25 Stupidest Doctor Cures In History

Posted by , Updated on July 7, 2017


Back in the day, there were some very odd medical treatments. Luckily, medicine has come a long way, and these old fashioned medical treatments are no longer used. Reading about discontinued medical treatments can be very interesting though. Curious about which of these historical treatments were no so intelligent? Here are the 25 Stupidest Doctor Cures In History.

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cocaineSource: nytimes.com

When Austrian ophthalmologist (aka eye doctor) Carl Koller discovered its anesthetic effects, cocaine started popping up everywhere. In the early 1900’s, you could just walk into any pharmacy and buy a gram of it for less than a quarter.



knifeSource: bbc.com

Basically, this involves cutting off part of the tongue. And that is exactly what some 18th century physicians did to stop their patients from stuttering.

Note: This is still performed today, but now it is a life saving procedure used to remove cancerous growths…and it’s done with anesthesia.


Snake Oil


Although today it refers to a fraudulent good, the term is derived from the fact that people used to believe in snake oil’s medicinal qualities. Needless to say, those qualities were pretty much non-existent.


Sheep Livers

lambSource: cbsnews.com

In ancient Mesopotamia, rather than inspecting their patient, healers would sacrifice a sheep and then inspect the sheep’s liver. Somehow they believed that the sacrificed sheep’s liver revealed the diagnosis of their patient.


Crushed Rodents

mousesource: cbsnews.com

In Ancient Egypt, they had a rather interesting way of dealing with toothaches. It involved grinding up a rat, mixing it with a few other ingredients, and spreading it on your teeth like toothpaste.


Urine Therapy

urineSource: livescience.com

Throughout history people have believed in the curative powers of urine. This included drinking your own urine, drinking someone else’s urine, rubbing urine on your teeth, massaging urine on your gums, and the list goes on.


Rotational Therapy

Benjamin RushSolution: upenn.edu

Devised by Benjamin Rush, an 18th century physician, he believed that mental disorders were caused by poor circulation to the brain. His solution? Spin patients around from ropes that were suspended to the ceiling.



moldSource: bbc.com

For years molds were used in various folk medicines for everything from the common cold to joint pain. While this isn’t the smartest, and it probably made a few people sick, we should all still be glad for this time in medicine because of Alexander Fleming’s discovered penicillin. (It’s basically a mold). Since then mold has gone from being a rather useless and silly cure to saving countless lives.


Insulin Coma Therapy

insulinSource: pbs.org

When an Austrian physician named Manfred Sakel accidentally gave one of his patients too much insulin, he found that it cured him of his morphine addiction. Following this discovery and up until the mid 1900’s, doctors would use insulin induced comas to try curing various disorders. Although it was sometimes successful, this was likely due to brain damage.


Hot Irons

pokerSource: healthline.com

As horrific as it sounds, at one point this was used to treat hemorrhoids.



fartSource: cbsnews.com

During the Black Death, some doctors had their patients capture their farts in a jar and then smell them. Why? Apparently they believed that “like cures like,” and since the Black Death was thought to be caused by deadly vapors…deadly vapors were the cure.


Pain Therapy

painSource: history.com

Some physicians in the 1800’s believed that pain had curative powers. It sounds crazy, but patients would basically pay to get beat up.


Fever Therapy

sickSource: discovermagazine.com

Yes, you read that right. Doctors would induce a fever in order to cure another disease. Crazily enough, this is scientifically sound. Why? Because it would raise the body temperature and kill off bacteria. In fact, prior to penicillin this was the best way to fight syphilis. Be glad you’re alive today.


Diet Pills

pillsSource: livescience.com

While diet pills are still around (and they still don’t work), in the 20’s and 30’s, they consisted of either hardcore drugs (amphetamines) or downright weirdness (tapeworm eggs).



TrepanationSource: mentalfloss.com

This was a surgical intervention in which a hole was drilled into the patients skull in order to release evil spirits.

Note: drilling a hole in the skull is still done in modern medicine, except now it is called a craniotomy. It is done to release pressure in the skull from blood buildup and also to create access for other surgical procedures.



heroinSource: pbs.org

In case you didn’t know, heroin was actually first developed by Bayer, and one of its initial uses included suppressing coughs.



Cold Therapy

frozenSource: history.com

While cold therapy (cryotherapy) still plays a significant role in healthcare today, it’s not what it used to be as patients would be refrigerated for sometimes days at a time.


Impotence Shock Therapy

electricitySource: reuters.com

While electrical shocks play a major role in modern medicine (defibrillators for example), in the past some medical companies advertised “shock belts” that would deliver a bolt to your genitals in order to decrease impotence.



hoseSource: mentalfloss.com

Back in the day, mentally unstable patients were often treated with freezing, high pressure water jets.



mercurySource: history.com

For hundreds of years mercury had been used to treat various ailments including typhoid and syphilis. It wasn’t until more recently that scientists realized it was poison.



brainSource: livescience.com

This controversial technique was developed in the 1940’s by Portuguese physician António Egas Moniz, who eventually and controversially won a Nobel Prize. Basically, a lobotomy would involve scraping away pieces of the brain. Although it did have positive effects, they were usually outdone by strong negative side effects. Not surprisingly, it has been abandoned in most countries.


Soothing Syrups

soothing syrupSource: bbc.com

During the 19th century, this was a popular way to deal with disobedient children. These “syrups” were basically pumped full of morphine.


Female Hysteria Treatments

hysteriaSource: huffingtonpost.com

Although female hysteria is no longer considered a disorder, for hundreds of years it was “cured” with high pressure hoses, vibrators, and pelvic massages. Ultimately, patients were admitted to an insane asylum.



MethSource: huffingtonpost.com

One of its first uses was actually on the battlefield to induce “wakefulness” in soldiers. Since then it has served as everything from a performance enhancer to a weight loss remedy. Eventually, governments began to realize that it was quite addictive and probably shouldn’t be handed out like candy.



leechSource: nytimes.com

For a long time “bad blood” was seen as the cause of sickness. Leeches were seen as a way to get rid of this so-called “bad blood.” This and other blood-letting type of treatments were discovered to not be the most scientifically sound theories. However, leeches do have a place in modern medicine and have even made a come back. They are used to assist in certain types of surgeries by promoting blood flow and preventing clotting. Starting in the 80’s, they have been used to save lives, reattach limbs, and make various transplants possible. It turns out that just like other treatments on here, this started out pretty stupid but still lead to pretty smart cures.

Photos: feature image: shutterstock, 25-21. pixabay (public domain), 20. max pixel, 19. wikimedia commons (public domain), 18. pixabay (public domain), 17.  wikimedia commons (public domain), 16. pixabay (public domain), 15. No machine-readable author provided. Towsonu2003~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims)., Fart, CC BY-SA 3.0, 14. max pixel (public domain), 13-12. pixabay (public domain), 11. Rama, Crane-trepanation-img 0507, CC BY-SA 3.0 FR, 10. Eric Molina via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 9-7. pixabay (public domain), 6. Bionerd, Pouring liquid mercury bionerd, CC BY 3.0, 5. pixabay (public domain), 4. Boston Public Library via flickrCC BY 2.0, 3. wikimedia commons (public domain), 2. Radspunk, Crystal Meth, CC BY-SA 4.0, 1. GlebK, Sucking leech, CC BY-SA 3.0

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