Bogus cures have caused more harm than good throughout human history, with countless people reaching for any remedy to ward off death – even if all it did was speed up the inevitable.
Even today, strange and obviously potentially harmful remedies are doing the rounds as the coronavirus continues its death march around the globe.
Among the quack cures that have floated about online were that sunlight can kill the virus, gargling salt water can somehow destroy it and eating garlic prevents infection.
US President Donald Trump mused – or was being “sarcastic” according to the White House – over whether using UV light in the body or injecting disinfectant would kill the virus.
This week Mr Trump even said he was taking the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to try to ward off coronavirus – it is medication used to treat malaria.
Here, Daily Star Online examines the crazy “cures” and terrible treatments that millions relied on in their most desperate time of need.
Drilling a hole in the skull
Described by Dr Raphael David, of the Neurosciences Institute at New York’s Stony Brook University, as “one of the oldest medical procedures known to the human race” – drilling holes into the skull was done for a number of reasons by our ancestors.
Among the wacky beliefs, it was believed that head injuries could be treated by…drilling into the skull.
There have been skeletons found with holes in the skull across Europe and Asia that date back 4,000 years.
It was also carried out on pregnant women in the Middle Ages to help with the pain of childbirth.
While today brain surgeons do still drill into the skull, the hole is swiftly plugged back up again while a participant in the past would have to live with the hole for the rest of their lives.
Yes, it’s as grim as it sounds. In Ancient Egypt people who suffered from various ailments would mash up mice and blend it with other ingredients to ease a person’s pain.
Generally, the paste would be applied to a place where there was pain in an attempt to offer relief for the sufferer.
For toothache though, the Ancient Egyptians were more direct and applied parts of a dead mouse to the painful spot.
The practice continued into Elizabethan England where a documented “remedy” for warts was to cut a mouse in half and place it into the raised blemish.
People have been taking the p*ss for centuries – quite literally.
Unlike many other past remedies that have died out, urine drinking is still practiced by far-out “alternative medicine” practitioners.
Even top athletes have gotten in on the act, with martial artist Yoshiko Machida claiming in a previous interview that urine acts as a “natural medicine” that stops the build-up of bad bacteria.
Among other bizarre claims that have been made about drinking urine are that it helps improve the skin and even that it can cure cancer without needing chemotherapy or surgery.
And before you even think about it, no, there has not been a recorded study carried out that proves urine cures cancer.
Farts in a jar
In desperate times, unusual and – sometimes – downright strange solutions are dreamed up and this is certainly one of them.
As the Black Death ravaged the world, millions died in agony while some emitted foul-smelling gas from their bowels in their final hours.
With medicine being fairly primitive and based mostly on superstition and guesswork, doctors of the age believed exposure to the gas could somehow make you immune to it.
This led to many keeping jars of foul-smelling farts in their homes that would be opened in case the deadly plague rolled around again.
If it appeared, people would crack out the fart and inhale in a frantic bid to stop being added to the piled-up corpses.
A scarily-common practice throughout human history, bloodletting was seen as a serious treatment for centuries.
By making a cut in the body – typically the arm – and allowing the blood to pour out, medics of the age believed that boldly fluids needed to be kept in balance in order to stay healthy.
In other words, in the minds of these primitive surgeons, removing any “excess” blood from the body could cure any range of illnesses.
Among the diseases, it was believed to cure was pneumonia with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh’s claiming: “As late as 1942, a famous medical textbook considered bloodletting appropriate treatment for pneumonia.”
Starting off the back of promising developments, cocaine became a “miracle cure” that could treat anything from toothache to depression.
It was first noticed that a few drops of cocaine solution in the eye stopped it from moving as much and numbed the area to pain – making eye surgery easier at the time.
But, off the back of this notably interesting development, cocaine was marketed to a wider audience.
Cocaine tablets were being sold for as little as 50 cents for a box in the US, with claims being made that it could stop nervousness, headaches and headaches.
It was even marketed for children and was included as an ingredient in some chocolate bars.
Among the most bizarre things that Europeans have ever done in the quest for better health is eating the remains of people who’ve been dead for thousands of years.
The bizarre theories that emerged in the 1800s claimed that if you had an ailment that affected the brain, that you should eat a skull to cure yourself.
It became so popular that much of the Western world had documented cases of toffs eating the dead in order to cure themselves.
The practice even led people to steal mummies from Egyptian tombs and Irish burial sites to keep up with the demand for dead bodies.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, in 1847, there was the bizarre case where an Englishman was advised to mix the skull of a young woman with treacle and feed it to his daughter to cure her of epilepsy.