Uncovering History's Most Bizarre Medical Practices


| LAST UPDATE 07/30/2023

By Stanley Wickens
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We're going a bumpy, bewildering, and utterly bizarre ride through the annals of medical history. Buckle up, because these treatments are as strange as they come.

Imagine a time when milk wasn't just for your morning cereal or coffee. In the late 1800s, doctors were gung-ho about milk transfusions. Yes, you heard right. They believed that our bodies would use this creamy goodness from cows, goats, or even humans to whip up some fresh white blood cells. But alas! The reality was far less utopian. More often than not, the patients ended up knocking on heaven's doors. Unsurprisingly, this milk madness didn't stick around for long. Now, let's time travel to medieval Europe, where mummies weren't just for scaring kids during Halloween. Walking into an apothecary back then, you might've left with a powder concocted from ground-up Egyptian mummies. This gritty substance was the go-to cure-all for everything from headaches to cancer, depression to gout. It took till the 16th century for the penny to drop that this was likely just a massive misunderstanding based on the mistranslation of ancient texts. Turns out, it was the bitumen used in mummification, not the mummy itself, that was thought to have healing properties.

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Fast forward to the tail end of the 19th century, and we arrive at a hotel in Australia – the setting for one of the most bonkers medical fads of all time. Here, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers were advised to lie inside a deceased whale's carcass for hours. The 'discovery' of this treatment reportedly came from a tipsy bloke who face-planted into a rotting whale and emerged claiming not just sobriety but also a miraculous cure for his arthritis. It's anyone's guess how many followed suit before this fad faded into obscurity.

Finally, let's swing by ancient Rome, where cabbage was king. The Romans had an almost fanatical belief in the curative powers of this humble vegetable. Pliny the Elder was full of praise for it, while Marcus Cato the Elder even penned a 2,000-word treatise extolling its virtues. Among the most eyebrow-raising uses was injecting warm cabbage juice into the ears to restore hearing. According to Pliny, bathing little boys in the urine of cabbage eaters would ensure they never became weak. Talk about a creative approach to health! So there you have it. A whirlwind tour of some of the weirdest and wackiest medical treatments from our past. Makes you appreciate modern medicine, doesn't it?

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