10 Chilling Ancient Medical Treatments

medieval medical instruments

It is amazing to me how much suffering people have endured in the name of furthering medical science. From the first Stone Age medicine man until now, trial and error and superstition has played such a major role in medicine that were it not for the last hundred years, we have probably killed much more than we have cured. Some of the medical treatments you are about to read will shock you, and make you very happy that you were born in an era that is finally able to follow its own advice and “cause no harm.” Well, at least they cause less harm than they used to.

10. Bloodletting


A hole in the head is the oldest form of surgery. Bloodletting is the oldest known medical procedure. Back in the day, they used bloodletting to treat almost everything from diseases to wounds and even heartburn and acne. They would drain your blood or have it sucked out with leeches. This practice was used until the very early part of the 19th century. George Washington supposedly died of a sore throat; however, many believe it was the bloodletting treatment that actually killed him.

9. Clysters


Look at the size of that…!

A clyster is an old style of enema. Clysters were very popular back in the old days and were a favorite pastime of King Louis XIV who would hold court while receiving them. The usual fluid plunged in was lukewarm water, though sometimes medical concoctions were used, such as thinned boar’s bile, vinegar, and later liquid Tobacco.

While it still has its uses in today’s world, there have been several deaths reported in recent years of alcoholics who used enemas to administer booze. The problem is that it does not take very much to do the trick and they did not know enough to stop. When you drink or take drugs, some or most of the drug is screen by the liver before it can be dissolved into the stomach lining or get into the bloodstream. The intestines, however, absorb the drugs (or alcohol) directly into the bloodstream through the intestinal walls, which are absorbent.

8. Cesarean Section


The cesarean section, more commonly called a C-section today, was only performed on women who were already dead or if it were believed that she were dying anyway. It was not until the 19th century that c-sections were done optimistically saving both mother and child.

In the annals of history, there is only one case that has been recorded where a husband performed a c-section and his wife survived. She even went on to have more children naturally, including one set of twins. It was in the 15th Century, the man’s name was Jacob Nufer and he loved his wife dearly. He had to get permission from the local authorities to perform the operation and the only thing that he had going for him was his knowledge of animal anatomy. Way to go, Mr. Nufer! You can bet that his wife was relieved as she had already endured several days of labor and had worn out thirteen mid-wives.

7. Circumcision


I know of a mother who saved all of her five son’s circumcised foreskins and had a wallet made from them. It comes in handy during long trips because if you stroke the wallet, it grows into a suitcase. Ba da boom.

medieval-medical-procedures-circuncision-knifeCircumcision has been around for a very long time. There are cave drawings from early man depicting circumcision but most people, whether circumcised or not, have very little knowledge of why it is done. Several centuries ago, there was often a good chance of a child getting an infection leading to death or loss of the penis.

In today’s medical world, there have been reports of death due to circumcision complication in one out of every 1,000,000 cases. Other studies show that most of the nerves that promote pleasurable touch are in the foreskin that is cut away during circumcision leading to the argument that uncircumcised men enjoy sex more than their cut counterparts do. In another study, circumcised men are far less likely to contract HIV. Either way you look at it, there are pros and cons.

6. Bladder Stones


There is no way you could have convinced me to go see a doctor for bladder stones or gall stones if I lived back in the day. The treatment for stones was to cut them out. If that was not bad enough, the method for doing so was. The patient would lie upside down on a doctor’s aide. Other helpers would hold your legs down behind your head. Basically, you are upside down with your ass in the air. The doctor would push down with his left fist into your testicles to force your bladder into place and push his right hand into your anus. He would “feel” around until he found the stone. Once it was located, he would make an incision two fingers above your anus and cut the stones out, pulling them out through the incision or through your anus; whichever hand had the better grip. Then they would bleed several pints of blood out of your body to reduce the chance of infection.

If you are ever at the doctor’s office and he says that you have bladder stones that will not pass so they are going to remove them the old-fashioned way, kick him in the nuts and run, screaming from his office. I know I will.