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10 Gruesome Ancient Methods Of Treatments That Could Kill You

Modern medicine has the luxury of being responsible for some modern miracles. There are things that we can do today, medically, that would cause our ancestors to shout accusations of doctors using the dark arts.

Granted, most of them just kind of threw treatment ideas against a wall and saw what stuck. some of these methods were downright gruesome and many of them would kill people.

What Were They Thinking!?

A person might reckon. How stupid one could ever be to use treatments that kill instead of heal? Is that even a possibility or was it just a deliberate act of violence? However, these questions are irrelevant. No one was stupid or violent. They were just, one could say, too ignorant and had no knowledge of medicine. It could be a mere accident where a patient might have been healed by a poison but that poison was thereafter recognized as a method of treatment for years. Until, of course, someone more resourceful came along and revealed that the medicine was malady in disguise. Collected and presented below are such gruesome ancient methods of treatments.

Arsenic Gruesome Ancient Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Arsenic was used in many medicines from the late 18th century all the way until the 1950s. It was used in Fowler’s Solution, which was thought to cure Malaria and Syphilis and in Donovan’s Solution, which treated Diabetes and Arthritis.

Mercury Ancient Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Mercury was hailed in the medical community for his healing properties such as long life and vitality. Some alchemists of the time even claimed it would allow the user to walk on water and have eternal life. Even as late as the 20th century, mercury was being used to fight Syphyllis. What was not advertised, however, was the fact that Mercury is highly toxic and even killed Emporer Qin Shi Huang, who took the pill designed to give him immortality.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Diet Pills

This method of treatment isn’t particularly gruesome nor is it ancient. Body image has always a struggle for mankind and many will do anything to achieve perfection. enter the diet pill of the 50s and 60s. Very popular among females, diet pills were not only taken regularly, people literally couldn’t stop taking them! Their side effects included fevers, heart problems, birth defects and even death. Not surprisingly as the pills contained enough amphetamines to be labeled crack by today’s standards. Nothing like a solid drug addiction to make the pounds drop off.

Soothing syrup Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Soothing syrup

Parents of the late 19th and early 20th century had to deal with the same rambunctious children that today’s parents do. However, those parents relied on this gruesome ancient method of treatment in the form of “soothing syrup”. “Soothing” syrup was a concoction that promised to tone down the little angels. As well it should as each bottle contained any combination of morphine, codeine, heroin and chloroform among other narcotic substances. Back then the “terrible two’s” could potentially end in death.

Addictive cough syrup Gruesome Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia

Addictive cough syrup

It’s amazing that we as a species are still around considering everything we’ve done to our children. Much like our last entry, this gruesome ancient method of treatment was aimed at children in the form of cough syrups, which was pure heroin. Created by the Bayer Corporation, Heroin does indeed cure coughs but also is quite addictive. The substance was banned in 1924 except for extreme medical cases.

Malaria Gruesome Ancient Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Doctor’s of the 1920’s were in much of an experimental stage. So much so that they decided to fight fire with fire. Apparently, Syphilis was a bit of a problem and Doctors of the time decided that Malaria may be a viable option. That’s what Julius Wagner-Jauregg decided when he discovered that malaria-induced fever’s fought Syphilis. Of course, since Malaria killed more people than it saved, the practice was quickly discarded.

Cocaine Gruesome Ancient Methods

Source: Wikipedia Commons


The 19th Century must have been an interesting time to be alive. This medical method of treatment would be used to cure headaches, toothaches, and depression. The resulting withdrawal after those ailments was cured was a different story, however.

Cutting Teeth

Source: Google

Cutting Teeth

The phrase cutting teeth generally refers to someone getting accustomed to a new job. However, this ancient medical method actually refers to exactly what it sounds like. A French doctor by the name of Ambrose Pare came up with the procedure of actually cutting babies gums in the 16th century. After examining a deceased baby and discovering that it had all of its teeth but could not pass them due to severely hard gums. The procedure was much debated up until the early 20th century. The procedure was discontinued after an unknown number of babies died due to unsterilized instruments or the sheer trauma inflicted on them.

Dead Mice Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Dead Mice

The ancient Egyptians were wonders of their day, however, they may have been phoning it in when they devised this gruesome medical method of treatment. For a toothache or an earache, they would grind up dead mice into a paste and apply it directly onto the sore area. If the pain were severe enough, they would apply the sometimes festering corpse directly onto the already infected area. Common sense tells us what dead flesh and infection will lead to.

Powder of Sympathy

Source: Google

Powder of Sympathy

This ancient medical method of treatment is odd as it doesn’t actually get applied to the patient. Used only in the very specific instance of a gruesome rapier cut, the powder of sympathy would be applied to the offending blade in hopes that its ill intent would be dealt with via magic. The powder of sympathy makes this list as if nothing is done to the would, it will get infected and the patient will die.

Goat Testicles

Source: Google

Goat Testicles

Tired of dealing with erectile dysfunction but can’t afford that expensive Viagra? Perhaps you should try this ancient gruesome medical method of treatment! Developed by John Brinkley in the 1900s, the procedure consisted of surgically attaching a goat’s testicles to a man’s scrotum. You’ll notice he isn’t referred to as “doctor”. Brinkley claimed this would fix impotence and infertility. Since the surgery was not medically sound, many died.

Farts in a Jar Ancient Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Farts in a Jar

The Middle Ages was a special time. The people of the era had an interesting approach when it came to medical methods of treatment. They took a “fight fire with fire” approach. Due to the gruesome Black Death, thought to be caused by deadly vapors, was fought by therapeutic vapors. This meant that patients were to keep goats in their houses or store flatulence in a jar. Upon the arrival of the Black Death, they would open the jars and take a sniff. The Black Death claimed almost sixty percent of the population of Europe with no help from the fart jars.

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Patients who were well off got the better end of this gruesome medical method of treatment. Those could afford it would have leeches attached to their skin and have an appropriate amount of blood drained in a fairly painless procedure. Those who could not afford it, however, were subject to the old way of being cut with a blade and drained into a bowl. Unsanitary knives, on top of whatever was ailing the patient, to begin with, led to infections and death.

Chickens Methods Of Treatments

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Another one for the Black Death. This gruesome medical method of treatment was devised by Thomas Vicary, another non-doctor. Vicary came up with the notion of shaving a chicken’s butt and strapping it to a patient’s swollen lymph nodes. As the chicken contracted the virus, it would be removed cleaned and reattached. This continued until either the patient or the chicken was healthy. Given that the chicken had parasites as well as the same disease as the patient, one can guess which one that was.

Stupidity Gruesome Ancient Methods

Source: Wikipedia Commons


The Black Death gets a Hat trick on this one (it did take out half a continent). Things got so dire for Europe that they threw anything at the disease that came to mind. Not thinking about the plague, death, or bad thoughts in general, no naps during the day, not eating figs or meat, no exercise of any kind and worst of all, no sex.

We owe many thanks to the medical professionals that came before us. It is because of their risk-taking attitudes that many of the diseases they fought are distant memories today. Having that said, their medical methods were sometimes almost as gruesome as the ailments they were trying to fight. So much so that we may wonder today if the Black Death killed all those people or the doctors. It would be a tough call for anyone really.

It is also somewhat surprising how what medical practitioners thought would be a health benefit would end up being a detriment to the very cause they were fighting for. Granted, most of those treatments needed to be observed over time to fully grasp their effects, but it is worth noting that someone charged with trying to save people ended up taking the very lives they intended to help.

Many of such medicines and treatment methods continued for a long time unless something better came along since human nature always desires the better. For example, a chemical that would give a person having fever death by suffocating as well as excruciating pain in the genitals, such a chemical would be replaced by the one which would still kill a person but not give the pain in the genitals! But this was not the only reason; someone enlightened might have come along and thrown away the gruesome medicine. Or simply, they learned by experience.

But no one ever found out how such gruesome ancient treatment methods were killing people, it is the modern science using which we can understand and grasp the biology of such deadly chemicals. And through these transcended medical methods, the most gruesome ancient methods of treatment have been recognized and replaced by such wonders that can truly be regarded as an effective treatment method.