Call Us: 201.303.0534

Mail Us: info@wellwellusa.com

Call Us: 201.303.0534

Email Us: info@wellwellusa.com

Ancient Medicine Was Sick

Seven Stomach Turning Examples

man having an ear candle therapy against the backdrop of a tropical garden

The Skinny:

No one looks forward to going to a doctor. Sometimes, the doctor has good news, but patients worry that a devastating prognosis is at hand, or a probing, poking, or unpleasant procedure is in their immediate future. There are real concerns, but there is a bright side to dealing with today’s medical environment. It is a lot cleaner, more effective and pleasant than what patients were experiencing 200 or 300 years ago. WellWell has pulled out some choice examples of their long-gone practices to remind everyone that things could be worse. Feel better? Read on.

The Slate:

Ear Candling

Need a good ear canal cleaning? How about an ear candling to get rid of what’s in there? The practice called for placing a long hot candle into someone’s ear. The idea behind this probe was that the heat would create suction to pull anything out of the canal. You guessed it. It didn’t work. It usually just left a lot of candle wax behind.

Old School Rhinoplasty

An Italian surgeon developed this unpleasant procedure to conceal “saddle nose,” a nasal deformity that was a symptom of syphilis. It involved creating a new nose from the tissue of the patient’s arm. The skin from the upper arm would be surgically attached to the nose, but it would remain connected to the arm until the graph took, then separated. There was an unfortunate catch. Once exposed to cold weather, the nose in question tended to turn purple and fall off.


A horrendous procedure to cure stuttering, it involved removing part of a person’s tongue, usually without anesthesia. Surgeons of the time thought the process worked by halting vocal cord spasms.

Corpse Medicine

Hundreds of years ago “physicians” thought various parts of the dead could cure the problems of the living, including ingesting powdered skulls for headaches or bones for arthritic joints. Before that, people were drinking the blood and munching the body parts of the recently departed to give themselves a boost.


This was a real jolt—literally. The treatment called for sending electricity into a patient’s brain, among other areas, to treat mental disorders, epilepsy and even warts. It was highly unpleasant, unpredictable and possibly dangerous.

Malaria Therapy 

Early treatment for syphilis was created by one adventurous physician, it involved giving patients malaria-infected blood. The idea behind the practice was that the infected blood would generate a high fever that would rid the body of the syphilis infection. Patients would receive quinine to treat both viruses—a common approach until penicillin’s discovery.


Talk about a hole in the head, that’s the whole idea behind trepanning. It meant drilling a hole in a person’s head to cure mental issues and release evil spirits. Spacey to say the least.

Eyes Up: 

Got any gruesome medical practices to avoid? Let us know at info@wellwellusa.com.

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