In today’s world when we think of healing someone, you probably think of medicine, vaccinations, and other common things that every doctor seems to use. However, in the past, before medicine wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is today, there were plenty of bizarre techniques used in order to heal or cure someone.
Below is a list of some of the weirdest medical healing treatments that have ever been used. While some worked, some didn’t, and today some of these practices are seen as outdated, and some are even seen as more damaging then they are helpful. On the other hand, some of these are still used as a way to treat various ailments. Not all ancient medical practices were thrown under the bus.
Humorously referred to as “treatment that sucks,” hirudotherapy is a healing technique that involves using European medical leeches. Despite the fact that this therapy has been used dating back to ancient times, today it has become very popular as a means to treat many different ailments. However, today, only medical leeches are used instead of leeches found in the wild as in the past. Leeches are used to treat ailments such as blood clotting, to relieve venous pressure to reduce swelling, to stimulate blood flow, and also to treat certain types of osteoarthritis. Today, hirudotherapy is used in many countries after its growing popularity after the 1990s.
9. Malaria Drug Therapy
Despite its name, malaria therapy wasn’t used to treat malaria. Instead, the disease was used to treat the widely spread STD, syphilis. Before the early 1900s, no one had come up with any type of treatment that could be used in order to treat an STD. However, this is all changed when Wagner-Jauregg, a Viennese neurologist, decided that it may be helpful to treat those infected with syphilis by using malaria-infected blood. Though this seems extremely dangerous, the neurologist believed that by giving someone malaria, the high fever would be able to get rid of the syphilis bacteria that was in the body. Then, since there was a treatment for malaria, the patient would be given quinine which got rid of both viruses. In 1927, Wagner-Jauregg was given the Nobel Prize for the inoculation of malaria, and his treatment was widely used until penicillin was discovered as a medical treatment.
8. Maggot Debridement Therapy
As gross as it sounds, this is another ancient practice that involves the use of insects that has recently gained growing popularity within the medical field. It is mainly used to treat non-healing wounds. Also sometimes just called larva therapy, this type of healing technique requires the use of disinfected fly larvae. The larvae are applied to the wound and for about three days are kept thee in a special dressing that prevents any type of migration. Maggots not only help a wound to heal by speeding up the healing rate, but they also help to clean the wound by eating away at dissolving dead or infected tissue and killing any present bacteria.
7. Induced Seizures
Tested by Hungarian pathologist Ladislas von Meduna, seizure therapy was used as a means to treat those who were suffering from schizophrenia. He came to this idea after examining facts and realizing that about 16.5% of patients with epilepsy who developed psychotic symptoms were relieved of their epilepsy. After he found a solution to use, including camphor oil dissolved in oil, he tried it on one of his 33-year old patients who was diagnosed with catatonic schizophrenia. On January 23, 1934, he tried the injection of camphor oil, to induce seizures, in a severe 33-year-old catatonic patient. After just 5 treatments, catatonia and psychotic symptoms were gone. Increasing his testing to 26 patients, Meduna achieved recovery in 10 of them and improvement in 3 more (in other words, a 50% positive results).
6. Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT)
In 1938, electroconvulsive treatment became known after Ugo Cerletti, an Italian psychiatrist, thought that because pigs were shocked into unconsciousness to make it easier for them to be slaughtered, that this would mirror similarly when it came to treating those who were mentally ill. Many believe that the electroconvulsive treatment works because it allows the brain to reroute itself. ECT is most often used as a treatment for severe major depression which has not responded to other treatment, and is also used in the treatment of mania (often in bipolar disorder), catatonia and schizophrenia. In the past, it was proven to be somewhat effective, and was used for many years. As of 2007, this type of treatment is no longer regulated officially within the U.S. Today, the treatment is still used worldwide, but it is seen as a last resort treatment.
5. Fire cupping
Fire cupping doesn’t take much explanation as it is exactly what you would think it to be from the name. This technique has been around for a long time, as archaeologists have found evidence of its use dating back to 1,000 B.C. This healing technique involves using a vacuum that is created by heated air that is warmed with fire that is then put into a glass cup and held against the patient’s skin. The cups are generally bell shaped and up to 12 can be used at a time. They are generally left on the skin for about 20 minutes. Fire cupping is generally only used in Chinese medicinal cultures and is often used to treat pain, arthritis, and congestion. It can also be used to reduce swelling and musculoskeletal discomfort and ease depression. There is no evidence that supports the healing power of this technique, but many believe it does bring about a sense of relaxation.
Trepanation is one of the few techniques on this list that is at times still used, but today is much more safe, reliable, and effective. Trepanation involves scraping or drilling a hole into the skull in order to expose the dura mater. The purpose of this is to relieve pressure and treat ailments such as intracranial diseases. It is said that this technique has been used since the Neolithic times to cure migraines, epileptic seizures, and many mental disorders. In past times, it was believed that this healing technique could cure any disease, since mysticism was highly popular during those times, and many believed that the hole would allow the demons or evil spirits to escape. Trepanation was also used as a type of surgery to get rid of fractured pieces of bone after a head injury or wound. Today, this procedure, often called craniotomy, is used to treat epidural and subdural hematomas as well as a way to access the brain for neurological procedures.
Bloodletting, sometimes known as “bleeding,” is one of the most ancient and widely used healing techniques in the world. This technique was used by the Mesopotamians, Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs, Mayans, and many other cultures in the ancient world. It involved the withdrawal of generally a large amount of blood in order to prevent or cure a certain disease or illness. It was widely used up until about the 19th century, which gives it a time span of about 2,000 years. Though many claimed that bloodletting worked as it got rid of “contaminated blood” and restored balance to the four humors, it often harmed those who underwent the procedure. The theory of this type of healing was based upon menstruation, as many saw this event as an act of a woman losing her “bad humors.” Today, the practice is rarely used except for a few special ailments and has been replaced by blood transfusions.
Moxibustion, often used in Asian locations including Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, Mongolia, and Tibet, requires the use of mugwort herb, often called moxa. It is one of the most widely used types of traditional techniques. The moxa can be used indirectly or directly. Indirect moxibustion involves grinding the herb into fluff and then using it while using acupuncture needles. Other times, in direct moxibustion treatment, the herb is put into a cigar-like stick and is burned directly on the patient’s skin. This treatment is often used to fight against dampness and colds within the body, treating feverish diseases, as well as weakness and even to relieve side effects brought by epilepsy. It’s said that the technique is able to turn a breech baby into a normal position due to the fact that mugwort acts as an ammenagogue, which stimulates blood-flow in the uterus and pelvis.
Lobotomies make the top of the list for being one of the most barbaric and mistaken healing technique ever used in medicine. A lobotomy was used in order to treat many different mental illnesses, including clinical depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and those who were considered “nuisances” by often portraying youthful defiance or mood swings. The height of lobotomy use came during the 1930s-1950s, one of the most notable users being psychiatrist Walter Freeman. A lobotomy was preformed by severing the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex. At one point, the use of lobotomies became out of hand. Doctors were performing 50 a day, and notable Dr. Freeman began to do them on live television. He even utilized a standard ice pick to complete the surgery. Though many claimed that these surgeries worked, many people died from them, and often times the outcome resulted in loss of memory and patients who were “cured,” but only by the standards that their symptoms were gone. In the end, most patients became idle and extremely dependent on their families.