Weird medicine: Here are some alleged cures used in the olden days

Most of us moan about the healthcare system from time to time, but spare a thought for those who lived in times past.

Before modern medicine, folklore and make-do methods formed many of the remedies on offer. Here’s a fearsome round-up.

Sore throats: Wrapping dirty socks around the throat was a popular practice in the 19th century to treat sore throats. Sometimes half an onion would be popped into the sock. Gargling with warm salt water was also common – and is still widely used today.

Asthma: Long before inhalers were invented, live spiders (coated in butter to help them slip down nicely) were just what the doctor ordered in the 18th century to help treat asthma attacks.

Coughs: In times past it was common to boil a pan of onions, allow it to cool and then drink the lukewarm broth to treat tickly coughs. Onions are still used in a number of natural remedies and are believed to have healing and soothing qualities.

Cold sores: The virus that causes cold sores is incurable but nowadays you can pick up remedies in your local pharmacy. However, one age-old solution doesn’t require you to leave the house at all – simply collect some of your ear wax and rub it onto the affected skin.

Migraine: In ancient times, migraine sufferer may have had to face trepanning. The procedure – in which a hole is drilled into the skull – is still sometimes performed today (though not for headaches or migraines) and is believed to have been the first form of surgery in history, dating back to the Neolithic period.

Acne: As unpleasant as it sounds, some people to this day believe drinking their own urine can boost their health, and pee has been used across many cultures over the centuries as a remedy for countless problems – including acne. Instead of drinking it, the idea was to use your morning urine like an ointment to dab onto the affected skin. The method can be traced back far and wide, from the Peruvian Indians to the ancient Egyptians.

Hearing problems: Hearing loss and deafness attracted a wide range of so-called remedies in centuries past, many of them ludicrous. Examples include a particularly nasty-sounding paste consisting of the contents of a hare’s gall bladder and grease from a fox which is rubbed inside the ear, and inserting a twig into the ear and leaving it there until the deafness was ‘cured’. Needless to say, these are certainly not practices anybody should attempt at home.


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