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10 Things We Thought Were True Before the Scientific Method


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Bloodletting as a Legit Medical Cure
Leeches are so old school – or not. © Tony Savino/Corbis
Leeches are so old school – or not. © Tony Savino/Corbis

No survey of the crazy things we believed before the scientific method would be complete without some mention of the weird and horrifying practices we once considered medicinal.

Remember all that business about humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and choler, aka yellow bile)? Well, imagine what kind of medical treatments might arise from such a bodily fluid-focused approach, and you have a sense of what humoral medicine was like: diagnoses based solely on the smell of feces, urine, blood or vomit; physicians who prescribe forced vomiting, frequent bloodletting and iffy enemas to balance the body out. What it lacked in effectiveness it made up for in sheer life-threatening danger. Not surprisingly, people stuck to prayer and folk remedies whenever possible [sources: Batchelor; Getz].

As for bleeding hemorrhoids, some doctors viewed them as natural humor-balancers, useful for relieving mania, depression, pleurisy, leprosy and dropsy (edema). Of course, if bleeding got out of hand, it was time to break out the red-hot pokers. It's amazing what people will sit still for [sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica; Encyclopaedia Britannica; DeMaitre].


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