Ancient cultures have been using strange and difficult to understand medical procedures. Even though, some of them have been the basis for modern medical practices, certain of those practices were extremely harmful and dangerous.
Lucky enough, these practices have been banned from use. Here is a list of 10 odd ancient medical practices.
# 1. Castration In Babylon and Assyria
In ancient times, medicine, wasn’t very well grounded in science. In Assyrian and Babylon, medicine found its cures and practices in magic and spiritual practices. Castration, was something done only by physicians in Assyria and Babylonia, as they were specialists, one of the reasons men would be castrated was for them to work in harems (eunuchs).
For example, the harems from Turkey, demanded the elimination of the whole reproductive system, while the Babylonians and Assyrians demanded only for the testicles to be removed.
The procedure wasn’t always done as one might think, and there were times when the testicles were damaged and crushed in such a manner to destroy the proper functioning of their reproduction system.
A process that can be difficult for our mind to recreate. For example, in Assyria was considered a serious criminal act, to hurt the testicles of a man. If a woman happened to damage one testicle of a man, during a fight, one of her fingers was cut off. If two of the testicles were affected, her nipples would be ripped.
Thankfully this barbaric medical practices are no longer used, but there is a process called chemical castration used as a manner to punish men for sexual crimes.
# 2. Cutting Infant Teeth
The words “cutting teeth” may sound innocent nowadays, but it used to be a very cruel medical practice back in the days. When teeth start to come out, on a baby, the process is known as teething, however, in ancient medical practice that started in the 16 century in France it represented a cruel operation.
When the teeth of a baby would start to come out trough the gums, utensils were used to slice open the flesh around the teeth, to let them come trough more easily. This medical practice soon spread across the world.
French medic, Ambrose Pare, was the one who initiated the practice, after examining the body of a child in 1575. Apparently when they were looking for the cause of death, and didn’t succeed in finding the cause, but they assumed it was something related to the gums.
They discovered that the gums of the child were very hard, and when they cut them, they realized that all his teeth had grown inside. If they would had done that when the kid was alive, they doubt he would have still died.
This practice kept on going, until the 20th century and it has created a lot of controversy. It is not known, how many children have passed away from teething gone wrong, but the unsterile tools that were used definitely lead to more deaths.
# 3. Poop Treatment
Nowadays, when getting an eye infection, we get some medical treatment and nobody thinks of treating it by rubbing animal poop on your eyes. This is something ancient Egyptians would not agree with.
The treatment they used for a multitude of health problems, was to rub the poop of some animals on an infection or wound. Apart from that, a mix of poop and other ingredients would be taken orally as a treatment for many health problems.
Poop from pigs, lizards, donkeys was used in several medicinal mixtures in ancient Egypt. The main goal of Egyptian medics, was to develop pus, which they thought was helpful for treating an infection. Presently everyone knows, that pus is one of the first signs of an infection, but Egyptians seem to have had an entire different view.
To treat Clostridium difficile, a cause of severe diarrhea, doctors transfer feces into the bowels of a patient, to take the place of the good microbes that had been destroyed by the infection.
# 4. Clay Consumption
A highly used habit in Greece was to consume a specific clay that could be found on Lemnos Island,.which went by the name of terra sigillata. They used to export the clay, and sell it as home remedy, that fixed stomach issues and diarrhea.
Even though there are many people, even today, who consume clay, as they believe its beneficial, the vast majority of people don’t recognise the consumption of clay, as an approved medical treatment.
The clay that was found on Lemnos, contained bentonite and kaolin, two substances used in modern medicine, to treat people with diarrhea. Apparently the healing rumors were true, when it came to eating the famous clay.
A similar remedy used today, is bark from the willow tree which is used to produce aspirin, which was also specified by Hippocrates. Bottom line, eating clay when dealing with stomach problems might be helpful, as long as we do it by the book, and not too often.
# 5. Tobacco Healing
The Native American world, believed that tobacco was one of the greatest medicinal remedies, that could cure anything.
Tobacco leaves, were grounded, smoked, chewed or simply applied on the affected areas. Funny enough, nowadays tobacco isn’t considered such a healthy substance.
Everybody knows that smoking tobacco can lead to lung cancer and severe heart diseases and we all are aware of the amount of the dangerous chemicals that are put inside cigarettes. However, the tobacco used by the Native Americans as medication had none of these chemicals.
Even when used in its natural state, the plant is dangerous, and can represent a threat for health. In the 19th century, medics believed that the plant could treat several diseases, like ringworms, hernias, constipation, and different infections, and could be taken in different ways, like orally or rectally, but also applied on the skin.
# 6. Retribution/Compensation
Around the year 1700 Before Christ, in Mesopotamia, King Hammurabi, developed a codex of laws, and some of them you might have heard before of, such
“Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
For example, when a specialized doctor would save a life, he would be granted an equivalent quantity of shekels, directly proportionate with the patient’s social status.
If it happened for the surgery to end tragically, or result in botching, the doctor would lose a hand, if the patient was an important social status. This pretty much meant that his career would be awful.
In ancient Mesopotamia, there were many kinds of doctors. The ones called ashipu, or sorcerers, would basically determine what type of disease each patient and was suffering from. They could also detect what kind of evil spirits were living inside them. Then, they would prescribe spells and charms to cast away the evil spirits, or would send that person to a physician.
These doctors would apply herbal remedies and plaster casts to injuries. The Code of Hammurabi applied to surgeons who utilized knives for their services. This law, limited the medical surgical options, because doctors would avoid to cut a patient, as they were afraid they would be harshly punished if something goes wrong.
Since the law didn’t say anything about the punishments given for using non surgical treatments, the physicians treated their patients with homeopathic cures, rather than surgery.
# 7. Partial Removal Of The Tongue
Hemiglossectomy, as you have probably already guessed, is another one of those medical procedures with strange outcomes. It involves removing partially a part of the tongue. It is even practiced presently, on patients that suffer from oral cancer.
This is a great treatment for removing the affected tissue, even though the patients remain with a misshaped tongue. But today, there are plastic surgeries and methods that help improve the patients’ lives who have gone trough this kind of treatment.
We cannot say the same about the patients from the mid 18th century from Europe, when this practice wasn’t used to cure cancer, but to repair, speech problems like stuttering or a stammering.
Back then, doctors it was believed that you can cure people who stutter, by to cutting half of their tongue. It is more than obvious that this method was a complete failure, as cutting half of the tongue didn’t fix the speech problem, and many people died because of their body got infected.
Just makes you wonder how many people were killed until someone realized this practice was not working.
# 8. Grub Worms
A practice done by the Aboriginal Australians, was to make medicine out of Wichetty moth grub worms, and use it as treatment for different damaging of the skin and wounds.
What they would do, was to put the worms into cuts or wounds that required to heal. The actual paste they made from the worm was indeed having a positive effect.
Once applied to the wound, they would wrap it with a bandage and this would keep the area safe from air and germs, things which helped to heal.
Presently, the worm is not used anymore for medicinal purposes, but it is still an important ingredient of plenty of aboriginal diets. Today, Aborigines, are harvesting and cultivating the moths, which are cooked in sand and put in hot ashes, to take off their legs and wings.
Locals, consider the worms a delicacy. If someone is visiting one of tribes, chances are they will be invited to try the grub out. You should also know that it is extremely impolite to refuse the dish.
# 9. Counter Irritation
When we think about it, counter irritation sounds pretty logical. When you have an itch, and you scratch it, you are creating counter to your skin, which leads to the development of an irritation cause, which is less painful than the original itch you wanted to get rid of.
Back in the days, this was much more heinous. When someone got injured, it was a common medical practice, to cut it open, and to pour different mixtures inside it, hoping that the new substance would help the patient get rid of the irritant.
A modern example of a counter irritation, used in homoeopathy is acupuncture. There are some people who are skeptical about the fact the needles could stimulate the body to release natural chemicals that kill pain, relax muscles or diminish the level of pain via counter irritation.
Another example of counter irritation, which is no longer used as an approved medical practice, is inserting the affected arms of a patient in anthills. Scary, right?It gets scarier. If there weren’t any anthills they would simply settle for acid or hot iron.
A different procedure of counter irritation, was to make wound and insert dried beans in it. In this way, the physician would make sure the wound will remain open, and kept if from healing, for weeks and even months. He would replace the peas as necessary. Also, leeches were used to soak up blood, on skin areas.
# 10. Mouse Paste In Egypt
Here’s another strange medical practice, this time, from Ancient Egypt. Most of the people who were suffering from regular aches, like toothache or earache, believed that the best remedy for their problems were mice. But wait, there is a trick to it. Toothaches were frequent in Egypt, mostly because of the presence of sand in menus.
Because of the harshness of the sand, eating it, would usually attack the enamel of the teeth, leading to an increased vulnerability of the nerves and blood vessels.
But for some bizarre reason, the Egyptians believed that dead and putrefied mice, were the perfect solution for this problem. The body of the mice, would be made into a paste and administered to the suffering region. When they were dealing with serious toothaches, they wouldn’t even bother making the paste and use the whole body.
When analyzing this strategy, we all know that it couldn’t have possibly work as a treatment, but on the contrary, chances were it created more health issues. Applying putrefied tissue to exposed tissue, is a very sure way of turning pain into a dangerous infection.