In order to really appreciate how far medicine has come, we’re taking a look at what was once believed to be great medical advancements in history. Here are 5 of the craziest medical practices that were once the norm for doctors and patients around the world.


Considered one of the oldest practices in medicine, bloodletting involves the removal of some blood from a patient either through piercing a vein or through use of leeches. The idea behind the crazy practice was the belief that illness was the result of a loss of balance between “humors” that is, four basic substances (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood) found in the human body that should be in perfect balance to maintain good health. It was thought that by removing the “bad blood” the sickness would be removed.

The practice was used for a wide range of ailments, from a sore throat or gout to the plague.

Soothing Syrups

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was a tonic that first came about in the USA before being offered to a global market. Marketed to mothers with young children and babies, it claimed to relieve the pain associated with teething as well as a number of other issues such as diarrhoea. Unfortunately, the consumers at the time were unaware that the syrup actually contained morphine, alcohol and a cleaning agent.

It is no surprise, then, that accidental deaths occurred as infants suffered narcotic poisoning from the product.


Many of us have heard of this one. The lobotomy or the prefrontal leucotomy was a surgical procedure that involved surgical manipulation of the brain that severed nerve pathways. The inventor of the lobotomy was given a Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1949 and the practice was used for treating mental conditions from schizophrenia to anxiety. This scary practice could be used in conjunction with electroshock treatment. However, by the mid-1950s medications that could assist those with mental illness came into use and the practice was no longer used.

Heroin Cough Cure

Whilst most of us are very aware of the destructive ramifications of heroin abuse today, it may come as a shock to hear that heroin was once used by the major pharmaceutical developer Bayer to relive coughs in children. Bayer paid for many advertisements that were seen around the world promoting heroin for coughs, colds and irritation and was placed among pictures of mothers giving this drug to their children. More surprising than the creation and use of heroin for something as small as a cold is that fact that this promotion went on until 1912, which was years after reports suggested this was not a good treatment and could lead to addiction.