Thank Goodness For Modern Medicine, Part Two

As you’re reading this or at least at the time it posts itself, I’m at the dentist. I will come home from this excursion with a headache from hell. I always do. I don’t know why, but it’s been happening as far back as I can remember. Perhaps one of these old medical treatments Gill found might help.

From whirling chairs and sugar comas to half mice and patent medicine here are some medical treatments from the past that will shock you.

  • 1 Whirling chairs and sugar comas – These supposed treatments were supposed to help mentally ill people. The whirling chair circa 1850 spun the victim, I mean patient at a high rate of speed in order to settle the madness. Inducing sugar comas was believed to cure personality disorders.
  • 2 Tobacco enemas – are you curious on how the saying blowing smoke up someone’s behind came to be? In 1774 two British physicians figured they could cure drowning victims with a rubber hose inserted rectally. This supposed treatment worked on the idea that pumping tobacco where the sun doesn’t go would revive someone at the point of death. They were proved wrong in 1811 when scientists started drawing links between lung and heart issues and tobacco.
  • 3 Patent Medicine – Do you feel tired, does your wife have the vapors, your newborn babe not take the breast easily, or do you have the lumbago? Well gather round and buy Dr. Carswell’s Miracle Potion! It cures everything from hemorrhoids to insomnia. Throughout the 19th century people in traveling medicine shows would sell these supposed treatments. Most of the time they would do nothing or make the issue worse, and shortly after the dawn of the 20th century the products were deemed useless or even dangerous.
  • 4 Mercury – Now we know how dangerous this is, but many years ago people would use it to treat everything from cuts to sexually transmitted infections. American President Abraham Lincoln famously took blue pills laced with mercury until 1861 when he drew the link between violent outbursts and mercury.
  • 5 Half mice for warts – Back in the Elizabethan era if one wanted a cure for warts, no they didn’t reach for the W, they cut a mouse in half to treat the issue. Gross, I’ll just stick to the W.


Tell me of either an old wives tale, or outdated medical practice that has you curious.

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  1. Her talking about random medicines that may or may not work makes me think of the stuff in the book I read recently about plagues. There was actually a whole section devoted to frontal lobotomies and the main dude who promoted them. He had no idea whether it would fix your problem, but he had no objection to taking two ice picks to your head to see if maybe it would. And if it did, but caused other problems, oh well, and if it didn’t, oh well. Scariest of all was in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago.

    1. So was he doing it in the name of experimentation on those that society really didn’t have a use for, because he was nuts or both?  Neither is a good option, by the way.  I’m just curious because it’s one of those things I really don’t know a whole lot about.

          1. And by breaks of course I mean brakes. Not sure what the hell I was doing there. Let’s go ahead and blame waking up at 3:30 this morning for basically no reason.

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