Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

Discover 67 shocking-but-true medical misfires that run the gamut from bizarre to deadly. Like when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When snorting skull moss was a cure for a bloody nose. When consuming mail-order tapeworms was a latter-day fad diet. Or when snake oil salesmen peddled strychnine (used in rat poison) as an aphrodisiac in the '60s. Seamlessly...

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Title:Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Author:Lydia Kang
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Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything Reviews

  • OutlawPoet

    Cocaine, Beaver Testicles, and the Healing Power of Man Grease

    Quackery, by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, is a delightfully gruesome compendium of some of the worst medical techniques and beliefs in human history. Whether it’s the horrors of old surgical techniques or the best ways to eat a Ginger (not eat ginger… I mean eat ‘a Ginger’) for your optimum health, you’ll find it in this book.

    The book is funny, informative, and fascinatingly grotesque. And it’s a wonder the human race survived our do

    Cocaine, Beaver Testicles, and the Healing Power of Man Grease

    Quackery, by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, is a delightfully gruesome compendium of some of the worst medical techniques and beliefs in human history. Whether it’s the horrors of old surgical techniques or the best ways to eat a Ginger (not eat ginger… I mean eat ‘a Ginger’) for your optimum health, you’ll find it in this book.

    The book is funny, informative, and fascinatingly grotesque. And it’s a wonder the human race survived our doctors!

    Learn the surprising history of heroin, a shockingly modern use for strychnine (I had no idea people do that!), and delve into the glory of enemas – did you know they even make good wedding presents?

    The book also contains wonderful photos and illustrations that manage to be both nostalgic and slightly horrifying all at once.

    A wonderfully dark and informative book!

    *ARC Provided via Net Galley

  • Alice, as in Wonderland

    I feel like I gotta give this 5 stars on account of it being 100% what I expected, which is essentially a book length Cracked article in the shape of a book.

    It's gross, horrifying, and great.

  • Oreoandlucy

    A more complete review is available on my blog:

    Not all quacks are snake oil salesmen. Of course, some of them are and in Quackery you will learn about them. Some quacks are not out to make a quick buck but legitimately believe in their own ineffective or harmful treatments. Lydia Kang, a physician, and Nate Pedersen, a journalist, will fascinate you with stories of how doctors used to use substances like cocaine, opium and tobacco to cure disease and did n

    A more complete review is available on my blog:

    Not all quacks are snake oil salesmen. Of course, some of them are and in Quackery you will learn about them. Some quacks are not out to make a quick buck but legitimately believe in their own ineffective or harmful treatments. Lydia Kang, a physician, and Nate Pedersen, a journalist, will fascinate you with stories of how doctors used to use substances like cocaine, opium and tobacco to cure disease and did not recognize the dangers associated with them. Tapeworms were used as a diet aid and people thought radiation would cure just about anything that ails.

    Thank you to Workman Publishing for an advanced copy of this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  • Barb

    While reading this book, I had to keep reminding myself that the practices and methods discussed weren't just a product of the authors' imaginations but were actual "treatments" once thought to cure problems ranging from babies who wouldn't stop crying to parasitic infections. Opium to treat vision problems? Strychnine as an aphrodisiac? Mercury to soothe babies' teething pain? "Man grease" to cure gout? They're all here … and a lot more that will leave most readers shaking their heads.

    While reading this book, I had to keep reminding myself that the practices and methods discussed weren't just a product of the authors' imaginations but were actual "treatments" once thought to cure problems ranging from babies who wouldn't stop crying to parasitic infections. Opium to treat vision problems? Strychnine as an aphrodisiac? Mercury to soothe babies' teething pain? "Man grease" to cure gout? They're all here … and a lot more that will leave most readers shaking their heads.

  • Bernard O'Leary

    keeps trying to hold the reader's attention by making lame dad jokes about the subject matter. I'm not sure if the chapter on enemas includes a line like "talk about a pain in the butt!" but that's basically the level of joke we're talking about here.

    It doesn't actually need to do this, because it's a fascinating and well-researched journey through the batshit history of medicine. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the medicine we know (antibiotics, sterilisation, vaccines, w

    keeps trying to hold the reader's attention by making lame dad jokes about the subject matter. I'm not sure if the chapter on enemas includes a line like "talk about a pain in the butt!" but that's basically the level of joke we're talking about here.

    It doesn't actually need to do this, because it's a fascinating and well-researched journey through the batshit history of medicine. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the medicine we know (antibiotics, sterilisation, vaccines, what have you) is the true alternative medicine, because 99% of medical innovations over history have been crazy, fraudulent, unscientific and quite likely to kill or maim the patient.

    Almost everything that the human race has ever discovered, from strychnine to electricity, has at some point been swallowed or shoved up people's bums in an attempt to cure common ailments. History has been shaped by leaders who were out of their minds with mercury poisoning, or suffering the ill-effects of the whatever panacea was popular at the time. Kang rattles through them all at a breakneck pace simply because there are so many daft ideas to explore, and you're left wondering how the human race didn't simply kill itself over time, like a toddler with a bottle of bleach.

    My personal favourite story is from the chapter about anthropophagic medicine (i.e. cannibalism). Kang tells it like this:

    It's such a great story but — and perhaps this is just my personal taste — I think it'd be even better if told without the jokey, matey banter. Still, a fun book.

  • Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    Most of us dread a trip to the doctor's office. I know I do! But have you ever thought how nice it actually is to go to one and, well,

    have to fear heavy metal poisoning? Or... not have to lose a pint of blood to purge you?

    Yeah, when I think about it, it's definitely good that the 21st century is the way it is, even if our medical systems are not perfect

    But medicine hasn't always been like it is today.

    I l

    Most of us dread a trip to the doctor's office. I know I do! But have you ever thought how nice it actually is to go to one and, well,

    have to fear heavy metal poisoning? Or... not have to lose a pint of blood to purge you?

    Yeah, when I think about it, it's definitely good that the 21st century is the way it is, even if our medical systems are not perfect

    But medicine hasn't always been like it is today.

    I love receiving ARCs, but the saddest bit about having this one was that it was electronic, and I longed for nothing more than to actually have a beautiful print copy on my coffee table, to be able to flick through it and read up on the hilarious/ scary/ icky medicinal history whenever I wanted to. This is just one of those books you don't read in one sitting – it's one of the books you find on your grandpa's shelf when you're visiting, when you're little,

    Quackery is organized like one of those trivia books – it doesn't follow a particular storyline, but

    Examples follow:

    - Antimony puke chalices

    - Radium jockstraps

    - Arsenic wallpapers

    - Strychnine potency drugs

    - Cocaine toothache drops for kids

    - And let's not forget the famous snake oil

    I am simply unable to tell you the extent of it, and I feel like I don't have to – that's what this book is for. It's creepy, it's colorful, it's got great graphics, it's got

    . What's more, it's not some boring history book either!

    I do recommend it to everyone, even to the squeamish

    There might be a few chapters you skip because of this, but if you're as curious as I am – you will definitely enjoy it.

  • Diane S ☔

    3.5 Regardless of the less than ideal state of the world today, this is one of those books that at least medically, make one grateful that we were born in today's medical world. This book is incredibly comprehensive and we'll researched. I know most of us have heard of the use of leeches, cold water cures, opium, electro shock therapy and the use of these have made us shudder with the knowledge we have now.

    Some of the things in this book I had never heard before. Such as the use of skulls and br

    3.5 Regardless of the less than ideal state of the world today, this is one of those books that at least medically, make one grateful that we were born in today's medical world. This book is incredibly comprehensive and we'll researched. I know most of us have heard of the use of leeches, cold water cures, opium, electro shock therapy and the use of these have made us shudder with the knowledge we have now.

    Some of the things in this book I had never heard before. Such as the use of skulls and brain parts of the dead to cure epilepsy, and mummy infused poultices to cure many different ailments. Mercury infusions for syphilis, oil from human fat for pain and also as a cancer treatment. There is so much in this book, even past sex toys and animal derived cures. Nasty, nasty! The background of these things, how they came to be, how they were packaged and sold is part of this thorough book. One thing though that bothered me when it seemed to be overdone is the authors pithy comments, which in the beginning seemed amusing, but began to wear.

    How did people survive some of these things? Well of course many didn't, but those that did were amazingly lucky or smart enough to stop taking these things when they seemed to be doing more harm. Probably like many of us did in the world before safe playground equipment, seatbelts and bike helmets.

    ARC from Netgalley.

  • Jeanette

    Lots of information and its graphics and hardcover book form are marvelous. This holds so much criteria and minutia of centuries of treatments and all kinds of paths to attempt cures or remedies. Not all were conducted in a malevolent or tricking to profit mode. Most were serious attempts to improve a dire health problem, disease, or some living condition that handicapped to strong degrees. Because so many of the original patient conditions are serious ones, these were often experimental attempt

    Lots of information and its graphics and hardcover book form are marvelous. This holds so much criteria and minutia of centuries of treatments and all kinds of paths to attempt cures or remedies. Not all were conducted in a malevolent or tricking to profit mode. Most were serious attempts to improve a dire health problem, disease, or some living condition that handicapped to strong degrees. Because so many of the original patient conditions are serious ones, these were often experimental attempts or ones which supported a theory of human physical reality. So if humors or bile or excess was the problem then leeches or bloodletting or some such avenue would most probably "work" for an improvement.

    It is fully a 4.5 star for the information and sources. And especially for some of the original words and graphics of portrait or cases that do equal a thousand words. In the latter chapters the "tone" seemed to me to get progressively worse, although the information was excellent. The types of joking asides and word plays entwined in the copy of the telling for these realities was so off. The humor was just sick in spots. Which for me, took the enjoyment of the reading to learn about electronic or radioactive or other cures- it took it way, way down. This is 3.5 star but I just can't round it up because of the tone.

    Why would they have gone this route with the silly and such sophomoric comments? I doubt if one out of 10 people who read this book appreciated it as funny. What a misfit for the subject matter. Comparable to doing a serious ritual or funeral service in slapstick. It took away from the entire work tremendously.

    We often forget that some of the most terrible quackery schemes were done in the last two centuries in spa forms of "cures". The NW USA had several such spas. There are good books out on these and especially upon the colon flushing and starvation cures.

    But what is so horrific, IMHO, is how many men and women died to improve an appearance feature. Cosmetics and other cures for lack of some sex appeal improvement being so deadly.

  • ☙ percy ❧

    THIS IS THE MOST ME BOOK EVER AND I NEED IT

  • Michelle

    Quackery follows a similar format as recent releases such as Get Well Soon or Wicked Bugs. Informative, witty, and irreverent, books like these have become a new way of learning. In Quackery, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen present all things medical from throughout the ages. Unfortunately, they fail at the witty and irreverent aspects of presenting information in this way, making for an uneven, somewhat uncomfortable read at times as they force their modern-day knowledge onto historical actions.

    Th

    Quackery follows a similar format as recent releases such as Get Well Soon or Wicked Bugs. Informative, witty, and irreverent, books like these have become a new way of learning. In Quackery, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen present all things medical from throughout the ages. Unfortunately, they fail at the witty and irreverent aspects of presenting information in this way, making for an uneven, somewhat uncomfortable read at times as they force their modern-day knowledge onto historical actions.

    The information itself is as fascinating as it is horrifying to modern ears. Organized by type of medicine like elements, plants and soils, tools, animals, and mysterious powers, each section highlights the most popular historical methods of healing the sick. The authors present the justifications for use of each item, the item’s uses, and the item’s eventual downfall. They present a lot of information, and while some of it may be redundant for fans of medical history, the authors’ purpose to enlighten never wavers.

    The problem with Quackery is that it tries too hard. The sarcastic asides and personal interjection of opinion that works so well for Sarah Vowell does not work for Ms. Kang and Mr. Pedersen. Their asides are just not funny. Their almost constant interruption of the narrative to insert their modern-day opinions is annoying rather than amusing. The biting wit that made similar books so entertaining is missing. One might even argue that such commentary is not appropriate. After all, while the so-called medicines might make us cringe today, they were used by people who honestly thought they were helpful. It makes me feel similar to watching someone mock the handicapped for acting a certain way even though they might not have control over their physical actions. There is no sympathy that our ancestors felt that blood-letting was a legitimate way to reduce a fever or that mercury soothed a child’s colic. Instead, they use modern medical knowledge to laugh and make fun of the past.

    The other area of concern is that while the book is titled Quackery, there is not much focus on quackery itself. Rather, the authors have adopted the idea that all historical medicine is quackery because all historical medicine used harmful things to heal. In each chapter, there is brief mention of specific instances of quackery, like the snake oil salesman, but it is but a fraction of the total chapter and often explained in such a way that makes you realize there were legitimate reasons for selling such things. What is missing then is the real quackery – those doctors who used sugar pills for cures or those peddlers who sold sugar water as hair tonics.

    Quackery taken as a history of medicinal practices is interesting. Ms. Kang and Mr. Pedersen take care to explain each item’s usage as well as the reasoning behind it. They add to this information with anecdotes, stories of patients, and pictures from medical textbooks or advertisements. Had they left things there, the book would be much stronger for it. Instead, the authors spend too much time adding their opinionated commentary, leaving readers with a bad impression. This is such a shame because there is so much to be learned about how people used to practice medicine and attempted to heal the sick and the reasons for choosing the tools they did. Sadly, I am now stuck wondering just what we are using now in medicine that will end up being something for which the authors would mock us fifty years from today.

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