10 Most Unusual Health Practices In History

Everyone has taken a trip to the doctor’s office. Maybe for a routine check. Maybe to get a diagnosis. Prescriptions would be written and picked up and that’s just about that. Back in the day, common health practices were not so civilized. Some didn’t make sense, others were disturbing, and some even deadly. Below is the Top 10 Most Unusual Health Practices In History!

10 – Bloodletting

Bloodletting – See page for author [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Dating back from ancient Sumerians and Egyptians to the 19th century, people believed sicknesses were a result of “bad blood”. To cleanse the body or balance it as they believed, they would perform bloodletting. Bloodletting is cutting open a vein and draining the blood into a receptacle. Or, leeches would be placed on the skin to suck the blood out.

09 – Tapeworm Diet

Tapeworm Diet
Tapeworm Diet – By The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Weight-Loss Ad (FDA 154)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dieting has always had some form of importance in every era to achieve whatever the desired figure of the time was. Victorian women took dieting for beauty to another level by ingesting tapeworm eggs, as the growing parasite would consume most of the eaten nutrients. That way, women could eat as much as they wanted and still lose weight. It seemed easy until dealing with the consequences and methods for removing the tapeworm that has even killed people.

08 – Sheep Liver

Sheep Liver
Sheep Liver

Healthcare providers in Mesopotamia, known as Iraq today, would make medical conclusions not by examining the patient in need but by looking at the liver of a sheep that had been sacrificed. They believed blood sourced from the liver which made liver the source of life to them.

07 – Croc Dung

Croc Dung
Croc Dung – By Tim Muttoo (IMG_1186) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Believe it or not, crocodile dung was used as a measure to prevent pregnancy back in Ancient Egypt. It would be inserted into the woman when it was dry. They believed that as it the woman’s body temperature softened it, the dung would form a full-proof contraceptive barrier.

06 – Mouse Paste


Ancient Egyptians would mash a dead mouse into a paste, sometimes adding other ingredients, to treat toothache pain. Mice were also cut in half during Elizabethan England and applied to warts for treatment. They were also used as a form of treatment for illnesses like measles, smallpox, and whooping cough.

05 – Hemiglossectomy


For anyone who stuttered during the 18th and 19th century, they were given a hemiglossectomy; having half of their tongue cut off. Not only was it painful as there was no anesthesia back in the day but it obviously didn’t “cure” them and, sadly, some bled to death.

04 – Arsenic


If you don’t know, arsenic is a poison but traditional Chinese medicine used it as a main ingredient in most medicines; including treating malaria, syphilis, and arthritis. Women in the Victorian era used the poison for cosmetic purposes.

03 – Children’s Soothing Syrups

Soothing Syrups
Soothing Syrups – By Miami U. Libraries – Digital Collections [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During the 19th century, parents would give disobedient, hyperactive, or fussy children soothing syrup. This might not sound too bad but the problem is that the syrups were full of narcotics. One particular syrup brand had 65 mg of morphine. Sometimes they contained one or numerous ingredients like codeine, powdered opium, chloroform, heroin, morphine hydrochloride and more. Horrifically, children have died after parents tried to soothe teething and other things with these syrups.

02 – Corpse Medicine

Corpse Medicine
Corpse Medicine – See page for author [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Going all the way back to Roman times, people believed flesh, blood, and bones of deceased people could cure illnesses. For example, it was believed fallen Gladiator blood could cure epilepsy. Sick people would attend executions to try to purchase an inexpensive cup of a recently killed person’s blood.

01 – Trepanning

Trepanning – See page for author [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, to treat ailments like epilepsy or other mental disorders, doctors would drill holes in a person’s head. Evidence of this dates back prehistorically based on remains from Neolithic times. What is astonishing is that not only have people survived this torturous procedure but some have survived multiple “treatments”!