People have tried a lot of wacky ideas in hopes of improving health and lengthening life. Among the crazy medical treatments of history there are countless tales of bugs and animal parts being used as treatment modalities, as well as many examples of excessive and unwise use of addictive drugs to help with treating some illnesses.
The Ugh Factor: Bugs in Treatment
Humans have long turned to nature for help in healing various bodily ailments. People have gathered herbs, flowers, roots, and mushrooms that they have found to have medicinal properties. Some of the more bizarre ideas of making up medical treatments out of objects found in nature, though, have involved various uses of bugs or animal parts to ingest or use externally.
The mucilaginous essence of snails was considered a cure for sore throats and coughs up through the 18th century. Perhaps since the thick gooey substance that snails produce seemed similar to mucus of the human body, or for some other reason that seemed logical at the time, people caught and processed snails into medicine. The recipe basically involved a pound of garden snails (recommended to be caught in the early morning when the dew is upon them), de-shelled and slit open, placed in a bag with half a pound of sugar. The resulting juice was to be used to treat consumption and other coughing conditions.
Another among the crazy medical treatments to use bugs in a creepy way was the infamous bleeding by means of leeches. Since the bugs naturally draw blood through the skin of their host, doctors figured that they could help people who were suffering diseases of the blood by letting the small water creatures attach to the sick person and draw blood out.
Some people continue to use animal parts for folk medicine in many parts of the world today, from rhinoceros horn to bones of tigers, with the promise of health benefits. The supposed improvements in health are never proven, but the damaging and destructive impact on many types of animals that die for the practice is indisputable. While crazy medical treatments using parts of various animals have never been proven to have any beneficial effect, they continue to be practiced by people around the world.
Oftentimes crazy medical treatments are based on a little bit of sound logic that is either taken to far or misinterpreted. Drug companies for centuries have been testing out various concoctions to treat or alleviate illness, many of which have developed into very successful medicines, and some of which had to be eliminated from the marketplace.
The makers of a cough syrup that seemed at first to be an amazing treatment for tuberculosis perhaps should have known they had gone to far with the feel-good effects of the medicine when test subjects who tried it reported feeling “heroic”. Thinking the new opium derivative would be unlike the addictive elements known to be in morphine, the company gave it the brand name “Heroin” and marketed it as a children’s cough remedy. In 1913, as hospitals filled with patients dependent on the new “medicine”, the company decided to pull it off the market.
Progress in Medicine
Fortunately, the history of medicine is not all filled with crazy medical treatments that may have done more harm than good. Doctors have learned from many centuries of experience, and experiments, how to treat most human illnesses very effectively, so that modern medicine is much improved from its past history. We are just that much closer to being able to build a bionic man.