7 Medically Proven Treatments That Clearly Started as a Joke
It's probably safe to say that many of you are still around to read this sentence today thanks to one of the myriad medical treatments that science has developed since we first figured out that the human body is not, in fact, powered by swarms of tiny elves. The details of said procedures run the gamut from fascinating to fear-inducing. It's often downright baffling that a) someone came up with the idea and b) that it totally freaking worked.
The following treatments are prime examples.
Tetris Can Correct a Lazy Eye
Tetris, made popular in the '80s by its inclusion with the Nintendo Game Boy, was the Candy Crush of its day -- a stupidly simple game that was so addictive you expected it to be outlawed at some point. You'd just fit falling geometric shapes into rows until your mother yelled at you to get your ass outside (to look for a job, because suddenly several years had passed and you now had to pay rent).
Hey, there are worse ways to spend puberty. For example: any other way.
Until recently, the only societal benefit Tetris had given the world was a generation of people who are really, really good at packing for vacation. But that all changed when researchers at McGill University discovered that the game could be used to correct amblyopia, more commonly known as a lazy eye. Previously, the go-to treatment for a lazy eye was to patch the "good" eye and force the patient to use the "bad" eye until it shaped up, but success was limited at best and pirate jokes get old so, so fast.
In the Tetris treatment, patients wear head-mounted video goggles that display a high-contrast version of the game. Their good eye only sees the background image, while the lazy one has to get its ass up off the couch and focus on the task of stacking a never-ending supply of falling blocks.
The only side effect is the doctor's uncontrollable giggling.
Patients undergoing the treatment showed four times the improvement of those using the more traditional patching method, possibly due to the fact that, after becoming addicted to the game, they got extra practice while watching falling blocks in their sleep.
Coal Tar Can Treat Skin Problems
Psoriasis is a chronic condition where your skin says, "Fuck your desire to ever wear short sleeves," and transforms itself into dry, itchy, red scales.
Coal tar is that black muck they spread on top of driveways.
The sitcom practically writes itself.
On a countdown of "two things that should never, ever, for the love of god be put together," these two would rank pretty high -- or so you'd think. As a matter of fact, coal tar has been a common treatment for psoriasis for hundreds of years, because while someone who's never experienced the condition might say, "But doc, couldn't you prescribe a nice, soothing topical lotion instead?" a psoriasis sufferer might say, "Doc, I don't care if you pop a squat right on my head -- like, right on it -- just so long as your shit makes this shit feel better."
"I promise the erection is unrelated."
In the 1920s, an American dermatologist named William H. Goeckerman devised the unsurprisingly named Goeckerman Therapy, a treatment in which a psoriasis patient spends up to 24 hours slathered in coal tar, while the hospital staff resists the overwhelming urge to throw feathers at him. Just when he's almost hit the mental breaking point of becoming convinced that he is now a parking lot, the patient is cleaned up and immediately blasted with UVB radiation, which sadly ranks dead last on the scale of superpower-inducing radiations. Then he starts the process all over again, with the average treatment regimen lasting three freaking weeks.
It sounds downright barbaric, but it works (whether by reducing DNA synthesis or giving your skin Stockholm syndrome is unclear). And while there are more modern treatments for psoriasis (not to mention the whole "that shit's carcinogenic" factor), there are still many who choose the more traditional (and stickier) treatment because it's cheaper. In fact, in the Netherlands it's still one of the top treatments for the condition -- though that's possibly because the Dutch instinctively blurt out "Yes, please!" whenever they hear someone say "black tar."
And if you have dandruff problems, go look at your shampoo bottle. Squint hard enough and you'll probably see "coal tar" down at the bottom in the tiniest print they could manage.
It's not flammable, in case you're worried that a sudden spark will turn you into Ghost Rider.
You Can Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis by Literally Injecting Gold Into the Joint
While you may imagine that gold's only contribution to medical science is to treat a Bond girl to death, in actuality we humans have a lengthy history of treating ailments with precious metals. In the first century, the Greeks thought gold could cure warts. In the 17th century, it was listed in the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis as the key to outliving the rest of your family, possibly by tapping into the power of the Old Ones. And by the 19th century it had grown into the ultimate in medicinal fashion, credited with curing basically every malady known to mankind.
It might not have been as effective as modern medicine, but at least it was somehow still cheaper.
Of course, it was all bullshit, up to and including the use of gold therapy to treat tuberculosis in the 1920s. When a bacteriologist by the name of Robert Koch discovered that gold cyanide went all serial killer on the bacteria responsible for causing tuberculosis in a test tube, people hoped the same would prove true in a human-sized test tube. It didn't, but it did lead to them trying the same treatment for other conditions -- namely, rheumatoid arthritis, which was then mistakenly thought to be caused by a bacterial infection, because historical medicine was largely about pulling wild guesses out of your ass until one of them stuck. That idiom just got really gross.
Anyway, as you've probably already guessed (since you presumably read the title of this entry), gold injections totally worked for rheumatoid arthritis ... just not for the reason doctors thought they would. Rather, they worked because, when repeatedly injected into a sufferer's muscles, gold gradually builds up and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, thus interfering with the body's autoimmune response and slowing further joint damage. And we haven't even gotten to what the treatments do to boost your net worth.
"While undergoing treatment you'll need to wear this prescription headgear."
So, as ridiculous as it sounds, shooting-up smelted wedding rings was the absolute shit right up until the 1990s, when the treatment was largely displaced by medications lacking the nasty side effects of the blingjections. Said laundry list of nastiness includes canker sores, rashes, kidney problems, intestinal inflammation, liver injury, and the potential to transform into some kind of greed-themed supervillain.
Coca-Cola Can Unblock Your Bowels
While a gastric phytobezoar sounds like a member of the shittiest race of rubber-headed Star Trek aliens ever conceived, in reality it is something far, far worse (so much worse). It's a collection of indigestible plant or animal matter that builds up in your stomach or intestines, then just sits there like an immovable roadblock standing between you and Pleasantdumpville. If you want to sleep tonight, take our advice and do not, under any circumstances, do a Google Image search for "bezoar."
Also, do not click that link, in which we have helpfully provided a Google Image search for "bezoar."
"Oh my god, why did I click it?!" -You in three seconds
The condition is especially common in Asia, where persimmons are a popular food that causes especially rock-like bezoars, and yet people still keep eating persimmons for some fucking reason. If you find yourself playing landlord to a bad enough blockage, you're probably looking at either blasting it with lasers or full-on invasive surgery to serve it an eviction notice ... at least, you were until researchers discovered that there's a much simpler cure available at every corner convenience store: Coca-Cola.
Hopefully this GIF of a cute Coke-loving dog will be as effective at cleaning the bezoar images out of your brain.
Coke is so acidic that it resembles gastric acid, except fizzy. The combination of its acidity and bubbliness lends it the literally shitty superpower to dissolve intestinal blockages, or at the very least soften and shrink them to the point that they can be removed non-invasively. A study found that Coke is effective in more than 90 percent of gastric phytobezoar cases, which sounds like great news until you realize that drinking Coke is apparently the biological equivalent of dumping Drano down your sink.
An Anti-Tank Missile Detector Can Diagnose Malaria
How's this for an unexpected chain of events: at some point in human history, someone looked at the motor vehicle and said, "That's not nearly murderous enough." Thus, the tank was born. Further down the road, someone looked at the tank and said, "That's murdering us far too much." Thus, the anti-tank missile was born. Even further down that (now crater-riddled) road, yet another someone took one look at the anti-tank missile and said, "Hey, I bet we could use that to diagnose malaria."
And then "cure" it.
Malaria kills over a million people every single goddamn year. It's spread by an asshole parasite carried by an asshole mosquito, and if you get it your best bet for survival is an early diagnosis. And that's why this discovery is such a breakthrough: by taking the focal plane array (the heat-seeking detector) from the javelin anti-tank missile system and hot-gluing an infrared imaging microscope to it, researchers at Monash University and the University of Melbourne were able to detect the disease early. Real early.
Along with taking "preventive medicine" to a badass new level.
How early, exactly? Well, their contraption can detect a baby malaria parasite before it even outgrows its diapers -- in a single red blood cell -- in under four minutes. Think about that. It may be considerably more time than it takes to destroy a tank with a javelin missile, but it's considerably less than it takes you to destroy your colon with a frozen burrito. Since the places where malaria is most common mainly rely on the "wait until they show symptoms, then pray" method of disease detection, a device like this could be the BFG in the battle against the disease.
Snail Slime Can Treat a Cough (and Maybe Prevent Heart Disease)
Unless you're a crow or, like, French, chances are snails are not high on your checklist of "things I hope to ingest today." But throughout human history, we've choked down all manner of gag-invoking swill under the pretense of improving our health, and from time to time we've blindly stumbled across something that actually worked -- such as, for instance, snail slime.
"Just paint a target on my shell, why don't you?"
You know those snot-like streaks left behind when a snail drags its floppy ass across your windshield? Turns out that mucousy gold is rich in helicidine, a compound with a "bronchorelaxant effect" -- i.e., it helps you stop coughing. Consequently, snail slime has been used for hundreds of years to relieve itchy throats. It works so well that at one time it was even credited with curing tuberculosis -- of course, it wasn't so much curing it as it was relieving the symptoms, so those relying on the treatment still tended to die horribly, but with the added benefit of having gulped down bucketfuls of gak.
Anybody have a straw?
Sundry slimy concoctions have been devised over the years to deliver the precious payload to your throat. While Native Americans, badasses that they are, simply shoved the snail itself down there, the more delicate Europeans employed snail juices, snail broths, or snails soaked in wine to make them more palatable. And while you're probably picturing a medieval peasant straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail slurping snail wine through the black hole where his teeth should be, in reality, honest-to-goodness physicians were prescribing snail slime well into the 20th century. Even today, sea snails are providing powerful tools for use in anesthesia and cancer treatments.
Still grossed out? Consider this: the U.S. has 20 times more deaths resulting from heart disease than the Greek city of Crete does. The people of Crete eat at least 20 times more snails, which are rich in a fatty acid that "has been reported to have a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases." So, yeah, go munch some snails.
A Tiny Vibrator Can Cure Constipation
OK, so while chances are you've never had a straight-up boulder blocking ol' Caca Canyon, even the healthiest of us can forget to properly hydrate while going on a Netflix 'n' Hot Pockets binge, and as a result end up with a raging case of the inverse shits. But while occasional constipation is bad enough, for the millions of people who suffer from it chronically, life is a never-ending love-hate affair with their toilet. And while medication helps, the ever-increasing dosages needed to treat a chronic case of constipation can lead to serious side effects.
The toilet paper savings just aren't worth it.
Enter the exceedingly appropriately named Israeli company, Vibrant, and their new, medication-free solution to the world's poop flow problems: a vibrator.
Ew, god, no, that's not how it works. Jesus, why would you even think that?
It's possibly the only vibrator that doesn't come with the side effect of making you feel inadequate.
It's actually a vibrating capsule -- about the size of a multivitamin -- that a chronic idiopathic constipation sufferer can swallow twice a week. (Just to be abundantly clear, they're one-time use.) Once swallowed, a tiny motor inside the capsule waits six to eight hours, and then starts to vibrate. That way, the vibrating action only happens once the pill has traveled past your stomach and into your intestines, ensuring that you don't feel like you've accidentally swallowed a joy buzzer.
The pulsating pill "mimics peristalsis, the biological process that pushes waves of waste through the bowel." And it works like a charm: test subjects reported pooping a full 100 percent more often while taking the capsules, proving that -- at least for a select portion of the population -- an off-the-wall medical treatment can make the world a less shitty place (by making it a shittier place).
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