NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

8 Medical Practices That You Will Never Forget

By Aditya Uppuluri

When I read articles like “Aflibercept, Bevacizumab, or Ranibizumab for Diabetic Macular Edema,” I am amazed at how complex medicine and medical research is. Obviously, medicine was not always that way.

At various points in the history of medicine, crude and gut-wrenching procedures were done to people to cure them of their ailments. After searching the internet, I have compiled a set of 8 archaic medical practices that are sure to leave you shocked, scared, disgusted, and possibly scarred for life. Let’s get started!

8.Heroin Cough Syrup

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. In the 1890s, Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company, marketed heroin cough syrup for children. The reasoning was that heroin was similar to morphine but not as dangerous (Boy, were they wrong). After using heroin cough syrup for a while, children started developing a tolerance. Eventually in 1914, higher restrictions were placed on heroin as a prescription drug. In 1924, heroin was banned altogether (Hurrah!).


Trepanation was one of the earliest surgical procedures used to relieve severe and chronic headaches, epilepsy, and other illnesses involving demonic possession. The procedure itself consisted of drilling holes into the person’s skull. Yes, it was painful.

6.Tapeworm Diet

I have seen many people who are desperate to lose weight; they have tried various diets, exercise regiments, and weight loss pills. What most of them probably have not tried is the tapeworm pill.

Tapeworms are a worm-like parasite that resides in the gastrointestinal tract of people. Once in the tract, it absorbs nutrients from the food that we eat. It essentially prevents us from getting all the nutrients we eat.

The logic behind this is that people ingest tapeworm tablets, tapeworms grow in the gastrointestinal tract, people lose weight, and then take a medication to get rid of the tapeworms. This is illegal in the United States. Friendly advice: there are better and less disgusting ways to lose weight.


We know mercury as one of the many toxic elements that should not be ingested under any circumstances. Too bad Qin Shi Huang didn’t know this. Qin Shi Huang was a Chinese emperor that was obsessed with living forever. Naturally, he sought an elixir that would increase his longevity. He eventually ended up ingesting mercury thinking that it would help him live longer.

Apart from Huang, many other people have used mercury in the past as a means of curing various diseases. Trust me, there are better medications than mercury.

4.“Baaaaad” Medicine

At one point in the history, diagnosis of patients did not involve looking at the patient. Back when mainstream science still believed demonic possession caused illness, “doctors” relied on sacrifices to diagnose and cure people. In one practice, sheep were sacrificed, and the doctor made his diagnosis based on analysis of the sheep’s liver. Doctors looked at a dead sheep’s liver to diagnose what was wrong with a living person. Weird.

3.The Cure for Cancer: Pikachu

“Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!” Apart from being a very effective move against a water-type Pokémon, lightning has illustrated its ability to cure cancer. In the late 1800s, and article was published in the Lancelet explaining the therapeutic effects of lightning. A man with cancer was struck by lightning, and after he regained consciousness, he found that his cancer was in remission.

2.Fight Fire with Fire

What did Austrian doctors do in the 1960s when people got infected with syphilis? They infected them with malaria. The rationale for this treatment was that malaria would cause a very high fever that would eventually kill the syphilis-causing bacteria. The Good News: syphilis was cured. The Bad News: the patients had malaria, a potentially fatal disease. The Inspiration: the doctor who did this originally was given a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1927.

1.Goat Gonads for Male Impotence

I won’t even explain this one.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Vector

Your donation will support the student journalists of New Jersey Institute of Technology. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Vector

Comments (0)

All The Vector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *