The whole point of modern society is separating humans from the unspeakably gross things that keep humans alive. No, you don't want to see how the sausage is made, and you don't want to see where your poop goes. This goes double for medical care, where you expect everything to be sterile and white and made by people in spotless laboratories. But if you're willing to keep an open mind about horrifying things, you'll be pleased to find out that ...
If you're adventuring through the deepest jungles of Africa, it serves you well to take precautions, because it's safe to say you probably won't have access to the highest caliber of medical care. So what happens if you fall down and give yourself a nasty gash? If you're not carrying a needle and thread, the best thing you can do is shove your bleeding arm into an ant's nest and start collecting a few of the little bastards.
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We recommend feigning a picnic.
Driver ants are fearsome South American and African critters that hunt in swarms. They are so aggressive and their bite so powerful that when they raid, even elephants flee from them.
But industrious humans, unwilling to bow down to a master shorter than an eyelash, simply wondered what the bane of the jungle could do for them. And before the age of medical-grade sutures, early humans discovered that ants were remarkably good at stitching up wounds.
We can safely speculate that the first person to do this was wacked out fucking crazy.
Nicknamed "surgery ants," their pincers are so powerful that they can staple wounds together. This isn't a pleasant operation for the ants themselves -- you have to make them angry enough to bite you, and when they're good and pissed, you twist their bodies off to lock the pincers in place.
It's hardly an effective remedy for an ax wound, but it's so effective for minor injuries that ant stitches have been used for thousands of years, and in some remote parts of the world they're still used today. So if there are any doctors reading this, try it! And then send us video of the patient's reaction.
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Bonus points if you can do it while maintaining a creepy stalker smile.
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Psoriasis probably won't kill you, but it still sucks -- it's a chronic skin condition where your skin cells replicate too fast and turn into red, itchy scales. It can seriously affect self-confidence, if nothing else, because the lizard-person look is rarely in fashion. Treatment options are wide and varied -- your doctor might prescribe a lotion, or a pill, or phototherapy ... or a mineral bath containing hundreds of tiny fish that eat the top layer of your skin off.
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"We shall de-feet you!" (We are so sincerely sorry about that.)
It can be difficult to find a treatment for psoriasis that works well, so people who suffer from the condition may turn to some pretty unconventional solutions. That is, insofar as "climbing into a pool filled with creatures that will eat the flesh right off your body" can be considered unconventional. So for a mere $3,000, not including airfare, sufferers can travel to the hot springs of Kangal, Turkey, to pay a visit to the so-called "doctor fish," a minnow-like species that usually prefers to feed on plankton but is not averse to nibbling on dead human skin, which is something that psoriasis sufferers have in excess.
It sounds ridiculous, but up to 87 percent of people who try it report that they look and feel better afterward. The idea is that the pool is rich in selenium, which is an element with skin-healing properties. So after the fish nibble away at all the excess skin, the water can get in and help your dermis to help itself. And unlike drugs, fish don't usually carry side effects.
Well, maybe a slight case of the willies and saying "BLUUGH!"
This leaves unanswered the most interesting question, which is, of course: Who was the first person to try this? Did they just fall in on accident and get pleasantly surprised by how good their skin felt afterward? Were they trying for a particularly slow and gruesome suicide, and profoundly disappointed? Unfortunately, the answer has been lost to history.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that feels exactly as unpleasant as you might expect from something with "ulcerative," "inflammatory," and "bowel" in the description. There aren't too many effective treatments, but science is looking into a new solution that has been showing positive results. It involves infecting yourself with intestinal parasites.
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"CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!"
Studies have been done for some time that suggest that pigs with intestinal worms suffer fewer bowel conditions. Not willing to wait for human trials to give a verdict on his bloody diarrhea problem, one unnamed ulcerative colitis victim took it upon himself to swallow a bunch of whipworm eggs to see whether they offered any relief. We're not sure where he got them -- apparently there's a black market for that kind of thing?
Regardless, the results were a lot more favorable than what you could usually expect from deliberately ingesting parasites. The condition actually went into remission for four years and counting.
Now that's the look of a man with a healthy poop shed.
As explained by Dr. Gerard Mullin, director of integrative nutrition services at Johns Hopkins, the effect is due to the fact that the body's immune response to whipworms is the opposite of the way it reacts to inflammatory bowel diseases. When infected with worms, the gut responds by producing extra mucus, which in this case is exactly what you want, as it protects against the ulcers that create the inflammatory response. And to think his friends probably called him crazy.
*Just because it worked on this occasion doesn't mean that you should try to cure your own chronic illness by eating random parasites. That's still usually a bad idea.
"Ugh. Why'd I eat all that E. coli?"
Suffering from chronic pain? Maybe you'd like to go for a soothing massage, or try some meditation. Or maybe you would prefer to check out the newest craze, which is sealing yourself in a subzero freeze chamber until you Demolition Man yourself back to health.
Just steer clear of the Austin Powers references. They hate that.
Forever in search of more outlandish methods of relieving the pain of day-to-day life, people have been flocking to cryogenic chamber therapy, presumably because they heard it worked for Walt Disney.
The chamber is cooled by liquid nitrogen (the same stuff they used to kill the T-1000 and the villain in GoldenEye) to subzero temperatures, and participants step inside wearing nothing but a bathing suit with earmuffs, socks, and gloves. That's because the therapy has a tendency to cause frostbite if you don't protect your extremities.
That's not makeup.
But while you're dressed in a sexy Eskimo Halloween costume, the therapy works like an ice pack to the entire body. It reduces muscle inflammation and triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain-relief drug that gets released at times of sudden and severe trauma. Like, for example, sudden and unexpected freezing.
Participants only remain in the chamber for a couple of minutes at a time, which is long enough to trigger the beneficial effects, but not quite long enough to freeze your insides and allow you to be shattered with a single gunshot. Still seems like just a matter of time until somebody gets stuck in there, though.
"I don't think he's going to make it."
So you've just woken up after a drunken weekend of ill-advised sexual misadventures, and you notice that it hurts when you pee. Your doctor gives you the bad news -- you've contracted syphilis. The good news, though, is that it's a treatable condition -- they can clear it right up just by giving you a touch of the single greatest cause of death in the history of the human species.
"Not a single one of my patients will give the treatment a bad review."
Yep, malaria totally cures syphilis. The guy who discovered it even won a Nobel Prize for it.
Even if this wasn't insane to begin with, it hardly seems worthwhile to try to cure one disease by contracting a worse one. You wouldn't try to solve a rat infestation by releasing a bunch of poisonous snakes into your house. But back in those days, it wasn't that simple. Doctors knew that syphilis was caused by some kind of bacteria, but they didn't have the antibiotics needed to treat it. And if it's left untreated, syphilis can be seriously bad news -- it can eventually turn into neurosyphilis, which results in brain degradation, seizures, vision loss, and loss of control over your bowels.
Incidentally, the same symptoms as listening to a Nickelback album.
Enter Dr. Julius Wagner-Jauregg, an Austrian doctor who figured out that the bacteria behind syphilis can be killed by a high fever (that is, after all, what a fever is for -- it's your body's attempt to destroy an infection by roasting it alive). And nothing triggers a fever better than a good case of malaria.
Of course, then they needed to get rid of the malaria. That meant that they had to give you AIDS. Just kidding. They had a pretty successful antidote for malaria at the time, so once you were syphilis-free, they'd just give you the malaria treatment and call it square. It's that kind of outside-the-box thinking that will either save mankind or result in some kind of mutant parasite apocalypse.
Related Reading: Did you know baby foreskins can treat ulcers? We bet you wish you didn't. And were you aware shoving feces up your nose can heal stomach problems? 'Cause it can! And if that ain't enough body horror for you, these old-timey medical treatments ought to satisfy your mad whims.