If you live in the modern world, chances are that, when you’re ill, you’ll be prescribed convenient medical treatments that reflect the advances in medicine. Few doctors, for example, would prescribe you a course of breast milk. But some who don’t live in the modern world have to contend with medical treatments that have little to recommend them beyond mystery. Read on for the five most bizarre medical treatments that are still being used today in some parts of the world.
1. Tiger penis soup
Steady, tiger! In some Asian countries, consuming a male tiger’s dried penis in a soup (containing medicines and flavoured with spices) is considered an effective treatment for improving virility. Although trading in tiger parts is illegal, and has been since 1987, there is still an ongoing black market for tiger parts. Today, tiger penis soup retails at up to $400 due to the rarity of the part.
2. Eating live fish
The people of Hyderabad, India, believe that ingesting live fish is a miraculous cure for asthma. The fish, each up to 7cm long, are stuffed with a herbal medicine based on a secret, ancient recipe that was passed on to the Bathini Gaud family from a Hindu saint over 150 years ago. According to CNN, the family believes that the treatment’s effectiveness is due to the clearing of the throat by the wiggling action of the fish as it makes its way into the stomach. Once the fish has been ingested (administered by family members and volunteers), patients must commence a 45-day diet programme. They must also repeat the process every couple of years. Responding to detractors of the treatment, the Gaudi family says that patients, who return to them in droves every year, are the best judges of the treatment’s effectiveness.
3. Bee venom
If your herpes hasn’t gone away yet, you could always try bee venom. Bee venom as a medical treatment goes back many thousands of years but is still used today as a treatment for herpes zoster, arthritis, and other conditions. Treatment is administered either by live bees placed on the affected area or by injection.
4. Maggot debridement therapy
Debridement refers to the removal of dead tissue, and maggot debridement therapy is the placing of disinfected maggots onto open wounds so that their excretions liquefy dead tissue present, which can then be cleaned off, leaving only healthy tissue. Maggots are increasingly being used to treat very resistant superbugs such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which is difficult to treat using standard drug-based treatments. The use of maggots to clean up wounds is not new, and dates back to the Napoleonic Wars and World War I.
5. Breast milk
We all know that breast milk is best, as the midwives and posters tell us, but is it good for adults, too? Scientists suggest that a substance called human Alpha-lactalbumin or HAMLET, found in breast milk, kills 40 strains of cancer cells, according to an article in The Telegraph. However, although there are also several anecdotes of the effectiveness of breast milk as a treatment for cancer, some scientists have described it as “bizarre, completely anecdotal and probably complete bunkum.”
Do you know of any other bizarre medical treatments that are still in use today? If so, please share them with us in the comments box below!