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   Oct 05

Cure for asthma? Try coffee and herbal ‘cigarettes’…

As it is revealed cigarettes were once thought to treat asthma, we look at ten weird and wonderful cures through the ages

It may seem the exact opposite of a treatment for asthma – but smoking cigarettes was once thought to help sufferers of the condition. A new report has brought to light some of the more, er, surprising treatments used back in the 1850s.

A review of the evolution of common respiratory diseases over the past century has revealed that strong black coffee and herbal ‘cigarettes’ were once popular treatments for asthma, which used to be thought of as a psychosomatic condition brought on by stress.

The ancients used various herbal remedies derived from horsetail, thorn-apple, and deadly nightshade, available as “asthma cigarettes.”

By the 1850s, strong black coffee was in vogue as a means of treating symptoms. Yes, really.

The review, presented by Professor Peter Barnes, from Imperial College London, forms part of a series of historical perspectives on key aspects of health and medicine, and their relevance to future practice.

In light of this we’ve revisited some of the bizzarest treatments once thought to help patients…

1. Sewage

When the plague broke out in the 1300s, some of the more surprising cures doctors tried included arsenic and sitting in the sewers.

2. Bloodletting

Who can forget leeches – the idea that bad blood caused illness and could be removed by taking it out has been around since the ancient Egyptians. The idea remained popular through the famous physician Galen until the Renaissance, although the use of leeches continued and are still even used for certain procedures today.

• Ancient Egyptians used wine as medicine

3. Goat’s testicles

As medical procedures go, having severed goat’s testicles implanted in your nether regions to boost a failing potency sounds slightly counterproductive. But for well over 20 years, as late as 1939, the goat-gland treatment was regarded as a breakthrough of the first importance. Backed by some questionable theories, it made its creator Dr John Brinkley a multi-millionaire.

4. Dead mice

According to David Haviland, the ancient Egyptians believed a dead mouse applied to the tooth or gum could cure toothache. They weren’t the only ones, either. An Elizabethan cure for warts involved cutting a mouse in half and apply it to the spot.

5. Sleeping with a skull

Ancient Babylonians opted for cures involving magic to solve their problems. One such treatment, in this instance for grinding your teeth, was sleeping with a human skull nearby – as well as kissing it several times a night – to remove spirits trying to get in contact.

6. Trepanning

Bizarrely, it was once thought that drilling a hole on your skull could cure a headache. A Bronze Age skull discovered on the banks of the Thames a few years ago shows how far back the age-old cure stretches. Apparently our forebearers thought that trepanation could cure headaches and migraines by relieving pressure.

7. Lint

One surviving medical text from ancient Egypt counsels rolls of lint for a broken nose. The idea was to put the rolls in the nostrils along with bandages on the outside. The most amazing part is modern science doesn’t offer much by way of a better alternative.

• Roman-era shipwreck reveals ancient medical secrets
• Ancient Egyptian cure for a hangover…a garland of laurel leaves

8. Copper

In the 17th Century Sir Kenelm Digby developed the idea of the ‘powder of sympathy’ – a copper sulphate mix which was applied to both the injured person and the object that caused the injury, for instance a sword.

9. Broken glass

Pity the poor souls who had eye problems in ancient Egypt. Hot broken glass was poured into the eyes of those suffering with cataracts, while bat blood was rubbed into eyelids as a treatment for ingrown eye lashes, according to Nathan Belofsky’s book on Strange Medicine.

10. Dead moles

The Victorians had tips and advice for getting through all aspects of life. Among the many instructive books published at the time, was one advising to hang a dead mole around the neck of a baby to ease its teething pain.

Source: Telegraph

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