Just when you thought Pepto Bismol was a weird medicine, looking back at what our ancestors used to treat illnesses will give you a fresh new perspective on what can be considered truly bizarre medical treatment. Here’s a look at just a few of the many mind blowing medicines used to treat various afflictions throughout the ages.
- Skull piercing
There’s the old saying, “I need that like I need a hole in the head.” The implication is sarcasm, but it looks like many of our ancestors used the phrase quite literally. For those experiencing a migraine, epileptic seizure, head injury or hallucination, drilling a hole in the head (a practice known as trepanation) was precisely what the doctor ordered to cure it. This practice has been around since the cavemen ruled the world, and some people even advocate for it today. Ouch!
- Snail snot
These days, if you have a cough or a sore throat, cough medicine is your go-to remedy for feeling better. But in the 18th century, snail syrup was all the rage. The “mucilaginous essence of snails” was what doctors used to prescribe for throat issues and even earaches. The recommended practice was to take early morning snails (while the dew was still fresh on their skin), remove their shells, and cut them open. Then instructions follow to combine them with sugar, hang them in a bag in the basement and allow the “syrup (to) melt and drop through (and) keep for use.” I think I’ll stick with the not-so-tasty (yet not-so-disturbing) option of Robitussin, thanks.
- Mummy Munching
From ancient Arab cultures to more recent European groups, people have been participating in medical cannibalism to cure a number of ailments and illnesses. Arabs felt no ancestral ties to Egyptians, and found it beneficial to grind up their mummies (anything from peasants to nobles) to treat a variety of conditions, and even clean their houses. In the 1500s and 1600s, Europeans consumed various body parts and fluids to routinely treat common afflictions such as headaches. It was so popular that gravediggers created a black market by robbing body parts from tombs and selling them for medical use. Powdered skull powder was used for illnesses pertaining to the head. The growth that formed on skulls mid-rot (called Usnea) was a highly coveted substance used to treat nosebleeds, and maybe even epilepsy. And human fat was rubbed into the skin to cure gout. It’s a curious thing that snail snot wasn’t upgraded to human snot for curing the common cold!
- Mashed Mouse
Ancient Egyptians used to mash mice to a pulp and apply the resulting paste to sore teeth. Sometimes the ground up mouse meat was mixed with other ingredients in order to treat other sorts of pain topically. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, cut up mice were applied to warts to cure them. Additionally, the little rodents were also used to treat coughs, measles, and smallpox. Seeing as it was the mouse’s cousin the rat who were to blame for the Bubonic Plague, the Europeans could not have chosen a more ironic substance for medicine if they’d tried.
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