Strange Medicine, by Nathan Belofsky: exclusive excerpt

In Ancient Egypt, doctors applied electric eels to patients with migraines. In the medieval times dentists burned candles into patients’ mouths to kill off those pesky invisible worms gnawing at their teeth. Even in the modern era, one of the world’s best-known brain surgeons, Dr. Walter Freeman drove ice picks into patients’ eyes to practice… READ THE REST

Great article! Rather surprised you don’t mention the last several decades of poisoning patients with cancer, although we refer to it as ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘radiation therapy’. The Romans would be so very, very proud!

Exactly the same! Except for the part about chemo and radiation actually working some of the time.


Quite possibly, the Roman poison worked some of the time, as well. And more probably, in the future our modern chemotherapy and radiation will be seen as being equally as barbaric - not to mention, often involving known carcinogenic chemicals and effects, themselves. Perhaps, it will look a little like the stretch from Roman electric eels, to modern electroshock therapy - which, strangely enough, is still practiced in some places. It seems we very often merely find fancier, more technologically-advanced ways to perform old-fashioned approaches to problems, rather than new approaches altogether.

I’ve had migraines. When you have a migraine, an electric eel to the head doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

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