Book Reviews, Misc

Book Review: Quackery by Lydia Kang & Nate Pedersen

Quackery is a tour through the most unusual, wacky, and downright bizarre medications, tinctures, and medical tricks used down the years. Odd as most may seem, many of these were the paving stones along the road to medical innovation.

There are five different sections looking at the various tools, tinctures, bizarre animal-based cures and tricks such as radionics that our ancestors used over the course of time. At the end of each section is a brief “Hall of Shame” focusing on different topics such as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Antidotes, and Eye Care.

  • Section One covers the use of elements such as mercury and antimony in treating ailments.
  • Section Two deals with plant derived ‘medicines’ such as tobacco, cocaine, and opiates, and how their use evolved. Also includes the use of dirt.
  • Section Three looks at ‘tools’ like surgery techniques, lobotomies, and anesthesia.
  • Section Four is all about animal medicine including leeches, anthropophagy, and animal derivative meds.
  • Section Five covers ‘mysterious powers’, such as electricity, mesmerism, and radionics.

This book is packed with so much neat information! It’s fascinating the things humanity has believed through the ages. We’ve gone through many trials, and made many errors to get to where we are today medical-wise. It’s so hard to believe we once thought ingesting things like mercury, strychnine, and radium were beneficial, or that cocaine and opium were in medications casually given to children. Or the various means and methods leading up to modern anaesthesia.

Things I particularly enjoyed were learning about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and how they found mercury in the latrine pits, verifying the members had used a particular medicine en route, Phineas Gage and the history of mesmerism that evolved to modern hypnotherapy. Other things of interest and amusement were butt bellows, and the theory that blowing smoke up the ass was helpful in drownings, the evolution of vibrators as medical tools that turned into sex toys, Frankenstenian experiments with electricity, and using mummies as a cure for, well, anything.

If you love history, and medical trivia, this is the perfect book for you!

***Dos mere to Workman Publishing for providing an egalley ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Quackery by Lydia Kang & Nate Pedersen

  1. That sounds like a really neat book. Reading it would probably be amazing, but hearing your highlights from it is probably the next best thing!
    I wonder how long until we look back on chemotherapy the same way that we look back on some of these other bizarre things. Hopefully that day comes soon!

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