From the days of yore to the modern era, there has always been some quack ready to offer a preposterous cure for any type of ailment
Kids. They seem to really like playing with stuff, running around and even talking. All of which can be an almighty distraction for parents, especially back in the 19th century when most adults were busy reclining on their chaise longue, harrumphing at the maid, or blowing dust from their top hats. Thankfully, perplexed parents of the age could enlist the help of a number of specially formulated ‘soothing syrups’ to gently lull the apple of their eye into a more ‘restful’ state. That each bottle contained a dose of narcotics strong enough to make Iggy Pop’s eyes water was little more than a trifling matter. One ounce of the popular Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup contained 65mg of pure morphine. That’s a lot of morphine. Other useful ingredients in the syrups included chloroform, codeine, powdered opium and that perennial kiddies’ favourite, heroin.
In some parts of the Philippines, traditional ailments known as usog or gaway are still believed to exist and are defined as an ‘imbalance of wellbeing’ or a ‘disturbance of a victim’s energy vibrations’. The illness is particularly prevalent amongst babies, who show symptoms of fever or stomach ache after meeting a stranger. The solution is obvious, really: ask said stranger to flob all over the little guy or girl. Newcomers who are introduced to babies for the first time are encouraged to hock it all up and smear saliva on the forehead, throat, chest, navel, palms, elbows, knees and feet of the irritable infant. The drool is said to act as a neutraliser, absorbing the stranger’s pesky ‘interfering energy’ and leaving the moistened midget free of any health complaints.
In the 1990s, Pelé appeared in a series of television adverts that aimed to raise awareness about erectile dysfunction. Yet men have been searching for a solution to their slumping schlongs since way before the greatest footballer of all time – a man who scored over 1,000 professional goals during his career – turned to the camera and earnestly intoned, “Talk to your doctor – I would.” Any man who did talk to his doctor about such problems in the late 19th century would have got quite a shock. The newfound access to electricity available to the common man resulted in a number of cures for the dreaded droop, including electrified beds and the inspired electric penis belt, which targeted “weak men” and promised to restore “male power” via a swift shock to the nether regions.
A turtle’s touch
Raphael’s wisecracking ways and loose moral code did it for some. Michelangelo, meanwhile, offered hope to the simpler kids whose short- to medium-term goals extended no further than partying and eating pizza. Donatello was keeping it real for the geeks, especially those youngsters who juxtaposed their bookish tendencies with a desire to batter people with a massive stick. Nobody liked Leonardo. Yet it is not just square-eyed Western minors of the 1980s who hold turtles in such high regard. In modern Cambodia, the terrapin is believed by some to have preternatural healing powers and is regularly prescribed as a treatment for the unwell. The mere touch of a terrapin is believed to cure rheumatism and other bodily ailments.
Hey, guy from the Victorian era. Are you stuck in a relationship with a woman who suffers from mood swings and irritability? Worse, does your loved one often display a “tendency to cause trouble”? Such as not obeying your every uttered command, perhaps? Does she have a mind of her own? An opinion, even? If the answer to any of the above is “Yes!” then she is obviously suffering from the dreaded condition known as female hysteria. Thankfully, your local GP has a cure for this; it simply involves him sticking a cheeky hand down her bloomers and administering a vaginal massage until she reaches the point of “hysterical paroxysm”. After years of delivering such light-fingered therapy, ol’ doc’s digits were getting a little tired. So one of them invented the vibrator. Job done.
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