The Strangest Old-Fashioned Health Remedies

We’ve written about plenty of useful old-fashioned cures that have stood the test of time, but what about the cures that fizzled out of popularity? (Disclaimer: we do not suggest trying any of these.)

Here are some good examples of bad cures:

  • A cure for baldness meant putting fresh cow manure directly on your head.
  • Got anemia? Eat raw liver and drink blood. Sure, you’ll get your iron, but you’ll lose all of it if it comes back up.
  • Cure a head cold by catching leaves falling from trees! Of course, for this cure you will have to wait until autumn rolls around to cure your cold.
  • Get rid of diarrhea by eating coconut cookies. This is probably one of the most delicious cures you’ll find; if it doesn’t work, at least you get to eat cookies!
  • Cut away a headache by sleeping with scissors under your pillow. The headache will be gone just overnight (that’s the claim, anyway)!
  • Sear a rabies bite with a hot iron to stop yourself from going crazy.
  • For a stomach ache, cut off a little hair from behind your right ear while under the light of a full moon, then throw the hair over your right shoulder.

We do not recommend trying these at home. Or trying them anywhere, for that matter. These old wives’ tales will probably just make you sicker!

All listed “cures” courtesy of

The Awe of Old-Time Traveling Medicine Shows

Some old-fashioned remedies really work – but many old timey medicines are horrifying to modern sensibilities.

In particular, medicine shows rolling through town in the 18th and 19th centuries brought alleged miracle cures for all sorts of ailments. Without the modern access we have today to WebMD and other such medical sites, people relied on word of mouth to hear about cures for their boils or rashes or other fun issues.
Medicine shows didn’t hold back. They created extravagant shows that advertised their products, often with made-up stories about miracle cures that had people believing.Snake-oil

In fact, traveling salesmen often combined simple ingredients like alcohol and sugar into useless concoctions with no medicinal value. Gullible patrons bought the nostrums anyway, buying in to fanciful stories of their uses.

Old medicines were likely either useless or dangerous. Ingredients included things like arsenic, mercury, and heroin. Dentists suggested cocaine lozenges to patients with toothaches, and also used cocaine as an anesthetic.

More reliable medicine with wider availability entered the market in the 20th century, reducing faith in home remedies. Medicine shows still traveled, but relied more on entertainment than medicine. Soon, newer entertainment like movie theaters popped up everywhere, and people lost interest in these once-touted medicine shows.