Historic Medical Advice That Will Leave You Horrified

Blood Transfusions with Animal Blood: Believed to Cure Various Ailments Blood transfusions with animal blood were used in the past as a medical treatment for various… Alli Anderson - March 31, 2023

The field of medicine has evolved tremendously over the centuries, with advancements in science and technology leading to the discovery of life-saving treatments and cures for once-incurable diseases. However, as we delve into the annals of history, we discover that medical advice from the past was often misguided, bizarre, and even dangerous. In this article, we explore some of the most shocking medical advice found in historic records. Brace yourself, as these practices will leave you speechless and grateful for the progress that modern medicine has made.


Arsenic-Soaked Clothing Was Used to Treat Skin Diseases

In Europe, arsenic was commonly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a treatment for skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. Doctors believed that arsenic had a drying effect on the skin, which could help to reduce inflammation and itching. Arsenic was also believed to have a toxic effect on the bacteria that cause skin infections, which could help to speed up the healing process. One of the methods used to administer arsenic for the treatment of skin diseases was to soak clothing in a solution of arsenic and wear it against the skin. This method was known as arsenical fumigation or arsenic fumigation, and it was believed to be particularly effective for treating conditions such as psoriasis.

Molly Brown House Museum

However, the use of arsenic in medicine was controversial even during its heyday, and there were concerns about its toxicity and potential side effects. Arsenic poisoning could occur from prolonged exposure to arsenic, which could lead to a range of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Despite the potential risks, the use of arsenic in medicine continued until the mid-20th century, when safer and more effective treatments were developed. Today, arsenic is no longer used in mainstream medicine, although it is still used in some alternative and traditional medicine practices.

Science History Institute.

Leeches: The Blood-Sucking Cure To All

Leeches have been used in medicine for thousands of years, with the earliest recorded use dating back to ancient Egypt around 1500 BCE. Leeches were also used in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as in medieval Europe and in traditional Chinese medicine. The use of leeches in medicine is based on their ability to suck blood and their anti-coagulant properties, which prevent blood from clotting. In the past, leeches were used to treat a wide range of ailments, including headaches, hemorrhoids, and infections.

Medical News Today.

In the 19th century, leeches became particularly popular as a medical treatment, with doctors using them to treat a variety of conditions, from dental problems to menstrual cramps. However, their popularity declined with the advent of modern medicine, and the use of leeches in medicine became less common. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the use of leeches in medicine, particularly in plastic surgery, where they can help to promote blood flow and prevent blood clots in damaged tissue. Leeches are also used in microsurgery, where they can help to reattach severed limbs or fingers.


Cocaine… For Everything

Cocaine was first isolated from the coca plant in the mid-19th century and quickly gained popularity among medical professionals due to its numbing and stimulating effects. It was primarily used as a local anesthetic during surgical procedures and dental work, and also as a treatment for a range of medical conditions, including asthma, migraine headaches, and depression. Cocaine was available over the counter and in various tonics and elixirs, marketed as a cure-all for a range of ailments.


However, as the negative effects of cocaine use began to emerge, including addiction, cardiovascular problems, and even death, its use in medicine became more regulated. In the early 20th century, the U.S. government began to restrict the production and distribution of cocaine, and it was eventually banned for medical use in the 1920s. Despite this, cocaine remained a popular recreational drug, with serious public health consequences, including the rise of addiction and overdose deaths. Today, cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S., and its medical use is highly restricted.

Atlas Obscura.

Drinking Animal Blood Was Believed to Boost Stamina and Cure Diseases

Drinking animal blood has been a traditional practice in many cultures, particularly in African and South American communities, where it is believed to have various health benefits. In these cultures, animal blood is often consumed raw, boiled or mixed with milk or other liquids. The belief that drinking animal blood can boost stamina and cure diseases has been around for centuries, but there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. Some people believe that animal blood is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and protein, which can help to improve overall health and well-being.

Muslim Mirror.

However, consuming raw animal blood can also be dangerous as it may contain harmful bacteria or parasites, which can cause infections or diseases. Some animals may also carry diseases, which can be transmitted to humans through their blood. In some cases, drinking animal blood has been linked to the transmission of diseases such as Ebola, which can be spread through the consumption of infected animal meat or blood.

India Times

Chloroform Cough Medicine

Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling liquid that was first synthesized in 1831. It was widely used in medicine during the 19th and early 20th centuries as an anesthetic for surgery and childbirth. However, in addition to its anesthetic properties, chloroform was also used as a cough suppressant. In the mid-19th century, chloroform was commonly used as a cough medicine, often mixed with alcohol and other substances. The idea was that the sedative and relaxing properties of chloroform would help to suppress the cough reflex and ease the symptoms of various respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.


At the time, coughing was often seen as a symptom of an underlying illness rather than a natural defense mechanism of the body, so suppressing it was considered a reasonable course of action. However, it was later discovered that chloroform was highly toxic and potentially lethal when ingested or inhaled in large quantities. Its use as a cough medicine was discontinued in the early 20th century, and it is now primarily used as an industrial solvent and in the production of refrigerants.

The Curious Historian.

Snake Oil: Phony Medicines Marketed as a Cure-all for Various Ailments

Perhaps the treatment here that is used in modern day conversation the most is snake oil. Snake oil is a term used to describe a phony medicine that was marketed as a cure-all for various ailments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term originated from the practice of Chinese immigrants selling oil made from the Chinese water snake, which was believed to have medicinal properties. However, as the popularity of snake oil grew, many unscrupulous vendors began selling fake versions made from ingredients such as beef fat and turpentine.


Snake oil was often marketed using extravagant claims and testimonials, promising to cure everything from headaches to rheumatism. In reality, snake oil had no real medicinal properties and was often used as a placebo. The sale of snake oil was eventually outlawed in the United States in 1906, when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed, which required manufacturers to accurately label their products and prohibited the sale of products with false or misleading claims. Today, the term “snake oil” is often used to describe any product or service that is marketed using exaggerated or false claims.


Literary Hub.

The Horror of Lobotomies

Lobotomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting or scraping away parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. It was a popular treatment for mental illness in the mid-twentieth century, but it was also a barbaric and horrific practice that caused irreparable damage to countless patients. The procedure was often performed without the patient’s informed consent, and it resulted in severe side effects, including loss of memory, cognitive impairment, and even death.


Patients who underwent lobotomies often suffered from a range of debilitating symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. However, the procedure was often performed on patients who did not have a clear diagnosis or who were simply deemed “difficult” or “unmanageable.” The procedure was quick and relatively cheap, which made it an attractive option for many doctors and hospitals. However, the consequences for patients were devastating. Many were left with permanent brain damage, and some were unable to care for themselves or communicate with others. Lobotomy is now recognized as a horrific and unethical practice, and it serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of unchecked medical experimentation and the importance of informed consent.

Ancient Origins.

Drinking Urine: A Controversial Treatment For Centuries

The consumption of urine, also known as urophagia, has been practiced in various cultures throughout history for medicinal purposes. In ancient Egypt, urine was used as a disinfectant for wounds, while in ancient Rome, it was believed to have therapeutic properties. In traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda), urine therapy, also known as Amaroli or Shivambu Kalpa, has been practiced for thousands of years. It is believed to have a range of health benefits, including boosting the immune system, improving digestion, and treating skin disorders.

Candlelight Master; A Physician with a Urine Sample; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. ArtUK.

Similarly, in traditional Chinese medicine, urine was used as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including headaches, fevers, and digestive problems. During the Middle Ages in Europe, urine was also believed to have medicinal properties and was used as a disinfectant for wounds and as a treatment for a range of illnesses, including the plague. Despite these historical uses of urine in medicine, there is limited scientific evidence to support the idea that drinking urine has any significant health benefits. In fact, drinking urine can be potentially harmful as it can contain toxins and waste products that the body is trying to eliminate. Not to mention, it can be a source of infectious diseases.

Indiana Public Media.

Maggot Therapy: World War I’s Cure For Infected Wounds

Maggot therapy, also known as maggot debridement therapy (MDT), is a type of medical treatment that uses live maggots to clean and heal wounds. The practice dates back to ancient times when maggots were observed to clean the wounds of soldiers on the battlefield. During the 19th century, French surgeon Jules-Auguste Lemaire is credited with developing maggot therapy as a medical treatment for wounds. He observed that wounds that became infested with maggots tended to heal more quickly and cleanly than those that did not.

Geographical Imaginations.

Maggot therapy was widely used during World War I and World War II to treat infected wounds in soldiers. However, the use of antibiotics in the latter half of the 20th century reduced the need for maggot therapy as an alternative treatment. In recent years, maggot therapy has regained popularity as a treatment for chronic wounds, such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, that are resistant to other forms of treatment. The maggots used in therapy are raised in a sterile environment and are carefully selected to ensure that they are safe for medical use.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

Corpse Medicine: The Belief That Consuming Human Flesh and Bones Could Cure Various Ailments

Corpse medicine, also known as mummy medicine or medicinal cannibalism, was a practice that was once common in many cultures throughout history. The practice involved using human body parts, including bones, flesh, and blood, as medicine to treat various ailments. In ancient Egypt, mummies were often ground into a powder and used as medicine. In Europe during the Middle Ages, it was believed that consuming the powdered remains of a dead person could cure a wide range of ailments, including epilepsy, bleeding, and even impotence. Human fat was also used as a treatment for various ailments, including joint pain and wounds.

Psychology Today.

In China, human placenta was used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including infertility and respiratory problems. In some African cultures, it was believed that consuming the flesh of an enemy could transfer their strength and courage to the person who consumed it. The use of corpse medicine declined in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, as scientific knowledge increased and more effective treatments were developed. However, it persisted in some cultures and was even practiced in some parts of the world into the 20th century.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities

Radioactive Suppositories Were Used to Treat Prostate Cancer in the Early 20th Century

Radioactive suppositories were used in the early 20th century to treat prostate cancer. The treatment involved inserting a small capsule containing radium, a radioactive element, into the rectum, where it would come into contact with the prostate gland. The use of radioactive suppositories was based on the belief that radiation could kill cancer cells, and it was seen as a promising new treatment for prostate cancer at the time. However, the treatment was also associated with significant risks and potential side effects.

Museum of Radiation and Radioactivity.

Radium is a highly toxic and radioactive substance, and exposure to it can cause a range of health problems, including cancer and other radiation-related illnesses. Patients who received radioactive suppositories were at risk of developing radiation burns, as well as damage to healthy tissue surrounding the prostate gland. Despite the risks, radioactive suppositories were widely used in the early 20th century as a treatment for prostate cancer. However, as the risks of radiation exposure became better understood, the use of radioactive suppositories began to decline.

The MIT Press Reader

Trepanning: The Barbaric Practice of Drilling Holes in Skulls to Treat Illnesses

Trepanning is an ancient medical procedure that involved drilling or cutting a hole into the skull. It was used for thousands of years and was believed to treat a variety of illnesses and medical conditions. The procedure was performed using a variety of tools, including sharpened rocks, flint knives, and later, metal instruments. The hole was typically made by applying pressure to the skull and then scraping or sawing away the bone until a hole was formed. In many cultures, trepanning was believed to release evil spirits or demons from the body, and it was often performed as a form of religious or ritualistic practice. In other cultures, it was believed to relieve pressure or drain fluids from the brain, and it was used to treat a variety of illnesses, including headaches, seizures, and mental disorders.


Despite the belief that trepanning could cure illnesses, the procedure was extremely dangerous and often resulted in serious complications, including infection, hemorrhage, and death. It is estimated that up to half of all trepanning procedures performed in ancient times resulted in the patient’s death. Today, trepanning is not used as a medical treatment and is widely regarded as a barbaric and outdated practice. While some modern medical procedures may involve drilling or cutting into the skull, they are performed using sophisticated instruments and under carefully controlled conditions. These procedures are typically reserved for treating specific medical conditions, such as brain tumors or traumatic brain injuries, and are not used for general medical purposes.


Radithor: Radioactive Water That Promised to Cure Everything from Arthritis to Impotence

Radithor was a patent medicine that was popular in the United States in the early 20th century. It was marketed as a cure for a wide range of ailments, including arthritis, impotence, and even cancer. The product was created by William J. A. Bailey, a self-proclaimed doctor, and was made from distilled water that was infused with radium and thorium. At the time, radium was a relatively new discovery and was believed to have numerous health benefits due to its perceived ability to stimulate the immune system and increase energy levels. Bailey marketed Radithor as a miracle cure that could treat virtually any ailment, and the product quickly gained popularity among the general public.


Many people believed that the product was effective, and it was even endorsed by famous figures of the time, including athletes and celebrities. However, the product’s true dangers were not widely known until later. Radithor contained extremely high levels of radiation, and prolonged use of the product led to serious health problems for many of its users. Several people who had consumed Radithor developed severe radiation poisoning, including one man who had to have his jaw removed due to the damage caused by the product. Despite the risks associated with Radithor, the product remained on the market until the 1930s when the U.S. government began to crack down on misleading and dangerous medical products.


Treating Mental Illness with Insulin Coma Therapy

Insulin coma therapy was a medical treatment for mental illness used in the early to mid-20th century. The treatment involved putting patients into a coma with insulin injections to decrease brain activity and alleviate symptoms of mental illness. During the procedure, patients were injected with insulin until their blood sugar levels dropped, which caused them to lose consciousness and enter a coma. Patients were then monitored closely by medical staff, and the coma was typically ended by administering glucose or other stimulants to raise the patient’s blood sugar levels.


While insulin coma therapy was initially believed to be an effective treatment for mental illness, it was also associated with numerous risks and complications. Patients undergoing the treatment were at risk of developing severe hypoglycemia, which could cause seizures, brain damage, and even death. The use of insulin coma therapy fell out of favor in the 1950s and 1960s as more effective and less risky treatments for mental illness became available, including medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants. Today, insulin coma therapy is widely regarded as an outdated and dangerous practice, and it is no longer used as a treatment for mental illness.

Wellcome Collection.

Hysteria and Vibrators: The Dangerous Belief That Women’s Health Problems Were All in Their Heads

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hysteria was a commonly diagnosed medical condition that was believed to affect primarily women. Symptoms of hysteria were broad and varied, ranging from anxiety and depression to physical symptoms such as muscle spasms and difficulty breathing. The cause of hysteria was attributed to a number of factors, including sexual repression, overstimulation of the nerves, and even a wandering uterus. One popular treatment for hysteria was the use of vibrators, which were initially used by doctors to stimulate the genitals of female patients to produce “hysterical paroxysm,” also known as orgasm. This was believed to release pent-up sexual tension and relieve symptoms of hysteria.

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However, the use of vibrators soon became popularized outside of the medical community, and many women began using them to treat their own symptoms at home. The idea that women’s health problems were all in their heads was a dangerous and inaccurate belief that persisted for many years. Women were often dismissed or not taken seriously when seeking medical treatment for their symptoms, which could lead to serious health consequences. The use of vibrators as a treatment for hysteria also had risks, as the devices were often poorly regulated and could cause injury or infection.

MDC Teacher Portal.

Blister Beetles: The Application of Blisters to Treat Various Illnesses

Blistering agents are substances that are applied to the skin to cause a blister, which was believed to help treat various illnesses in the past. The practice of blistering, also known as vesiculation or vesicant therapy, dates back to ancient times, and it was used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, and rheumatism. The application of blistering agents involves the use of substances such as cantharidin, which is derived from the blister beetle, or mustard oil, which is obtained from the seeds of the mustard plant.

MSU Extension.

The blistering agent is applied to the skin, causing a blister to form within a few hours. The blister is then drained, and the area is dressed with a bandage. While blistering was believed to be a beneficial treatment in the past, it is now considered to be a dangerous and outdated practice. Blisters can lead to infection, scarring, and other complications, and there is little evidence to support the use of blistering agents in treating illnesses.

The London School Of Hygiene

Infecting Patients With Malaria to Treat Complications From Syphilis

For centuries, heat was used to treat mental illness, as it was believed that fever could have a calming effect on epileptics and those suffering from melancholy. In 1917, Julius Wagner Jauregg, an Austrian neuropsychiatrist, discovered the therapeutic value of malaria inoculation in the treatment of dementia paralytica, a complication of syphilis. Patients were injected with malaria and treated with quinine as soon as the syphilis was cured. This treatment was followed in a hospital under strict monitoring of the patients’ vital signs and regular laboratory tests.


Wagner Jauregg’s therapy was highly admired and used for neurosyphilis cases until the 1950s. While malaria therapy was effective in some cases, it was also dangerous and carried significant risks. Malaria itself can be a life-threatening illness, and the treatment required careful monitoring and management to ensure that patients did not develop severe complications. However, with the introduction of penicillin in syphilis treatment, fever therapy became less common. Wagner Jauregg’s study led to all the methods of stress therapy used in psychiatry, such as electric shock and insulin.


Blood Transfusions with Animal Blood: Believed to Cure Various Ailments

Blood transfusions with animal blood were used in the past as a medical treatment for various ailments, despite being ineffective and often dangerous. The first recorded attempt at a blood transfusion was performed in the 17th century, but it was not until the 19th century that animal blood transfusions began to be used more widely. At the time, it was believed that animal blood had special properties that could help cure human illnesses. The most commonly used animal for blood transfusions was the sheep, as its blood was thought to be similar to human blood.

Literary Hub.

In the mid-17th century, the first recorded successful blood transfusion occurred in England when physician Richard Lower kept dogs alive by transfusing blood from other dogs. Two years later, in 1667, Jean-Baptiste Denis in France and Richard Lower in England separately reported successful transfusions from lambs to humans. However, these transfusions often caused severe reactions in patients, such as fever, chills, and sometimes death. It was not until the discovery of blood types and the development of proper blood transfusion techniques that the practice of using animal blood for human transfusions was abandoned in favor of human blood transfusions.

Getty Images.

Horseshoe Crab Blood: Used to Test for Bacterial Contamination in Medical Supplies

This one is not a treatment for people. But a shocking revelation, nonetheless. Horseshoe crab blood contains a special clotting agent called Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) which can detect bacterial endotoxins in medical supplies such as vaccines, intravenous drugs, and medical implants. Bacterial endotoxins are substances produced by certain types of bacteria that can cause severe reactions in humans if present in medical supplies. The LAL test, which was first developed in the 1970s, is a quick and accurate way to detect the presence of these endotoxins.

The Boston Globe.

To obtain the LAL from horseshoe crabs, the crabs are captured and taken to a laboratory where a small amount of their blood is extracted. The crabs are then released back into the wild. The blood is processed to extract the LAL, which is then used in the testing of medical supplies. Although the harvesting of horseshoe crab blood does not harm the crabs, it can be stressful for them and some do not survive the process. Efforts are being made to develop synthetic alternatives to LAL, but these have not yet been widely adopted. In the meantime, the horseshoe crab population is carefully monitored and efforts are made to minimize the impact of the harvesting process on their numbers.

Getty Images.

Treating Baldness with Monkey Testicle Implants

In the early 20th century, a doctor named Serge Voronoff popularized a surgical procedure for treating baldness that involved transplanting small pieces of monkey testicles into the human scrotum. Voronoff believed that the testicles contained a hormone that could stimulate hair growth and slow down the aging process. He claimed that his procedure, which he called “glandular transplantation,” could not only cure baldness but also improve a patient’s libido, boost vitality, and cure constipation.

Getty Images.

Despite its questionable medical basis, Voronoff’s procedure gained popularity among the wealthy and famous, including royalty, politicians, and celebrities. Some even underwent the procedure multiple times, hoping to experience the rejuvenating effects that Voronoff promised. However, there was no scientific evidence to support Voronoff’s claims, and the procedure eventually fell out of favor as more effective and reliable treatments for baldness were developed. Today, the procedure is viewed as a prime example of the kind of quackery that was prevalent in the early days of modern medicine.

Berkeley Political Review.

Forced Sterilization: The Eugenic Belief That Some People Shouldn’t Reproduce

Forced sterilization is a practice of permanently preventing an individual from reproducing without their consent. This barbaric practice has been employed in various cultures and societies throughout history for different reasons, ranging from religious and cultural beliefs to controlling the population. However, it gained significant prominence during the eugenics movement, which was popular in the early 20th century. Eugenics was a pseudo-scientific ideology that aimed to improve the human race through selective breeding and controlled reproduction. Eugenicists believed that certain groups of people were genetically inferior and should be prevented from reproducing to prevent the passing of “undesirable” traits to future generations.


Forced sterilization was a central part of eugenic policy, and it was commonly applied to those deemed “unfit” to have children, including people with mental and physical disabilities, the poor, and minorities. The practice was widely implemented in countries such as the United States, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and Japan, among others. It was often carried out under the guise of medical treatment, and victims were often not aware of the irreversible procedure they were undergoing. The practice of forced sterilization declined after World War II due to its association with Nazi Germany and the exposure of its human rights violations. Today, forced sterilization is considered a violation of human rights, and its use is highly regulated and restricted in most countries.


Bloodletting: The Belief That Draining Blood Could Cure Any Illness

Bloodletting is a well-known historic medical practice. It involves the removal of blood from a patient’s body to treat a variety of illnesses. The practice can be traced back to ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians and Greeks, who believed that health was maintained by balancing the four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Bloodletting was believed to restore balance by removing excess blood, which was thought to cause illnesses such as fever, headaches, and inflammation.

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In the Middle Ages, bloodletting became a popular treatment for many different ailments, and the practice continued well into the 19th century. Physicians used various methods to perform bloodletting, including leeches, lancets, and cupping. Leeches were particularly popular in the 19th century because they were believed to remove blood without causing pain or injury to the patient. Despite its widespread use, bloodletting was eventually discredited as an effective medical practice, and its use declined in the early 20th century as new medical discoveries and treatments emerged.


Electroshock Therapy: The Controversial Treatment for Mental Illnesses

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electroshock therapy, is a medical procedure that involves inducing a controlled seizure in a patient by administering electric shocks to the brain. It was first introduced in the 1930s as a treatment for severe mental illnesses, including depression and schizophrenia, and was widely used until the 1960s. The procedure is still used today, but only as a last resort when other treatments have failed. While the exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, it is thought that the seizures triggered by ECT can alter brain chemistry and improve symptoms of mental illness. Despite its potential benefits, ECT has been the subject of controversy due to reports of negative side effects, including memory loss and brain damage.


The use of ECT has been a subject of debate among mental health professionals and patients alike. Supporters argue that it is a safe and effective treatment for severe mental illnesses that can significantly improve quality of life. Critics, however, argue that it is an outdated and potentially harmful procedure that should be replaced by newer, less invasive treatments. While ECT remains a viable treatment option for some patients, the potential risks and benefits should be carefully considered before undergoing the procedure.

Wiley Online Library

Mercury Vapor Inhalation: Believed to Cure Syphilis and Tuberculosis

Mercury has been used for medicinal purposes for over 2,500 years. Mercury vapor inhalation was believed to be an effective treatment for various diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis from the 16th to the 19th century. It was thought to work by stimulating the body’s defenses and promoting sweating. Patients were often given mercury to take orally as well as to inhale the vapor. Despite its popularity, the treatment was often ineffective and potentially harmful, with long-term exposure to mercury vapor leading to symptoms such as tremors, irritability, and damage to the nervous system.

Research Gate

Despite the potential dangers, mercury vapor inhalation was widely used until the 20th century, when safer and more effective treatments for syphilis and tuberculosis were developed. The use of mercury in medicine has since been largely phased out, and the dangers of mercury exposure are now well-known. However, mercury vapor inhalation remains an important part of medical history, highlighting the risks and limitations of medical treatments and the importance of evidence-based medicine.

Atlas Obscura.

Tobacco Enemas: The Bizarre “Cure” for Everything from Headaches to Typhoid

The history of tobacco enemas is a fascinating and bizarre chapter in the evolution of medicine. The practice first gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, during a time when medical treatments were often based on theories and beliefs rather than scientific evidence. It was believed that tobacco smoke could cure a wide range of illnesses, from headaches to typhoid fever. Physicians would administer tobacco smoke through the rectum using a specially designed enema kit, often with dubious results.

Antiquated Antidotes

One of the earliest advocates of tobacco enemas was an eccentric physician named James Graham. Graham believed that tobacco enemas could cure everything from cancer to cholera and touted the treatment as a panacea for all ailments. He even established a “Temple of Health” in London, where he would offer tobacco enemas to his patients, along with other unorthodox treatments, such as electric shocks and hydrotherapy. Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support the practice, tobacco enemas gained popularity in the medical community and were used to treat a variety of conditions, including constipation, respiratory infections, and even drowning. The use of tobacco enemas eventually declined as more effective treatments became available, but their bizarre history continues to fascinate and amuse.