The medical field has amassed a large amount of knowledge through the years. It was able to find cures for a lot of previously incurable diseases, introduced cheap medicines to people, and made discoveries that continue to be relevant for today’s generation. However, this wealth of information was not gained the easy way. In fact, most was gained through hit-or-miss experiments, leading to some strange medical practices. A lot of errors, brutality, strange decisions, and horrors contributed to what the industry is now today. Let’s take a look at some of the strangest.
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Trepanation was practiced as far back as 7,000 years ago, thus, it is considered as the oldest form of surgery. It is also known as arguably the most gruesome. Trepanation is the process of boring a hole into somebody’s skull to cure illnesses. According to an article by History, a history-based online site, people during those days believed that trepanation can release evil spirits that are possessing the sick and mentally ill. It was also used as conventional surgery to treat headaches, epilepsy, abscesses, and blood clots.
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Mercury as elixir
Mercury is a chemical element known for its toxic properties. However, it was once used as a common elixir and topical medicine. Centuries ago, people believed that mercury can cure anything. Scraped your knee? Rub a little mercury on it. Having problems with period regularity? Rub some mercury up in there! Some healers even promised that people who use this will gain eternal life and the ability to walk on water.
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A long time ago, people believed that an elixir containing human flesh, bone, or blood can cure persistent headaches, stomach ulcers, and muscle cramps. This medical practice was called “corpse medicine” that was thought to have magical properties. Healers would make their patients consume the remains of a deceased person that was believed to increase vitality and wellbeing.
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In the old days, it was common for children to die within the ages of six months to 2 years. This is around the time their first teeth are coming through. Medical professionals believed for a long time that the process of teething was one of the reasons for the high rates of infant mortality. Thus, the physicians developed a wide array of interventions to prevent children’s teeth to grow. According to an article by Medical News Today, one of the fastest-growing health information sites in the US, these interventions involved blistering, bleeding, and placing leeches on the gums.
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Centuries ago, more people believed that homosexuality is a mental disorder. Thus, scientists worked on finding a cure for it and invented lobotomy. It is a procedure that severs the connections in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, in the hope of bringing back the patient to normal. Lobotomy was a fun process for sadists during this time since this involved crudely piercing through the skull.
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The writings of Plato and Hippocrates once put pregnant women in danger. According to them, women who abstain from marriage and sexual relations can dislodge their uterus. Once they bear children, the fetus inside their womb can glide freely in her body, causing suffocation, seizures, and hysteria. Thus, ancient Greek doctors believed that a woman’s womb was a separate creature with a mind of its own. To prevent this from happening, pregnant women were forced to take therapeutic baths, infusions, and physical massages.
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Withdrawing blood from a patient was believed to prevent or cure illnesses. Medical practitioners once believed that getting sick was a result of a little “bad blood.” Thus, patients with a fever or other illnesses were often diagnosed with an overabundance of blood. To address this problem, doctors would simply cut open a vein and drain some of their vital fluids. In some cases, they would use leeches to suck the blood directly from the skin of the patient.