By Patrick Dixon
Chance upon your local U Weight Loss Clinic and you will be greeted by our Health Coaches. They are the walking, smiling dispensaries of weight loss wisdom that you wish you could take home with you. While we couldn’t possibly maintain the staffing requirements that such a scenario would entail, we do feel that everyone should have a wealth of health knowledge at their disposal, as often as possible, and across every medium available. It’s why we have Facebook. It’s why we have a Blog. It’s why we aspire to provide you with an endless stream of healthy tips and fun facts. There was a time, however, when the most proliferated and widely accepted health tips were also the most horrifying. Such as…
5. “Radiation…The New Energy Drink!”
Radium was the coconut water of the early 1900’s. Medical science touted its panacean healing properties and companies jumped at the chance to infuse this hot new commodity into their products. In the food industry, some spirited entrepreneurs took to bottling radioactive water – Radithor being the market leader in what was essentially liquid death. At the time, though, it was believed (or at least claimed) that ingesting radioactive water would give the body a vigorous boost. Think Red Bull, followed by a gruesome death. Only one fatality had been officially attributed to that product in particular, but it demanded further investigation and eventually brought to light the harmful effects of radiation.
4. “For Good Health, Avoid Bad Air!”
At first read, that looks like sound advice. That is, until we point out that “bad air” actually refers to miasma – the theory that an airborne, contagious, and evil life force to which many of history’s most formidable diseases were attributed. Miasma was believed to be a poisonous vapour that dwelt in decomposing matter, usually accompanied by a dreadful smell. Even unpleasant odours became a terrifying reminder of this “deadly” threat. One can only imagine the kind of shaming that body odour sufferers endured. The ancient Greeks came up with the idea, and it remained a prominent health concern up until around the 19th century when germ theory eventually prevailed.
3. “Mercury, The Cure For What Ails Ya!”
Without delving into great detail regarding STD’s (this is a family website after all), we can say that mercury was once contrived as a cure for syphilis from about the 15th century to the mid 20th century. Throughout history, mercury was believed to have mystical properties, so naturally when it came to developing a cure for this rampant and misunderstood disease, society’s brightest scholars and practitioners of medicine joyfully exclaimed, “Let’s try magic!” Eventually the fatal side effects of mercury were discovered and the medical community recommended alternative measures, such as antibiotics and, well, using protection.
2. “When In Doubt, Bleed it Out!”
Let’s say you’re feeling under the weather. You might want to lie down, maybe increase your fluid intake, or perhaps cozy up with some hot soup and wait for your immune system to do its thing. Now let’s say you’re feeling under the weather and you’re living in 17th century Europe. Your family would dutifully whisk you away to the local barbershop where a pleasant gentleman would cut you open and drain your blood until you felt better.
What the – Seriously?
Yup. That was bloodletting, and it was widely believed that draining a small quantity of blood would help balance the body’s fluids – poor health was often attributed to an imbalance of bodily fluids. That’s humorism for you. Shockingly, this practice is still being employed in some parts of the world, presumably the parts where health professionals don’t need licensing and Tylenol isn’t readily available.
1. “Don’t Analyze, Lobotomize!”
Can you imagine cruising by the U-Blog and finding an in-depth article on the Health Benefits of Jamming an Ice Pick into Your Brain? Well if the Internet existed in 1930’s America, that’s just the kind of article you’d be stumbling across. (Instead of this fascinating read about unhealthy foods that are actually good for you.) Lobotomies were considered a cure for some mental illnesses, and for a time they were thought to be somewhat successful.
However, when you’re dealing with something as intricate as the human brain, “somewhat successful” isn’t going to cut it. The side effects from botched lobotomies were too numerous to justify its continuation as a viable medical practice. Lobotomies were eventually banned in the United States in 1970, with more sophisticated and safe procedures taking its place.
All the aforementioned health tips were widely recognized and practiced at various points in history, which is both hilarious and scary. Needless to say, practical health tips have come a long way thanks to conventional science and some honest-to-goodness common sense. It makes you wonder if we will be condemning quinoa for being a poisonous narcotic 50 years from now. In the meantime, however, eat more quinoa!