Home Biology Old Medical Treatments That Would Seem Insane To People Today
Biology By Joe Burgett -

Old Medical Treatments That Would Seem Insane To People Today
[Image via Lia Koltyrina/Shutterstock.com]

The Once “Wonder Drug” Known As Radium

  • Time Period: 1918 to 1930s

Today, we are well aware that radiation and anything associated with it can be toxic to the human body. It is such an issue that we have to handle all radiation usage with extreme caution. Both Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium back in 1898 and spent their entire lives studying radioactive materials. It is due to their sacrifice that we know the effects of radiation on the body. Both Marie and Pierre believed radium could be useful for a lot of things, and they were 100% right about that.

However, neither truly felt it needed to be used outside of specific needs. Yet quacks felt it could be used to cure numerous health complications. In the 1920s, some had the wild idea about adding Radium to drinks. One man named William J.A. Bailey invented RadiThor, which was basically radium dissolved in water. The Harvard drop-out was not a medical doctor but claimed the drink could “cure the living dead” and offer “perpetual sunshine.” He said it could cure impotence, aging, and treat arthritis too! Unsurprisingly, this was all crap. Several even died from radium poisoning.

Old Medical Treatments That Would Seem Insane To People Today
[Image via Triocean/Shutterstock.com]

Ear Candle

  • Time Period: 1600s to Present

The Ear Candle has to be one of the craziest things one could ever think to use. While there are many old medical treatments that come off as odd, they can be forgiven usually. This is because there was at least some way to understand why the treatment was in play. Yet a candle in the ear just seems obviously dumb. Usually, a person laid down on their side with one ear up. A candle, often at least 12 inches, was placed inside the ear and lit.

The goal of this was to remove stuff from the ear like debris or other particles. The belief too was that the heat created some type of suction to remove even earwax out of the ear and connected it to the candle. Not only was this almost never effective, but worse, candle wax fell into the ear. This can cause burns and potential ear infections. Beyond that, people could partially lose hearing in the ear the wax fell into as wax build-up would be stuck inside the ear. Leading to impairment.

Old Medical Treatments That Would Seem Insane To People Today
[Image via Look4ward]


  • Time Period: 5,000 B.C. to 1800s

Trepanning began simple enough, as did many old medical treatments. This happens to be the oldest known surgery humans performed on one another. In fact, it is such an old procedure that it has been traced back to 7,000 years ago in some of the earliest known civilizations. The procedure involves boring or essentially drilling a hole in the skull. Initially, the idea was that you could let any build-up of pressure out this way or even potentially evil spirits that have gathered in there.

It was widely assumed that spirits were the ones behind any mental illnesses or disorders. Some done in Peru were performed for emergency needs. People might be involved in war and could have skull fractures from it. To remove excess bone fragments, trepanation would be done. However, the most common reason was the assumption it could stop migraines, epilepsy, abscesses, blood clots, and much more. It didn’t help at all, and many even died from the surgery.

Old Medical Treatments That Would Seem Insane To People Today
[Image via Microgen/Shutterstock.com]

Psychic Surgery

  • Time Period: Early 1900s

Imagine someone telling you that they were having surgery soon – not one performed by a regular surgeon but by a psychic person claiming to be capable of healing them. You’d likely want to slap them back to reality. Psychic surgery is a pseudoscientific procedure that is a form of medical fraud based on the illusion that a psychic could access otherworldly beings to heal you. Worst of all, they did this with their bare hands. Often, they used a finger to cut into the person and through sleight of hand, show that the person had lesions or even fake animal parts inside them.

Some psychics would actually really remove a part from a person’s body, whereas others would only cut in but not really remove something. The United States FDA and FTA does not allow this to be performed in the country but it does still happen elsewhere. Originally, it popped up in Brazil and the Philipinnes but it has since fallen out of favor there too. However, in spite of being one of the old medical treatments that have shown zero benefits, it has not been made illegal in either country. It is still legal in most African countries too as well as several South American ones.

Old Medical Treatments That Would Seem Insane To People Today
[Image via Rudall30/Shutterstock.com]

Sacrificing Animals Or Humans To Save Another

  • Time Period: 6,000 B.C. to 1000 A.D.

Sacrificing yourself to save another seems noble, but not when it comes to medicine. It used to be that people believed a God or Gods were in control of everything. Therefore, in order to get over sickness or a disorder, you needed to sacrifice people or animals to appease them. The same happened to ensure that rain comes or to make famine comes to an end. One very popular thing to do would be to have a priest sacrifice an animal near the person that needed to be “healed.”

If the person never healed from the problem they were going through, it was clear that they must have angered the Gods. Even if a child was the one affected, this would be the assumption. Either that or the Gods were punishing the child in place of a mistake their parent(s) made. If the person did recover, then the Gods must have been appeased. The sacrifice of an animal was performed to honor the God or Goddess that must have been angered.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

National Institutes of Health

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

Journal of Craniofacial Surgery

World Journal of Gastroenterology

British Columbia Medical Journal

Mayo Clinic

Oxford University

Yale University

Harvard University

University of Florida

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill