10 BANNED MEDICAL PRACTICES You Won't Believe EXISTED!
Miracles of modern medicine have made it so that the treatments we go through aren't as deadly as the diseases they cure. Throughout history, though, that wasn't always the case. From medieval times to as late as the World War II era, certain medical treatments likely did more harm to the patient than good. For this installment from Top10Archive, we are going to explore some popular medical treatments that could have killed the individual before curing them.
While we’re on this string of deadly substances used as medical treatments, let’s end with mercury, a toxic substance known for its poisonous and fatal effects. During the Renaissance and into the early 20th century, mercury was a used as a popular method of treating diseases like syphilis. Ancient Chinese alchemists combined the substance with sulfur and arsenic to create a brew promising eternal life and the ability to walk on water. In the case of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, though, many were likely to have perished from any of mercury’s poisonous effects, including kidney or liver damage.
Arsenic for Fevers / Headaches
Watch any murder mystery flick or television show over the past two decades, and the likely agent for the death will be arsenic. With potent deadly qualities, it’s no secret why people don’t ingest arsenic on the fly; but arsenic was once used as a medical remedy to cure ailments like fevers, headaches, syphilis, and blood diseases. Arsenic has since been synthesized to be used safely in the treatment of cancers, but in its raw form, the element is sure to pack quite the deadly punch.
It’s hard these days to talk about crystal meth and not think of the television series, Breaking Bad; but the drug was quite popular long before Vince Gilligan made it the focus of his drama series. It wasn’t too long ago – only about 75 years ago – that the life altering drug was used as a common remedy. Initially, meth was used during World War II to keep troops awake. Shortly after in the 1950s, methamphetamine started to pop up as a diet aid and a means to fight depression. What people didn’t know at the time is that extreme addiction and death were also some of the potential side effects.
During the 1920’s, there were no Tylenol Cough Syrups or other cough suppressants to help a child with a chronic cough. So, the German drug distributor and modern aspirin producer, Bayer, turned to a rather unconventional method. The drug giant turned to advertising heroin as a form of cough relief for children, unaware at the time of the opiate’s completely addictive and highly deadly attributes – qualities that were likely elevated in the body of a small youth.
Nowadays, there are many methods in curing or aiding depression. When Sigmund Freud practiced psychology, the situation was a little more bleak. This is why, as a popular treatment method, Freud would prescribe a healthy dosage of cocaine to treat his patients. The treatment originally caught on in the early 19th century and was later prescribed to patients suffering from migraines and toothaches. Of course, cocaine won’t kill you in an instant, but prolonged use of the propane alkaloid can lead to a deadly addiction. Cocaine is still present in modern medicine, though its use is extremely limited as a local anesthetic.
Maybe angsty teenagers with a penchant for cutting are onto something. Before modern medicine came into play, historical medical practitioners thought that simply releasing “bad blood” from a patient’s body was enough to cure them. Hippocrates and Galen, influential physicians of their time, believed the human body to be composed of four balanced elements – yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood. They believed that illnesses were caused by an imbalance, which is why it was believed that patients with a fever were suffering from an overabundance of blood. The problem? Patients would have their veins cut, a procedure that could easily lead to one bleeding out or susceptible to deadly infections.
Malaria to Treat Syphilis
Utilized in the 1920’s, Australian physician Julius Wagner-Jauregg implemented an insane treatment for syphilis by injecting patients with something. What was that something? Oh, just your common case of deadly malaria. According to the Noble Peace Prize he was awarded in 1927, Julius was apparently onto something – but what seems to be left out of consideration is that the patient would now likely contract malaria, a life threatening virus that, in the 1920’s, there was certainly no cure for; but, hey, at least they don’t have syphilis anymore!
What surprises most about this practice is that it is still popularly used today – just maybe not by many physicians. The act of trepanation would have the patient, who was typically suffering from intense headaches or chronic fatigue, would subject themselves to having a hole drilled into their skull. In the right hands, the procedure isn’t necessarily fatal, but all it takes is one slip or a miscalculation for everything to go from stable to downright deadly. In modern times, trepanation has become something that people still do and are likely to perform on themselves if medical professionals refuse to do the procedure – and chances are, they will refuse.
Cannibalism and Blood Drinking
Several historical figures and likely plenty of aristocrats thought that bathing in the blood of virgins was a secret to eternal youth. That method starts to sound somewhat sane when you consider that some ancient medical remedies included consuming human flesh or bone. Romans believed that the blood of fallen gladiators was the perfect cure for epilepsy while King Charles II would often end his day with a concoction of alcohol and crumbled human skull. With blood diseases potentially rampant, there’s no telling what could be contracted in consuming human blood and flesh. It’s likely that this medical treatment would dish out more harm than provide any good.
Animal Dung Ointments and Cures
Nothing says medical remedy like animal or human feces. Right? Popularized during ancient Egypt, it was believed that animal dung was a good cure-all as well as the perfect repellent of evil or bad spirits. While some animal dung is found to have a microflora containing antibiotic properties, the use of animal and human excrement will also lead to infections that will likely do more harm than good. Untreated, infections of the flesh can lead to sepsis and, eventually, death. Suddenly, bad spirits don’t seem so bad to have hanging around.