Ancient Egypt: In addition to herbs, the healer – a priest/physician/pharmacist combo – uses the excrement of flies and crocodiles for medicinal purposes.
Ancient Rome: Bloodletting, or the opening of a vein to let blood out, is performed to “balance the patient’s humors.”
Ancient India: Leeching is practiced as a form of bloodletting. Leeches, which are sometimes called blood suckers, are worm-like creatures that suck out blood when applied to the skin. Leeches remained a common therapy into the 20th century before being phased out, but they make a comeback in the 1980s to help blood flow after microsurgery.
Indian scholars also write lengthy descriptions of the healing power of spices and herbs.
Ancient China: Acupuncture, in which very fine, small needles are inserted at different points of the body, is used to treat a variety of diseases, help with pain management, improve mood, and even increase fertility. While health professionals in the U.S. long discounted Eastern medical practices, this form of treatment is now used frequently and is even prescribed by many doctors.
Ancient Mayan, Aztec and American Indians: Ear candling, in which a paper cone covered in beeswax is held between the ear and a small flame, is a popular treatment. The effect of the cone and the heat are believed to draw out impurities from the ear, nose and throat. This practice is still alive today and some spas even offer the service, but many people perceive it as dangerous, or simply doubt that it even works at all.
Eighth Century Baghdad: The first apothecary opens. Distilled waters, sweet syrups, and alcoholic liquids are used as mixers.
Fifteenth Century Europe: Paracelsus puts mercury – which is now known to be poisonous in certain amounts – in his cures.
Eighteenth Century China: The use of snake oil originated in China but gets a bad rap in the U.S. because salesmen and some apothecaries famously tout it as a cure-all. The name has become synonymous with products that are fake or misleading. While the substance isn’t the cure-all it was claimed to be, snake oil does actually contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have become known for their anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-regulating and blood-clotting properties.
Late Nineteenth Century U.S.: Pharmacists create and sell sodas to combat fatigue and stomach aches. In Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. John Smith Pemberton creates the syrup for the soda we now call Coca-Cola.
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