Even in our modern times, a trip to the doctor's office is nothing to look forward to. But as recently as a few hundred years ago, the treatments for the most common diseases were very primitive. Some painful, gross. and downright strange cures remained popular for thousands of years. Here are 13 of the worst ones:
1. Medicine made from dead people
Throughout the middle ages, European doctors relied on "mummy powder," made from the crushed remains of actual Egyptian mummies, to treat some of life's most common illnesses. There was also a belief that ground up bones could treat related parts of the body.
Maybe England's King charles II had headaches, because he regularly took "King's Drops" made from crushed skull bones and alcohol. The idea was that a dead person's spirit was the "active ingredient" in these cures.
In case all of the warnings about fish and baby food haven't gotten the message across, mercury is a highly toxic and poisonous element. But in ancient Greece, Persia, and China, taking mercury was believed to extend a person's life.
China's Emperor Qin Shi Huang actually died from ingesting mercury pills. But they kept on being used - especially to treat STDs - for thousands of years.
Cupping involved heating the edge of a glass or wooden cup with fire, then pressing it against a person's skin - usually on their back. The idea is that the cup makes a vacuum that draws blood to the skin's surface, but studies say this is mostly hogwash.
Still, in countries like Iran and China, cupping has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of conditions like muscle stiffness. Records reveal that this trendy treatment - used by celebrities and athletes like Michael Phelps - may date back to 3,000 B.C.
There are a lot of interesting facts about farts (such as "he who smelt it dealt it") but they're not known for being medicinal. But when the Black Death was terrorizing Europe doctors instructed their patients to collect their farts in a jar.
Explanations for the Bubonic plague mainly involved "evil vapors" that came from the bodies of sick people. Breathing in your own nasty vapors was supposed to keep you safe from the disease.
To be fair, the plague wiped out as much as 60% of Europe's population, so people were willing to try anything.
5. Snake oil
Before it became a term for any kind of fake medicine, actual oil made from vipers was widely used in Europe to treat rheumatism and skin diseases. The Chinese made their own snake oil from a specific breed of water snake.
When Chinese workers built America's railroads, they treated their back pain with snake oil, which led to the term we still use today. Oddly, Chinese snake oil probably did work, because water snakes are full of anti-inflammatory acids.
A clyster is am old-fashioned term for an enema. While these are still used to treat constipation today, throughout history clysters were applied as treatments for pretty much every condition imaginable. To make things worse, the water in the clyster was usually combined with something like coffee, pig brains or honey.
In 18th century France, clysters were a sign of good health, and more health-conscious nobles would have multiple clysters each day. King Louis XIV was said to have taken 2,000 clysters in his lifetime, so I assume he was very healthy.
The cures just get even weirder from now on...