Top 3 Weirdest Medical Cures of the Past

By March 18, 2013Aging in Place

While history is full of strange medical practices and cures, there are a few which really stand out. The following are three of the most jaw-dropping medical cures of the past.

Soothing Syrup

During the 19th century, people were often too busy working on the farm to seek out a doctor when their children began acting up. In order to help the stressed out mothers of the 19th century, several different “soothing” syrups, powders, elixirs and lozenges were developed. Each formula was marketed to the public as  being carefully created to ensure the safety of each child. The problem is that they were anything but safe. For example, just one ounce of a syrup known as Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup contained 65 mg of pure morphine. In 1910, The New York Times ran an article exposing the fact that these soothing syrups contained, “…morphin sulphate, chloroform, morphine hydrochloride, codeine, heroin, powdered opium, cannabis indica/”



Mercury Medication

Today, mercury is a known type of heavy metal that is dangerous to the human body. It is a shiny silver liquid that provides no health benefit at all. However many years ago, the thoughts about mercury were completely different. Mercury was used to treat almost any disorder or disease. If you fell down and scraped your knee, put some mercury on it. Feeling constipated? Use some mercury in an enema. Around 100 years ago, people were not healthy if they were not taking mercury for something.

Today we know that mercury poisoning, also known as “mad hatter’s disease,” was so widespread in the 19th century because hat makers used large amounts of mercury compounds to treat felts and furs. The consequences of mercury toxicity were seen as people going “mad” with symptoms like coughing, tremors, violent muscle spasms, psychotic reactions, delirium, hallucinations and suicidal tendencies.



Heroin Cough Preparations

In the late 19th century, there were many different cough medications available. While people of the Victorian era had to live in drafty castles, it only makes sense that they would suffer from some severe congestion and coughing. However, what is rather shocking is the fact that the cough syrup of the 19th century was made with Heroin  Today, heroin is known as an extremely addictive street drug. Years ago, it was a miracle cough suppressant. In fact, the drug heroin was actually developed by Bayer, one of the largest aspirin manufacturers today. Years ago, Bayer was known as IG Farben, a pharmaceutical and chemical giant.

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