Curious History : Odd Remedies

The curious history of medicine is filled with tales of strange tonics, outlandish remedies, and curious “cures” that were used from treating everything from a headache to a sore throat.  While some of these unorthodox medical practices do work, there are an even greater number that don’t. Despite the crudeness of many of these old fashioned treatments many are still used as a measure to treat certain illnesses today.  For example, leeches are still used in hospitals today to help blood circulate through a severed limb to help it reattach.  This is a practice used for centuries!  Though leeches might not do well to help settle your stomach, there are other treatments that are far, far curiously worse!

The Ancient Egyptians were the first people to start recording their curious medical wonders. And my did they have some unique ones!

For a (long) period in Europe ground up mummies was considered to be the holy grail of all medicines.  Used for everything from the common cold to broken bones, ground up dead people was the go-to medicine for the Upper class.  The demand go so high at one point, that the mummy merchants decided to forgo the acquiring of actual mummies and just grinding up the corpses of random people.

In order to cure cataracts, mix the brains of a tortoise with honey then apply to the eye while saying a prayer.  Though I’m not too sure that using brains of any kind helped the cure along, the honey was one thing they got right!  Honey was used for wounds and lesions and is a wonderful natural antioxidant!

But as time progressed, cures just kept getting…curiouser!

Mercury has enjoyed a curiously long history of being an incredible medicinal cure for just about anything yet was most well known for being a form of birth control and just one of the many cures for syphilis.  Despite the fact that it’s always been known that Mercury makes you thoroughly crazy (mad as a hatter comes to mind), people have never let something slight such as paralysis, going completely bonkers, and a slight case of death get in the way of a hypothetical cure.

Speaking of liquid metal, a common cure for the plaque was drinking molten gold!  Brilliant!  Let’s speed that death process up a bit more!

In Tudor England the grease of a fox was often considered to be the best way to get rid of baldness. While it was most likely to be fox fat grease I think the foxes might have gotten the wrong idea since foxes don’t have a lot of fat to them!  It would have simply been easier to make one into a toupee and saved you from having to extract grease from the bloody animal!  But wait!  The Tudors weren’t done yet!

  • To cure gout apply to the affected foot a mixture made out of worms, pigs marrow, herbs all boiled together with a red-haired dog.  And it better be a red haired dog!
  • Helping deafness needs a mixture of the gall of a hare with grease from a fox (there he is again!). Warm the resulting concoction and place it in the ear.  Because you can hear through a gob of animal fat in your ear!
  • To get rid of head lice pour tobacco juice onto the scalp.  If there was anything so disgusting, I have now heard of it.  Can anyone tell me where one might procure tobacco juice?  I’ll give you a hint…they wouldn’t grind fresh leaves in a bowl…waste of tobacco.
  • To cure smallpox hang red curtains around a victim’s bed as the red light produced by the curtains will cure the patient. If only it were that simple!  The power of the color red would be a world wide phenomenon!

Now to the very famous and popular remedies: heroin, cocaine, and opium!  That’s right!  These remarkable medicinal substances were used for absolutely everything!  And here are some of the best!

Children Soothing Syrups were something of a necessity for most Victorian parents.  You had to worry about society and keeping up with societies growing trends that a screaming child wasn’t high on your priority lists.  With a solution like Soothing Syrups, your child is the last thing you have to worry about!  With marvelous ingredients such as morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium there is no need to worry!

Bayers (as in Bayers Aspirin) marketed Heroin as the number one cough medicine.

The original makers of Coca Cola sold the fizzy drink as a medicine with an added bonus; a slight dose of cocaine for a nice relaxing feeling!  Though the company was bought out quickly and the new owners took out the pain reliever from the mix, the drink is infamous for it’s seedy past!


Cocaine toothache drops were popular with children and with their parents.  Not only would the medicine numb the pain, but it could also put the user in a curiously “better” mood.

92 proof alcohol and opium mixtures were used…well, I’m not to curiously sure!  It was given to infants though!
A vapor treatment was made for asthma…using opium of course!

And it keeps getting curiously better!

Electricity has been used for many different things.  It has made our world brighter.  But for Victorian women suffering from hysteria…electricity was a true cure!  Now during the 19th century, a women suffering from hysteria might show symptoms such as back talking, laughing at her husband, or throwing a book at a tree.  Anything really.  And there was one cure for it…and I’m a little bashful to mention it.  However, this is a scientifically historical fact…they had to orgasm.  And where is the best place for it?  Your doctors office!  There were also numerous devices created to help rid women of their female hysteria and you can probably still find them today in Amsterdam!

Men, don’t think you get out that quickly!  You had a small love affair with electricity as well.  In order to enhance libido, many men resorted to electrifying…a place that it really shouldn’t be electrified!  A belt with a proverbial noose was tethered to the nether regions and worn until arousal was met.  I believe a small funeral should have followed!

Another lovely cure for impotence is the Peruvian shake made from frog juice.  Go ahead!  The texture would be the only thing that killed you!

My, I could go on with this fabulously curious subject  forever, but I think I might stop while I still like honey and tea!

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