1. Ancient Romans wiped their butts using a sponge on a stick, which doesn’t sound awful, apart from the fact that the stick was communal.
2. But those that couldn’t afford luxury sponge sticks had to make do wiping with pieces of discarded pottery.
3. In the late 1700s, the chainsaw was invented as a more efficient way to to cut the pelvic bone during childbirth – a common practice at the time.
Before the caesarian was introduced, babies had to pass through the pelvis to be born. So, when the pelvis was too narrow that meant bones had to be cut in a process called symphysiotomy. The invention of the chainsaw in 1780 actually improved this ordeal – before then, the bones were cut with a small knife in a long and painful procedure.
4. A popular hair dye recipe in ancient Rome was a combination of leeches and vinegar left to pickle for 40 days.
If that doesn’t sound unpleasant enough, because the mixture was pickled in a leaden vessel, it also came with a risk of poisoning.
6. And in Ancient Egypt, a common cure for toothache was a freshly killed dead mouse applied directly to the mouth.
7. In the 18th century, lancing – cutting the gums of a baby to bypass teething – was a common practice in Europe, as it was believed that it was safer than teething.
Many doctors believed that teething was responsible for seizures, diarrhoea, and other illnesses that infants at the time were dying from. The procedure, which involved cutting the baby’s gums down to the teeth, was very popular until as late as the 19th century, and was also practised in the States.
9. And in a number of pre-historic cultures all over the world, drilling holes directly into the skull of a live person was a practice thought to be a treatment for head injuries.
Archaeologists have found a number of skulls that have evidence of this procedure which is called trepanation, but scientists don’t completely agree on exactly why it was performed. While findings indicate that some cultures used trepanation to treat pain, many researchers believe that it may have also been part of spiritual rituals.
10. Europeans in the 16th and 17th would ingest remedies that contained human blood, fat, and bones, often sourced from Egyptian tombs and Irish burial grounds.
11. And up until the sixth century, in the Roman Republic, drinking gladiator blood was believed to be a cure for epilepsy.
Several medical authors from the time reported that consuming the blood or liver from a fallen gladiator (which was believed to have sacred properties) had healing powers. When gladiatorial combat was outlawed, the blood of people who had been executed became the go-to.
12. Up until the early 1900s, chloroform and smoking were both recommended as treatments for asthma.
13. Long before the days of whitening mouthwash, ancient Romans kept their teeth pearly by gargling with urine.
And if you’re wondering if they were gargling their own urine, the answer is probably not. Families had specific chamber pots for saving their wee, and there were even traders who collected it from public urinals and had to pay a special tax on it.
14. Urine was also a key ingredient for clothes washing back in medieval times.
When left to become ammonia, urine has strong cleansing properties (and a very strong smell). Back in the day, workers would mix said ammonia with water, pour it onto their dirty laundry, and then step on it (barefoot, might I add) until they reached their desired cleanliness.
16. And finally, in early 20th century America, douching with Lysol – the cleaning product that contains a bunch of toxic chemicals – was recommended as a method of birth control.
For married couples in the states, birth control was illegal until 1965 (and 1972 for singletons). Advertised as a “feminine hygiene” product, Lysol was the best-selling “contraception” during the Great Depression, despite the fact that many people died from using it.