For as long as people have existed, they have always needed medical support. Sometimes our ancestors possessed knowledge so advanced that even modern medicine cannot crack it. However, most methods of the past were quite strange, if not dangerous.
1. Toothache was treated with smoking goat fat.
Even in ancient times, people knew how to make dental fillings and prostheses. A human tooth was found in Italy with signs of dental work, determined to be approximately 14,000 years old.
Some ancient methods were quite unusual. Avicenna recommended smoking the patient with a burning mixture of goat fat, henbane, and onion as a dental treatment. Pliny the Elder believed that the only way to get rid of toothache was catching a toad at midnight, spitting in its mouth, and saying special “curing” words.
2. Mothers delivered babies standing or sitting on their haunches.
In ancient India, they knew how to change the position of the fetus in utero. And in some African tribes, healers were able to perform a cesarean section with their primitive instruments.
In the medieval period, the majority of ancient knowledge was lost, due to the influence of the church. Midwifery was underdeveloped, and a lot of women and their newborns died during the delivery.
3. They used juniper and mandrake extracts as anesthesia.
Our ancestors achieved great results in surgery. In ancient Mesopotamia, doctors used alcohol and opium to help patients feel no pain.
In ancient Egypt, they prepared extracts from mandrake fruits. In India and China, juniper, cannabis, and aconite were used as anesthetic agents. It is hard to say how effective they were.
4. Chronic diseases were treated with physical exercise and holy water.
In the times of Hippocrates (460-370 BC), they believed that epilepsy was caused by God’s will. He was convinced that the reasons for this disease were wind, cold, and sun. In the middle ages, people with epilepsy were believed to be possessed by demons and were treated with prayers and holy water.
Ancient doctors treated diabetes with physical exercises and healing herbs, but this didn’t bring any positive results, and the patients usually died.
Skin diseases, like psoriasis, were considered incurable. Patients had to wear a bell as a warning to others to stay away.
5. Almost all diseases were treated with bloodletting.
Bloodletting was very popular in India and Arabic countries and was even mentioned in documents from ancient Greece and Egypt.
It was believed that blood contained “bad humors,” which had to be let out to cure the patient. In the medieval period, barbers took care of bloodletting. It was popular up to the 19th century. Even George Washington had his tonsillitis cured this way, although he died afterward.
6. They used snake venom and poisonous herbs.
Before antibiotics, people tried to fight infections with remedies based on plant poisons and viper venoms. Modern scientists came to the conclusion that the reasons for their antibacterial actions were small proteins called disintegrins.
In ancient Egypt, they used cannabis, opium, and henbane. In the middle ages, doctors added dried snakes and scorpions to their potions.
7. A tobacco smoke enema was a very popular treatment.
Digestion problems, somnolence, stomach cramps, and parasites were all treated with a tobacco smoke enema, a method adopted from North American Indians. However, in the 19th century, they discovered that tobacco contains poisonous nicotine, and these enemas went out of fashion.