Sunday, 7 November 2010


I found this article from The Times in 2007, it looks into old medical remedies and how they have evolved. I am aware that throughout the Victorian era some of these methods were tried and drugs and hallucinations were common. This article digs up quite interesting information of how certain 'natural' remedies came about and how they are seen today...

Hypnotherapy was invented by a Viennese doctor called Franz Anton Mesmer. He took his trance-inducing technique, which became known as mesmerism, to Paris in 1778 and set up shop claiming that he could employ it to cure people of a variety of ailments.
Dr Mesmer believed in an invisible fluid that floated around the body, a force a bit like magnetism, which had recently been discovered. One of his techniques involved asking clients (usually rich women) to grasp the metal handles of tubs full of water and iron-filings, which he said helped to channel this "mesmeric fluid".
It wasn't his medical claims that irritated the intellectual elite of France, but his reputed mental power over women. In those days, a male doctor was not allowed to examine an undressed female patient and the idea that Dr Mesmer could put his female patients into a suggestible trance was intolerable and he was eventually hounded from Paris in 1785.
However, by this time, word of mesmerism had spread to the rest of the world. The English physician James Esdaile was reported to have used it in India to remove a huge 47kg (103lb) tumour from a patient (who weighed only 52kg) without the need for anaesthetic.
Nevertheless, the medical establishment wasn't convinced, and the technique had been tarnished by scandal. Several rich women brought legal cases against men, claiming that they had used mesmerism to seduce them or to hoodwink them into marriage.
Perhaps to escape its salacious reputation, mesmerism split into two types in the late 1800s. Some doctors believed that the trance- inducing technique was useful and renamed it hypnotherapy. The practice of mesmerism still continued but in a more light-hearted way as a popular after-dinner party trick. Entertainers put on shows in which members of the public would be mesmerised in front of an audience.
Both hypnotherapy and mesmerism survived into the 20th century, but dwindled in popularity. However, hypnotherapy enjoyed a resurgence in the 1950s when fresh research was conducted into its medical potential for treating anxieties and phobias. And it became increasingly popular in the 1960s, as people began to turn away from conventional medicine and look for alternative therapies.
Today there are more than 7,000 registered hypnotherapy practitioners, including some doctors and dentists. Practitioners have found hypnotherapy particularly useful for treating addictions, such as smoking.
Although acupuncture originated in China, the first time it was described by Europeans was when doctors of the Dutch East India Company saw it being practised on a patient in Japan in the 1680s. They were impressed and depicted it admiringly in letters to their colleagues in Europe.
However, it was not until the early 19th century that acupuncture began to be reported in European medical journals. Apparently many people then seemed to be strangely keen to try it out on themselves. In Europe in the 1800s, medicine was a grim business -there was no anaesthesia and common treatments included bleeding and blistering -so the prospect of sticking needles into your body might not have been as daunting as it is today.
One London gentleman wrote a glowing letter to The Lancet in 1836 praising acupuncture. He related how he had picked up a copy of The Lancet on a newsstand on the Strand and read an article about how to perform acupuncture. He then promptly went back to his office, picking up some sewing needles on the way, and used the technique to try to treat his swollen scrotum. He stuck the needles randomly into his groin and, by the time he had returned home at the end of the day, the swelling had disappeared.
Acupuncture's popularity dwindled as conventional medicine gained ground in the early 1900s. It remained obscure until the 1960s, when an interest in Chinese culture caused a resurgence in its popularity.
Today it is one of the most well-established alternative therapies in the UK, and is com-monly used to treat pain.
Curry and massage arrived in the UK at the same time; thanks, many people say, to one man, Sake Dean Mahomed. Born into a Bengali Muslim family, Mahomed arrived in Ireland from India in 1786 where he published a book of his travels (he was the first Indian to write a book in English).
Shortly afterwards he moved, with his Irish wife Jane, to England, where they set up a curry house in 1809. Another first, it was called the Hindustani Coffee House, in George Street, Central London.
Next the pair headed to Brighton in 1814, where they set up a bath house and massage parlour. It was a novel but highly respectable establishment offering "shampooing" -an alien new word then -as well as water treatments and massage.
It soon became so popular that George IV and William IV attended it, along with languid aristocratic men and women. All that changed with the Victorian era, when people became increasingly suspicious of physical contact between men and women, and massage fell out of favour.
The rebirth of massage came via sport. In the 1970s, athletics was becoming much more competitive, and an enthusiasm for keeping fit was in vogue. The news that massage could treat muscular aches and aid recovery successfully spread through the sporting world and into the general population.
Massage is still extremely popular today and reputable studies have shown that it can be useful for stress, anxiety and pain.
The founding father of homoeopathy was a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann. In 1810 he was investigating the properties of a malarial medicine called cinchona bark, which is now known to contain the anti-malarial compound quinine. He noticed that, when eaten, the bark gave him fever-like symptoms similar to those of malaria. So he came up with the concept that "like treated like", becoming convinced that a natural treatment should elicit the same symptoms as the disease that it was treating.
Dr Hahnemann's homoeopathic ideas soon became popular and spread across the globe.
One of the reasons for this popularity was the DIY element to it; people could treat themselves by using a homoeopathy book and by picking up ready-made preparations from a homoeopathic doctor.
There was much rivalry in the 19th century between conventional doctors and the doctors who practised homoeopathy, as both at the time carried equal authority in the eyes of the public. The two schools of medicine became embroiled in a vicious war of words and, at one point, the American Medical Association stated that its doctors should refuse to see any patient who had admitted to using homoeopathy.
This didn't stop the rising enthusiasm for homoeopathic treatments, which continued into the 20th century. However, the battle was eventually won by conventional medicine and the last homoeopathic medical school closed in the 1940s.
The clincher for conventional medicine had been advances in surgery and antibiotics, as homoeopathy had nothing to match this. However, homoeopathy made a comeback in the 1970s and it is one of the world's most-used alternative therapy.
In India it is more popular than conventional medicine.

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