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10 Disease Theories That Were Spectacularly Wrong

10 Disease Theories That Were Spectacularly Wrong

It was John Dewey who as soon as stated, “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” It’s this “audacity of imagination” that led to the Moon touchdown, yielded antibiotics to fight lethal illnesses, and put a pc in each residence.

Trendy drugs has superior significantly in current occasions, and our understanding of pathology has by no means been higher. Nevertheless, historical past exhibits that errors are all too typically made within the pursuit of scientific achievement.

When it got here to illness, even a number of the most revered thinkers acquired it spectacularly improper. As you may anticipate, such theories led to some moderately baffling remedies. From lobotomies to bloodletting, scientists all through the ages have provided some pretty crackpot therapies.

The extra you understand concerning the historical past of drugs, the extra you query the legitimacy of present theories. What else have we gotten incorrect? What extra is there to find? Solely time will inform.

10 Feminine Hysteria

Scientists as soon as used pseudoscience as a way of correcting hysteria in ladies. The idea dates again to historic Egypt. Many nice thinkers imagined that hysteria was caused by the place of the uterus (aka “the wandering womb”).

The phrase “hysteria” is derived from the Latin hystericus (“of the womb”). Smelly substances have been typically positioned close to the vagina to right the issue. The traditional Greek doctor Aretaeus thought the womb was repelled and interested in totally different fragrances. The scent of the substance used trusted whether or not the uterus was excessive or low.

The medical fraternity’s understanding of hysteria turned stranger nonetheless. Based on Greek mythology, the priest Melampus was stated to have rid Argo’s virgins of their unusual conduct. The daughters of King Proetus went mad and hallucinated that they have been wandering cows. Melampus cured the ladies with roots of the flower hellebore and instructed them to make like to virile males.

And so the notion of a “melancholy uterus” got here to cross. Outstanding thinkers, like Plato and Hippocrates, believed the feminine uterus had its personal moods. Lack of intercourse and copy have been thought to make the uterus unhappy. An sad uterus, argued Hippocrates, was finally brought on by a buildup of toxic humors. These humors then migrated to different elements of the physique and prompted illness. Comparable theories continued from historic Rome onward.[1]

In line with US scholar Rachel Maines, theories surrounding hysteria led to the invention of the vibrator. Within the 19th century, docs have been tasked with pleasuring ladies right into a state of normality. It’s stated that docs, tired of giving guide hand jobs, handed the duty on to midwives.

The electromechanical vibrator was initially invented within the late 1800s to therapeutic massage muscle tissues. Medical docs determined it will be faster to make use of the gadget to provide ladies “hysterical paroxysms” (i.e., orgasms). Remedy occasions have been slashed from round an hour to only 10 minutes.

9 Trepanning And Evil Spirits

At the moment, the follow of drilling a gap in a single’s head to deal with psychological well being issues is a troublesome promote. However that was not all the time the case. From Neolithic occasions to historic Greece, quite a few civilizations used a process referred to as trepanation to fight illness. Trepanation includes making a gap within the human cranium to treatment some perceived ailment.

Throughout Paleolithic occasions, primitive tribes used trepanation to expel evil spirits from the physique. In actuality, the signs witnessed in all probability stemmed from psychological sickness. Cranium fragments from the operation have been extremely wanted. Shamans would trend amulets from the fragments within the hopes of keeping off demonic possession.

The warring tribes of South America put the process to barely higher use. They used trepanation to deal with traumatic head accidents. At the moment, trendy surgeons use a refined type of trepanation to alleviate intracranial strain. So maybe there was some technique to their insanity.

Even now, a number of courageous souls use trepanning methods to change the circulate of blood and cerebrospinal fluid of their heads. (N.B.: Don’t do this at residence until you loved the ending to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.)

Amanda Feilding, founding father of the Beckley Basis, carried out self-trepanation within the early 1970s. She believes that “stagnant pools” of poisons contribute to illnesses like Alzheimer’s. Feilding ran for parliament within the UK twice on a platform of offering “Trepanation for the National Health.” She acquired few votes.[2]

eight The Elixir Of Life

They are saying two issues are sure in life: dying and taxes. However it appears that evidently the elites of historic China have been obsessive about avoiding the previous. In a bid to seek out the elusive “elixir of life,” they put their religion in alchemists. Over 2,000 years in the past, the very first emperor of unified China, Qin Shi Huang, ordered his males to discover a potion that might make him immortal.[3]

In what can solely be described as an epic miscalculation, alchemists gave the emperor his elixir: mercury. As we now know, mercury solely serves to convey concerning the recipient’s speedy demise. Historians consider the emperor was poisoned after consuming an unhealthy dose of mercury sulfide. He died on the not-so-immortal age of 49. Regardless of this apparent failure, alchemists continued their work. Lots of them died toiling over their elixirs.

Earlier than his passing, Qin Shi Huang ordered the creation of his Terracotta Military. These inanimate warriors have been positioned within the emperor’s monumental burial chamber to guard him within the afterlife. Paradoxically, archaeologists assume Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is surrounded by a river of mercury.

Qin Shi Huang was not the one emperor to succumb to the temptation of quicksilver. Emperor Xuanzong of Tang was given an elixir derived from a mercury ore (cinnabar). He developed basic signs of mercury poisoning, together with itching, muscle weak spot, and paranoia.

The alchemists argued that these signs have been a mere blip on the street to immortality. In fact, the emperor died shortly after. Various Xuanzong’s predecessors died taking comparable elixirs, together with emperors Muzong and Wuzong. Emperor Muzong suspected one thing was up, so he made his alchemists eat their very own toxic concoctions. Muzong’s knowledge didn’t final lengthy. He, too, turned obsessive about elixirs and poisoned himself.

7 Miasma Concept

The miasma principle was proposed to elucidate the unfold of illness. Earlier than the germ concept got here to cross, scientists thought that atmospheric impurities (“miasmata”) have been the first explanation for illness. Plague docs have been illustrative of this concept in motion. These scary characters wore beak-shaped masks that have been designed to maintain foul-smelling miasmata away. The masks have been full of fragrant herbs to cease docs from inhaling “bad air.”

In Victorian England, Edwin Chadwick put ahead the miasma concept to elucidate London’s cholera epidemics. In the meantime, Florence Nightingale argued that outbreaks of measles, smallpox, and scarlet fever have been brought on by constructing homes too near smelly drains.

An anesthetist referred to as John Snow refuted the miasma principle. Snow stated that cholera was transmitted by way of polluted water, not dangerous air. This was a controversial speculation for the time.[4]

Snow noticed that sure elements of London have been extra more likely to expertise cholera outbreaks than others. He realized that a few of the native water corporations filtered and purified their water, whereas others didn’t. All the businesses took their water from the Thames—a swirling cesspit of refuse, effluent, and basic despair. (Some issues by no means change.)

Areas with excessive ranges of cholera typically acquired unpurified water from particularly soiled elements of the Thames. Snow additionally found a hyperlink between the unfold of waterborne illnesses and the town’s insufficient sewage system. One main outbreak was brought on by a cholera-riddled diaper that had been dumped in a leaky cesspit. The illness took maintain when water from the cesspit contaminated a close-by water pump.

In 1861, Louis Pasteur’s germ concept proved that Snow was right. The invention of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae was the ultimate piece of the puzzle. The miasma concept, which dated again to the time of Hippocrates, was lastly put out to pasture.

6 Tooth-worm

Dental caries are not any joke. This was very true in Babylonian occasions when the Legend of the Tooth-worm existed. Thereafter, numerous historic civilizations thought that wriggly worms have been answerable for cavity-related ache.

The idea goes that a nasty worm would bury itself within the tooth. Its wild actions inflicted nice ache on the sufferer. Solely as soon as the worm drained and ceased its thrashing would the ache subside. Some civilizations thought that the creature was truly a demon taking over the guise of a worm.

Fumigations and extractions have been well-liked remedies for tooth-worm. Scribonius Largus, the doctor to the Roman emperor Claudius, carried out fumigations with henbane seeds. It was stated that the resultant fumes would repulse the pest. Through the 17th century, quite a lot of charlatans conned sufferers into considering that they had tooth-worm. The practitioners would solely fake to extract worms. In actuality, they have been merely eradicating items of lute string.[5]

Roman thinker Pliny the Elder is value a quick point out. Pliny’s remedy for toothache concerned capturing a frog by moonlight, spitting in its mouth, and saying, “Frog, go, and take my toothache with thee!”

In 1728, Pierre Fauchard revealed a two-volume e-book, The Surgical Dentist. Described because the “father of modern dentistry,” Fauchard debunked the idea of tooth-worm and advisable that sufferers scale back their sugar consumption.

5 Ulcers And Stress

Till just lately, practitioners and researchers have been united of their perception that ulcers have been brought on by stress and extra abdomen acid. Scientists who have been skeptical of this entrenched concept have been the topic of ridicule.

So, in 1984, Barry Marshall got down to make some extent. The Australian gastroenterologist was satisfied that ulcers have been the results of a bacterium referred to as Helicobacter pylori. He was so satisfied that he began experimenting on himself.

His colleague cooked up a scrumptious broth of H. pylori, which Marshall then drank. Now a depressing vomit-sprinkler, Marshall was recognized with acute gastritis. He cured himself with a easy course of antibiotics. The idea behind stress-induced ulcers was starting to crumble.[6]

Nevertheless, Marshall and his colleagues confronted appreciable pushback from the medical-industrial complicated. Various massive drug corporations have been fearful that antibiotics would make their merchandise redundant. “Because the makers of H2 blockers funded much of the ulcer research at the time, all they had to do was ignore the Helicobacter discovery,” defined Marshall.

For the longest time, the concept micro organism might survive in such an acidic surroundings was laughable. However scientists quickly found that Helicobacter might successfully neutralize the acid round it.

Researchers now assume that 80 % of gastric ulcers are brought on by the bacterium. Barry Marshall and colleague Robin Warren gained a Nobel Prize for proving their friends completely mistaken.

four Corpse Drugs

Corpse drugs was the follow of utilizing human corpses to deal with sickness. The a part of the physique consumed was dependent upon the ailment. “Like cures like,” argued the homeopaths. Subsequently, nosebleeds and epilepsy have been typically handled with bits of cranium, whereas superficial wounds have been wrapped in fat-soaked bandages.

Europe’s wealthy and well-known have been pigging out on human our bodies through the 16th and 17th centuries. The continent was rife with cannibalistic gravediggers on the lookout for a fast buck. Egyptian tombs have been looted of their mummified inhabitants and used to deal with bruises and bleeds.

Even royalty was at it. England’s King Charles II was a fan of a bit of alcohol and floor cranium (aka “The King’s Drops”). The king would tootle off to his personal laboratory and brew up a batch himself.[7]

One other type of corpse drugs was seen in 19th-century Denmark. Public executions have been attended by blood-lusting spectators, lots of whom introduced their very own cups.

In 1823, Hans Christian Andersen described witnessing a person feed the blood of an executed felon to a toddler. The blood was used as a remedy for epilepsy. Blood was known as the “elixir of life” all through the Center Ages (marginally higher than mercury), and virgin blood was used to remedy leprosy.

This “medical vampirism” dates again to historic Rome. Quite a few civilizations thought that human blood carried the soul. Consuming blood, they theorized, might stave off sickness and afford new power. It was this mystical perception that compelled the Romans to drink the blood of gladiators killed within the area.

three The 4 Humors

Information of anatomy and drugs soared beneath the physicians of historic Greece. Dissections and vivisections offered docs with recent perception into the physique’s internal workings.

Galen discovered that the mind managed motion by way of nerves. Herophilus distinguished between veins and arteries. Numerous outstanding philosophers drew a connection between illness and the setting. And a organic set off of illness changed the supernatural. Nevertheless, one deeply flawed principle went uncontested: the 4 humors.

Historic Greek drugs was closely influenced by Hippocrates. His principle on humoralism supposed that the physique was made up of 4 fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. An imbalance in these fluids, or humors, would result in illness. The 4 humors have been additionally related to a person’s psychological state. For instance, a affected person was melancholic if he had an excessive amount of black bile.[8]

However the place did the thought of those humors come from?

Properly, the traditional Greeks have been possible pouring blood samples into glass containers and leaving them to coagulate. After a while, this pattern would separate into 4 distinct layers: purple, white, black, and yellow. That is maybe what they regarded as humors.

Nevertheless, the Greeks might have taken inspiration from the 4 parts: earth, air, hearth, and water. It was additionally extensively accepted that these humors have been one way or the other related to the 4 seasons and planetary alignment.

Modifications to eating regimen and way of life have been typically beneficial to redress the stability. The Greek doctor Galen was a proponent of bloodletting to eliminate extra blood—what he thought-about to be the dominant humor.

Bloodletting continued beneath the barber-surgeons of medieval Europe who thought the apply might remedy smallpox and epilepsy. Humoralism continued all through the West for hundreds of years. Historians suspect that George Washington’s religion in bloodletting might have contributed to his demise in 1799.

2 Urine Remedy

Merely put, urine remedy includes utilizing urine to fight illness. These in help of the follow extol its obvious therapeutic qualities. Books about urine remedy wax lyrical concerning the “elixir of life,” “the golden fountain,” and “liquid gold.” Whereas most certified docs view urine as a waste product, urine connoisseurs declare that the liquid is a distilled product of the blood (aka “gold of the blood”).

Urine has been used all through historical past with alarming frequency. Thomas Vicary, Henry VIII’s surgeon, suggested cleansing battle wounds with urine. The 17th-century chemist Robert Boyle instructed sufferers to drink “a moderate draught of their own urine” within the morning. On the advice of George Thomson, urine was used to fight the lethal bacterium chargeable for the Nice Plague.[9]

A fast perusal of the Web reveals that urine remedy is one thing individuals nonetheless do at the moment. A whole lot of hundreds of individuals in China are stated to drink urine. A shocking variety of athletes have additionally resorted to guzzling down their very own juices, together with MMA fighter Luke Cummo and boxer Juan Manuel Marquez.

Madonna famously advised David Letterman that urine was a remedy for athlete’s foot. Some determined teenagers have taken to slapping urine on their pustulous faces, whereas others are brewing up their very own urine-based tooth whiteners.

For apparent causes, there stays little analysis on many forms of urine remedy. However docs are adamant that consuming pee is a nasty concept. The apply has no well being advantages and may result in dehydration. Cleansing your wounds with urine can also be a nasty concept. New analysis exhibits that urine isn’t sterile, as was as soon as considered the case.

1 Powder Of Sympathy

Sir Kenelm Digby was a person of science, philosophy, and purpose. However, like lots of his 17th-century contemporaries, Digby had a eager curiosity in alchemy and astrology. The Englishman got here up with the unusual notion that making use of remedies to the weapon that brought about an damage would heal the wound itself.

This miracle remedy was referred to as the “powder of sympathy.” Digby’s principle was delivered to prime teachers on the College of Montpellier. The speech lasted two hours and boasted of endorsements from King James.

Digby’s perception within the remedy got here after experimenting on his pal James Howell. The author was wounded whereas making an attempt to cease a duel in England. On this occasion, the powder of sympathy was examined on Howell’s blood-soaked bandage.

The bandage was then eliminated and stored separate from the wound. The remedy reportedly gave Howell “a pleasing sense of freshnesse” and a brand new lease on life. Nevertheless, right now’s scientists know higher. His restoration was probably the results of luck and the placebo impact.

In accordance with Digby, a Carmelite monk taught him the weapon salve. The potion was imagined to work on the idea of “sympathetic magic.” Proponents argued that a weapon would type some sort of connection to the human physique after drawing blood. Digby and his colleagues believed that atoms of the lotion have been interested in the wound by way of some type of magnetism.

The powder of sympathy garnered appreciable consideration. There have been 29 editions of Digby’s e-book, A Late Discourse . . . Touching the Remedy of Wounds by the Powder of Sympathy. The potion was bought in lots of apothecaries all through 17th-century Europe. Even the likes of John Locke and Thomas Sydenham lauded the weird remedy.

Digby’s love for the supernatural didn’t finish there. He additionally had a eager curiosity in palingenesis, a type of “biological rebirth.” He hoped that the method would resurrect life from the crystallized ashes of crops and animals.

Some students prompt that Digby’s makes an attempt at resurrection have been associated to an obsession he had together with his lifeless spouse, Venetia. Rumor circulated that Digby had by accident killed Venetia by giving her giant portions of “viper wine.”[10]

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