Long before the introduction of advanced medical techniques like laser eye surgery, better cancer detection, surgical magic and things like Botox, which is a wonder in its own right – we really were in a scary place when it came to health, well by today’s standards at least.
Every learning curve has to start somewhere and some of the medical practices of times gone by are incredibly valuable and still rooted in today’s treatments, but there are others that aren’t, thank all that is holy.
Here Came The Break Doctors!
During the middle ages, when the bubonic plague was the single most terrifying illness anyone could get, it could kill you within six days, plague doctors were hired by the city in order to treat the sick. Allegedly, plague doctors were not your usual general practitioner but rather less experienced doctors hired specifically to treat plague victims. Besides the fact that their medical care was potentially second rate, plague sufferers not only had to deal with swollen glands but they also had to deal with the terrifying vision of caregivers who walked around the city in costumes that looked like something out of a sadomasochist horror movie. Beak doctor costumes consisted of an overcoat, leggings, gloves, boots and a hat all made of leather, the trench coat would be floor length and they usually wore black hoods too. The fact that doctors looked like butchers wasn’t even the unnerving part, the unnerving part was that they all wore masks with long curved beaks strapped to their faces. The beak, which held dried flowers, mint, vinegar or spices, was believed to be able to act as a ward against the evil smells which hovered around during the plague. It must have made patients feel much safer knowing their doctors were afraid of smells, not only that, they also carried long canes which they used to examine patients without having to lay a finger on them or to take their pulse.
Fine, then let’s use maggots. Known today as maggot therapy, the treatment has been documented since before the Renaissance. It was most highly noted during times of war when soldiers’ wounds became infested with maggots, doctors saw that the wounds usually ended up cleaner and less infected than those that were not, which led them to believe that maggots could have a positive influence in the healing process as they destroyed dead tissue. It also significantly lowered the death rate. This kind of wormy medicine has been used around the world and is popular in folk circles as well as a respected form of treatment within the medical community at large. In 2004 the FDA allowed maggots to be marketed as a medical tool and in the same year the NHS gave permission to doctors to use maggot therapy as a legitimate healing practice.
Leeches have been used since the dark ages in bloodletting practices. Bloodletting is based on a theory that every human has, humours, within them. These humours referred to fluids which were believed to be produced by different organs in the body. In order to maintain a good and healthy balance, medieval doctors believed that if you were sick, the act of withdrawing a large amount of blood from your system would heal you or remove the bad fluid from your body. It might have worked to reduce high blood pressure but the practice was certainly not beneficial in any other notable ways. These days leeches have been known to be used to stimulate blood circulation during major surgery or in the instance of major injuries. Not as insane as bloodletting, leeches actually have proven to be beneficial as they also inject anaesthetics and antibiotics into your system as they feed. While their healing properties might not be easy to see with the naked eye, surgery is brilliantly aided because of them.
What Do You Have To Say?
We have shared some medical milestones and advancements in medical history above, do you have some others to share? If so, please do so in the comments below.
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