Top 10 Old Medical Treatments That Doctors Still Use Today For Cure
For ages, humans have always been worried about their well-being. They always desire to keep their body healthy; this has led scientists, health professionals, researchers to search for ways to know more about the proper functioning of the human body and thereby find new ways to cure its illness.
Earlier, serious diseases were thought to have a supernatural origin. The ancient doctors used magical charms to get rid of the evil spirit in the victim’s body. However, medical science has evolved rapidly. With the inventions of new drugs and new technologies, doctors can find remedies against various disease-causing germs, thus helping us maintain good health.
Nowadays, when anyone is sick, they want the best modern treatments to cure them. However, it might be surprising to know that, despite the innovative advances in medical science, doctors still prefer to use specific techniques that have been around thousands of years ago; it’s simply because they work better than other modern procedures.
These techniques even involve the use of living creatures such as leeches, maggots, bees. Let’s look at some of these old medical treatments that have withstood for ages and are still used by doctors.
Cataract surgery removes the clouded lens of the patient’s eyes and replaces it with a clear artificial lens. The new lens clears the clouded vision of the patient.
In modern cataract surgery, a small cut is made in the eye, and the cloudy lens is broken and removed using the laser. Then a clear artificial lens is inserted in its place. This surgery is very common and usually painless.
This problem of clouded eye lenses was also faced earlier. The surgical removal of cataracts dates back to the Middle Ages where people used knives to remove cataracts or sucked them out of the eye with the help of a special needle.
Couching, a different form of cataract surgery, was found in ancient India. Cataract surgery by couching involved using a sharp instrument like a needle or a thorn to pierce the eye. The clouded lens was then dislodged. Next, it was pushed downwards and, thus, light quickly entered the eye. However, the method was painful and was, in most cases, unsuccessful.
Our urinary bladder serves as a temporary reservoir. It can store around 400-600ml of urine. Doctors recommend using a catheter when a person cannot control when to urinate or has surgery on the prostate or other medical conditions. A Catheter is a medical device, a soft hollow tube that carries urine from the bladder to a drainage bag. They can be made up of rubber, plastic, or silicone.
Catheterization of the bladder has been done in the past to drain urine from the bladder when it fails to empty in a usual way. The process of catheterization was no different in medieval times. Only the devices used for the procedure have undergone evolutions.
Palm leaves, leather, metals as copper, gold were some of the devices used earlier. These metal and natural catheters were curved in the same way as the curves of the urethra and inserted into the patient’s body.
So, being able to urinate normally should be considered a blessing. However, we can clearly feel the trauma faced by the patients when such metals or leaves were pushed in their most private parts.
8. Transsphenoidal Surgery
In the surgery, doctors insert required surgical instruments through the nose to remove brain tumors. They use a small endoscopy camera along with light and some long devices to remove tumors.
The ancient Egyptians used this process for thousands of years, which used to remove the brain from the nose before making a dead body into a mummy.
7. Obsidian Blades
Obsidian blades are stone age instruments made from a rock called obsidian or volcanic glass. These sharp instruments were used to drill holes in the skull of the patients suffering from headaches, migraines, epilepsy, or other mental problems. The ancient practice of boring holes in the head was called trepanation.
These Stone Age blades are still used in modern surgery. Since it has a very sharp edge, it causes minimal scars, and healing is faster. Their edges are said to be 100 times sharper in comparison to the modern-day steel surgical scalpels.
However, using obsidian scalpels requires good skill, and they are also costly. Though these instruments are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, few surgeons in other countries still use them.
In prehistoric times, people drilled holes into the skull, primarily to get relief from headaches. Holes were created using sharp instruments. This weird practice, called trepanation, can be traced back to the Neolithic period. The practice was also supposed to remove evil spirits from the body.
Drilling holes into human skulls is practiced even today, where a health professional removes a piece of the head to gain access to the brain. Brain lesions, brain tumors, migraines, and other mental disorders can be cured using this technique. The piece of skull is replaced after the surgery.
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5. Caesarean Section
A Caesarean section is a surgical procedure where a baby is delivered by cutting the mother’s uterus and womb. The baby is then safely lifted out through it. Even though a Caesarean section includes risks as infection, heavy bleeding, injury to the baby, blood clots, it is still a very common procedure nowadays.
As per the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, over 14% of the total births in India in 2018-19 took place through a Caesarean section (in public hospitals).
Though a Caesarean section may seem commonplace today, it is one of the old medical treatments. It dates back to around 320 BC. Earlier, a C-section was performed only to remove the baby when the mother was already dead or was dying.
4. Fecal Transplant
The fecal transplant may sound gross, but this transplant works wonders. In this technique, slightly processed fecal matter is transferred from a healthy donor to another person. The recipient, then, has enough good bacteria in his colon, which curbs the effect of disease-causing harmful bacteria.
This process was used 1700 years ago by a Chinese researcher who administered the “yellow soup” orally to his patients with diarrhea. This “yellow soup ”was said to be made up of water and feces.
3. Bee Venom Therapy or Apitherapy
In apitherapy, a patient allows bees to sting him or is injected with bee venom. Bee venom, called apitoxin, also contains certain enzymes and compounds that reduce pain and promote healing. We can even buy bee venom products like moisturizers, lotions, and tablets. Bee venom therapy is more widely used in Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America.
Apitherapy can be traced back to the times of Greek traditional medical practices. Bee venom is a natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain, and a variety of ailments. This is a safe, natural, and effective treatment.
2. Maggot Therapy
Maggot therapy involves the application of maggots to wounds. It was first used by Native Americans who observed that soldiers infected with maggots recovered earlier than other wounded soldiers. In addition, the soldiers whose injuries were filled with eggs of maggots healed much quicker.
Maggots are made germ-free before their use in treatment. These legless larvae gulp up the dead and infected tissues of the victim. Then, they secrete digestive enzymes that accelerate wound healing by dissolving the infected tissue (a process called debridement) and killing the infecting bacteria. It is a safe and cheap therapy. This treatment helps treat foot and leg ulcers.
1. Leech Therapy
The idea of leech sucking its dinner might be scary, but this is what is done in leech therapy. In leech therapy or hirudotherapy, live leeches are applied to the human skin. It is practiced in many parts of the world even today. Leeches produce hirudin, a protein that prevents the blood from clotting. Hirudin allows blood to flow for 2-3 hours even after the leeches are removed.
Leeches remove blood clots in an area that has poor blood circulation, thereby improving blood flow in that area. In addition, it prevents the tissues from dying. Leech-loving professionals use leeches to treat arthritis, migraine, skin problems, heart diseases, and many other diseases.
Leeches have enjoyed this popularity for thousands of years. This therapy can be traced back to ancient Greece and Egypt, when the practice of bloodletting was something very common. Earlier, the health professionals believed that removing blood from the patient cured him of all ills. Therefore, huge quantities of leeches were used for this purpose. In some cases, patients would lose around 80 percent of their blood.
Our image of the medieval period is that it was a dark, irrational and barbaric period. However, the above list contradicts this popular belief as many of today’s medical practices have roots in medieval times.
The procedures have just been more refined, and the instruments are more advanced, but they have not fundamentally changed much. So, believe it or not, some of today’s most common medical practices, like C-sections and Catheterization of patients, have an ancient origin.
These methods are still used today, from leeches to maggots to bees, because they are tried and true. So we can easily conclude that old ways are not so old after all. The saying stands true: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”