmm, I think I may be hysterical, but seriously (sort of) folks, if we go back to ancient Egypt again, research indicates that crocodile dung was often placed into the vagina to prevent pregnancy. Don’t worry though because if you weren’t into that sort of thing, you could use elephant dung instead. Can you say UTI?

Let’s advance to head treatments, shall we? If you had a migraine back in the day, you needn’t worry. They would just drill a few holes in your head to relieve the pressure. Additionally, head lice used to be a pretty common occurrence. So, well before anyone knew about cancer, it was also not unusual to spray bug poison directly onto a person’s head to treat their lice problem. I wonder if the sprayer cautioned the sprayee to hold his breath. 

In the interest of keeping things moving, let’s discuss some of the sordid history associated with enemas. Yes, enemas have been around quite a while, but long ago they were much more…regular – thought to be a handy solution for a great many ailments, mostly among aristocrats and noblemen. That’s certainly one way to remain on the throne!

Remaining on the topic of bodily functions, remember that weird kid you knew when you were growing up who trapped farts in a jar? Well, he may just have been from the Middle Ages. Believe it or not, disease at that time was sometimes fought with the same ridiculous stink. Now, don’t go stocking up on jars and planning anything crazy. It didn’t work.

There were some old remedies that possessed a small bit of merit. For instance, Egyptians were known to use moldy bread as a disinfectant. That one is not far off the mark because certain fungi – think penicillin here – are proven to thwart the growth of disease. Then there is snake oil, which wasn’t always the shady elixir it came to be. Snakes actually happen to be chock-full of an omega-3 fatty acid that can act as an anti-inflammatory. In fact, Chinese railroad workers used it religiously for their aches and pains while on the job.

Now back to the outlandish. In 1863, an Italian chemist concocted a tonic of red wine and coca leaves which became very popular. No surprise there. Then, in the early 1900s, one of America’s most renowned doctors surgically implanted goat testicles into the scrotum of men in an effort to cure infertility or impotence. Now that’s just plain ba-a-a-a-ad medicine! In the 18th century, doctors were also known to treat stuttering by cutting off a portion of the tongue. As you might imagine, it wasn’t a very efficient treatment and some patients even bled to death.

Okay, maybe we should lighten things up as we draw to a close. Not so very long ago…maybe a hundred years or so, it was thought that male baldness could be cured by smearing one’s head with cow manure – no doubt a well-executed design of some woman somewhere.

As the Virginia Slims marketers used to say, “We’ve come a long way, baby,” and that is certainly a topic for another day. Thankfully, it is true though. We have come a long way when it comes to medical treatments; and clinical trials have played a large role in the modernization of medicine. 

The medical professionals at Velocity Clinical Research, who are highly revered for their clinical trial success, are devoted to making discoveries that are vital to the advancement of medicine, including improved prevention, diagnoses and treatments of illnesses.

If you would like to help build a brighter future by joining the dedicated team Velocity Clinical Research as a clinical trial volunteer, please feel free to call Velocity Clinical Research for more information at 386-428-7730 Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. Velocity Clinical Research is conveniently located at 1410 S. Ridgewood Avenue in Edgewater.