Absurd Medical History Moments that Prove People Have Always been this Dumb
Absurd Medical History Moments that Prove People Have Always been this Dumb

Absurd Medical History Moments that Prove People Have Always been this Dumb

Khalid Elhassan - September 14, 2021

Absurd Medical History Moments that Prove People Have Always been this Dumb
A bronze strigil. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1. Ancient Romans Used Gladiator Blood as an Aphrodisiac and to Treat Epilepsy

Gladiator blood was also sought after by Roman women. Many applied the blood of their favorite arena combatant to coat their jewelry, combs, wigs, and other accoutrements, or mixed it with their cosmetics. Gladiators were seen as particularly virile, which led to the somewhat ghoulish and macabre practice of using their blood (and sometimes sweat) as an aphrodisiac. The more successful and famous a gladiator, the more potent an aphrodisiac his blood or sweet were believed to be. It could be drunk pure, but more often was mixed with wine and ingested that way.

The use of gladiator blood was not limited to cosmetics and aphrodisiacs. Although it sounds dumb today, gladiator blood was believed to possess medicinal properties, particularly in the treatment of epilepsy. As Pliny the Elder described it: “Epileptic patients are in the habit of drinking the blood even of gladiators, draughts filled with life as it were; a thing that, when we see it done by the wild beasts in the same arena, inspires us with horror at the spectacle! And yet these persons consider it a most effective cure for their disease, to drink he warm, breathing, blood from man himself, and, as they apply their mouth to the wound, to draw forth his very life; and this, though it is regarded as an act of impiety to apply the human lips to the wound even of a wild beast!”

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Atlas Obscura – The Victorian Belief That a Train Ride Could Cause Instant Insanity

BBC – The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Status Pineapple

Best Glam Health and Lifestyle – Gladiator Sweat and Other Surprising Aphrodisiacs of the Ancient World

Canadian Encyclopedia – The 1885 Montreal Smallpox Epidemic

Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 6th, 2021; 193(14): E490-E492 – When Antivaccine Sentiment Turned Violent: The Montreal Vaccine Riot of 1885

Conversation, The, October 4th, 2020 – Covid-19 Anti-Vaxxers Use the Same Arguments From 135 Years Ago

Deer, Brian – The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines (2020)

Gavi – The Long View: Ye Olde Anti-Vaxxers

Gizmodo – “Blowing Smoke Up Your Ass” Used to be Literal

History Collection – The Reaction to Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species

History of Vaccine – History of Anti-Vaccination Movements

Haynes, Sterling MD, British Columbia Medical Journal, December 2012 – Special Feature: Tobacco Smoke Enemas

Paris Review, April 25th, 2018 – The Strange History of the “King-Pine”

Washington Post, January 11th, 2011 – Wakefield Tried to Capitalize on Autism-Vaccine Link, Report Says

Wikipedia – 1721 Boston Smallpox Outbreak

Wikipedia – Andrew Wakefield

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