Ancient Egyptians used leeches to treat a wide range of physical ailments, from headaches to liver and kidney disease to infections to hemorrhoids. They believed that “evil spirits” had infected the person’s body and the removal of the blood was removing the “evil spirits”. Hippocrates, the Greek physician who is considered the “father of Western medicine”, believed that a sick patient’s four internal “humors” had become misaligned, so he used leeches to remove blood from a patient to “balance the humors”. In the Middle Ages, leeches were used to draw out the “bad blood” that medieval physicians believed caused many of their patients’ ailments. In the 19th century, “leech mania” swept through Europe and America, as the practice of bloodletting emerged as a widely accepted “modern” medical treatment. Every year during that time, 5 to 6 million leeches were used to draw more than 300,000 liters of blood in Parisian hospitals alone. Barbers were considered medical practitioners and bloodletting was one of their most common treatments. That is why the barber pole is red and white striped.
Thousands of years ago, it was common practice to drill a hole into a person’s skull who was suffering from convulsions, seizures, or forms of psychosis. They believed that “evil spirits” had infected the patient’s brain, and drilling the hole allowed the “evil spirit” to be released and the brain could realign. 70 years ago, the smartest minds believed that the best way to treat mental illness was to shoot 110 volts of electricity into the brain of the patient to shock the brain back into alignment. And many times, if that didn’t work, then the doctors resorted a lobotomy, removing most of the frontal lobe of the patient which had been deemed the bad part of the brain. In the 18th and 19th century, hemi-glossectomy, the removal of part of a patient’s tongue was used to help cure a stutter.
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