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5 Strange and Ancient Medical Practices That Will Make You Gasp

Our ancestors relied on herbs, essential oils and other natural ways to stay well. On the flip side, their world included medical practices far more harmful than healing. These practices probably originated the phrase, “The cure is worse than the disease.”


Ancient Egyptians also found medicinal value in dead mice. They would pulverize the bodies and make a paste, which, when slathered on the gums, was said to relieve toothache. For a really bad toothache, an entire dead mouse was applied.


Things go better with coke, according to many nineteenth-century physicians. Cocaine was recommended for all sorts of ailments, including depression, headaches and toothaches.

Heroin cough syrup

If your children are suffering from a cough, give them cough syrup containing heroin. That’s a concoction Bayer offered in 1920s Germany.

Birth control

There is no shortage of substances used in mankind’s endless quest to separate sex from reproduction. In ancient Egypt, women placed crocodile dung in their vaginas, an early variation of the diaphragm. Other methods included the following:

Lemons — the rind acted as a barrier and the juice killed off sperm.

Mercury — it would cause a miscarriage, but likely kill the mother.

Elephant dung — a variant on crocodile dung in countries where elephants roamed.

Elf sickness

Folks in medieval Europe were apparently prone to elf sickness, a disease caused by invisible elves shooting invisible arrows into them. Fortunately, there was a cure. Fresh dwarf elder made into a drink would cure the sickness and keep the elves at bay.

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