Early to modern medicine - unusual facts

1. Cure – All

According to legend, Mithradates VI of Pontus attempted to become resistant to poisons by taking gradually increasing doses, in order to build up a tolerance.

Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, developed a cure-all out of a 64-ingredient composition of all known antidotes, which became known as theriac. Most of the ingredients were plant based.

Chinese alchemists used ingredients like mercury to concoct the “elixir of life” thought to cure all diseases and grant immorality. 4 Emperors died before the practice was discontinued.

European alchemists tried to create “the Philosophers Stone”, which was believed, could cure all ailments, and “heal” metals into gold.

“Theriac” was the elixir used unsuccessfully during the black plague, containing up to 80 ingredients like fermented viper flesh, ground coral, saffron, opium, and more, mashed into sticky syrup.

In the 1600s, small cups made of Antimony, a toxic metallic element, were used to “cure” wine over-night. When users became ill from drinking the poisonous wine, they were thought to be vomiting out the evil, hence the name – Emetic cups.

Frans Mesmer simply performed a hypnotic show, in which he claimed to be healing patients using their own “animal magnetism”.

“Snake-oil” salesmen were prevalent in the Americas in the mid 1800s, selling all manner of concoctions, claiming them to be mystical cures for everything.

Even in the early 1900s, cocaine was considered as a cure for depression, melancholy, and general dis-ease.


2. Bloodletting

Bloodletting was long considered a most effective treatment for a great many conditions. One of the most popular forms of bloodletting is the use of leeches.

A leech can ingest about 5 to 10 ml of blood in a single feed – almost 10 times its own weight.

The medicinal leech has been in use for thousands of years, but it was in the early 19th century that the leech really soared in popularity, being used to treat everything from fever to flatulence.

Today leeches are considered to be a way of restoring venous circulation after re-constructive micro-surgery.

In 1999 clinical trials were started to see how effective the use of leeches is in the treatment of frostbite.


3. Trepanning

Trepanning was a practical way to treat fractures and head wounds amongst ancient communities. A small hole would be made in the patient’s head, where blood could be allowed to flow out.


4. Stinky Practices

In Ancient Egypt, the excrement of various animals would be used to cure a whole range of ailments and purposes, including being used as a feminine contraception via insertion, or to chase away bad spirits.

From Rome to Ancient Egypt, the use of blood, flesh, and bone, taken from corpses or ground from mummified remains was often used in the creation of elixirs and remedies, thought to be potent in curing most ailments.

During the Black Plague, people kept flatulent animals in the house, ate “gassy” foods and even sniffed farts in jars, in order to keep the plague away.

In Brazil even today, Talapia fish-skin is wrapped around affected areas to treat burns.

Recent research suggests that smelling a fresh green apple can change your spatial perception, making rooms feel larger.


5. Creepy Crawlies

Maggots have been used for centuries to eat away dead, unhealthy flesh and clean wounds. Even in modern times this method is used “in a pinch”.

The beef tapeworm can grow to over 20 meters long in the human intestines. They were prescribed as an easy means of weight loss in the 20th century but are now illegal to consume.

Some people who get bitten by the Lone Star tick develop a sudden allergy to red meat, which is usually severe and lasting.

Chinese Black Mountain Ants are used in traditional medical preparations to this day, to prolong life, for its anti-aging properties, to replenish Qi (spirit), and to increase virility and fertility.

Said to be a general pain reliever and health improver, the use of termite paste made from the insect and parts of the mound is still practiced in Ayurvedic medicine today.

In parts of Africa termites are used as a kind of “African Injection” whereby the healer wills spread the medicine on the patient’s skin, place a termite on top and agitate it until it bites, and the medicine is administered.

The Jatropha Leaf Miners larvae is used to induce lactation, reduce fever, and soothe gastrointestinal tracts throughout India.

Grasshoppers are ground into a paste in Africa and spread on the forehead as a powerful pain reliever.

Some Mexicans use ground up grasshopper as a diuretic to treat kidney diseases, to reduce swelling, and to relieve the pain of intestinal disorders.

The venom of the Red Harvester Ant is used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, and poliomyelitis via the immunological reaction produced by its sting, in some parts of Central America and Mexico.

Honeybee venom is applied via direct stings to relieve arthritis, rheumatism, polyneuritis, and asthma in some parts of America.

Spanish Fly tablets are made and used as an Aphrodisiac and are available globally.

Wasp venom is being studied by scientists for its cancer killing qualities.


6. Weird Facts

You only breathe through one nostril at a time. Every few hours one takes a break and the other takes over.

After experiencing emotional trauma, humans experience an increased sensitivity to bad smells, and even pleasant odors don’t smell so good.

Eating meat negatively impacts body odor, so much so that it has a noticeable effect on the level of attractiveness perceived by those around them.

Of the 206 bones contained in the adult body, 106 of them form the arms and legs, with 27 bones in each hand and 26 in each foot.

Eggs contain an amino acid called tyrosine, which scientists are discovering, enhances our response time and improves our intellectual performance in the same way that Ritalin does.

Both yoga practitioners and high-heel wearers share a common trait. A 2013 study shows that, due to engaging in activities regularly that require balance, not only developed a heightened sense of balance, but also of balancing finances and more thoughtful spending habits.