In part one of this blog, we covered the first of such medical cures that were common in America not so long ago. Here are the remaining 5 – with an additional surprising bonus about primitive chiropractic care!
We don’t have too look too far back in American history to see some shocking medical practices right here in the U.S. In fact, near the end of the 19th century, doctors actually used heroin to treat ailments ranging from depression, coughs, colds, alcoholism, and cancer. Even before the practice spread to the U.S. from Germany, American doctors used opium as a treatment for surgeries and severe illness. However, its highly addictive nature wasn’t properly acknowledged until after the Civil War, when many veterans suffered from addiction. Thus, heroin was considered a safe, non-addictive remedy at the time!
Tobacco has been used for medicinal purposes in a variety of capacities for centuries. As late as the 19th century in the United States, doctors were prescribing tobacco to treat pain, hysteria, poisonous insect bites, gout, constipation, ringworm, ulcers, tetanus, as well as improve respiration and stimulate hair growth. Perhaps even more odd than this colorful list of maladies is the diverse methods it was administered—orally, externally, by inhalation, and even rectally.
Electroconvulsive therapy (also known as shock therapy,) grew out of the early 20th century movement to understand and treat mental illness, deviating from the traditional strategy of simply hauling patients off to an isolated mental institution. The idea was to induce patients into seizures using powerful electric shocks, which would relieve them from mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. In its early stages of development, temporary memory loss was a common side affect of shock therapy. Although still a high risk, last resort measure, the practice still exists, albeit advanced greatly since then, and the government has put in place new regulations to ensure informed consent of the patient.
Psychic surgery refers to the medical (mal)practice of creating the illusion of performing surgery without actually doing it, by using tricks such as fake blood and animal parts. Psychic surgery emerged in the U.S. at the embarrassingly inexcusable era of the 1970’s, when theologian Willard Fuller gained notoriety for the claim that he could perform dental surgeries without actually doing the operation. Thankfully, psychic surgery was immediately denounced by the FDA, American Medical Society, and pretty much every other institution as a hoax.
The modern science and art of chiropractic began just over 100 years ago, but the earliest recordings of spinal corrections are depicted in ancient Chinese, Indian, and Greek societies, which were surprisingly safe, effective and accurate in their theory.
However, not all were that advanced, since from the 11th to 15th centuries, “bone setting” was a common practice among “healers” in Europe. In fact, “back walking” was thought to be a remedy for back problems and spinal injuries, consisting of the patient lying flat on is or her stomach while the practitioner literally “trampled” or “stomped” on them! Even more bizarre, it was a superstitious belief that it was better to have a virgin perform the medical ritual, or at least a mother of twins.
The treatment of back pain and injuries actually regressed by the 1800s in Europe, when healers opted to treat patients by apply leeches and cauteries (hot irons) to the skin over their tender spinal areas!
We’ve certainly come a long way from all of these bizarre and brutish medical practices!