Medical Practices Your Ancestors May Have Experienced

I admit I hate to go to doctors or dentists or to other medical professionals. The “cures” I have received often were worse than the original ailments. However, I am thankful that I have not experienced the “treatments” that were common years ago.

A long series of pictures, along with accompanying brief descriptions, shows many of the commonly-accepted medical treatments that our ancestors endured. The pictures vary from cocaine candy (“the lick that lasts”) to having teeth pulled by a pharmacist at the local drug store. I suspect that some doctors may have killed more of their patients than they cured!

Perhaps the most gruesome photo isn’t that of a medical procedure at all. Instead, it was action taken after a person’s death: an embalming tent located not far from a battlefield during the U.S. Civil War. (When the bodies were to be shipped home for burial, transportation was slow and it often took days or weeks for the body to make the trip. Embalming was necessary to preserve the body during the long trip.)

CocaCola was first invented as a medicine, not as a soft drink, by a pharmacist. Apparently, it was very successful as it certainly made patients with all sorts of ailments feel much better. You see, it contained quite a bit of cocaine! The pharmacist stopped selling it at his drug counter and moved the sales to his soda counter!

You can find all this and a lot more in 56 Crazy Medical Practices Doctors Thought Made Sense in the History Daily web site at:

So much for “the good old days!”

Selling cigarettes to a patient in a hospital. I have to wonder if he was being treated for lung cancer!


Couldn’t see the 56 Crazy Medical Practices. Clicking on “Next Page,” showed unrelated subjects.


Hi Dick,
The use of cocaine and Coca-Cola is all very interesting but the interruption in this article with advertisements was way too much. It immediately leaves cocaine and goes into two tattoo stories. I’m sure the rest of it may be interesting but I couldn’t get all the way through 4 never mind 56.


If you take the /53 off the end of the url you should be able to start at the beginning. Apparently it brings your to the 53rd page.


It could have been even worse to be treated by the old herbalist Culpeper. In his book “The English Physician” (1652) he recommends, among many other uses for the plant, adding to a syrup made from sweet violet leaves a few drops of oil of vitriol to “cool the heat and quench the thirst” of those with jaundice or fever. Oil of vitriol, of course, is the old name for sulphuric acid.


According to information from the Ken Padgett Blogspot (, the cocaine poster is a satirical ad designed by Rolly Crump:
“HEATER HALLS COCAINE: Guaranteed to Deaden That Sweet Tooth”
Satire designed and Printed by Roland (Rolly) Crump, (born February 27, 1930), an American animator and designer known for his work as a Disney Imagineer.


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