Bizarre Medicine: Unusual Treatments and Practices Through the Ages

Greenwood. Jan. 2022. 349p. ISBN 9781440871245. $97. REF
With COVID continuing to make daily headlines, and misinformation leading to distrust of scientific information, Engs’s (emerita, applied health science, Sch. of Public Health, Indiana Univ., Bloomington) work, which documents strange and unproven medical treatments from antiquity to the present, is especially welcome. The introduction provides a brief history of ancient medicine and explores concepts such as humoral, germ, and contagion theories. Engs also examines early efforts in public health, such as cleaning contaminated water supplies, but also notes that society, including political leaders, has often rejected scientifically sound solutions. Alphabetical entries, each about two pages long, cover conditions and diseases such as appendicitis, fever, and the common cold. Each entry discusses the disease’s symptoms, causes, history (if known), name and etymology, societal perception, and treatments both standard and unusual (applying mud to insect bites; treating colon cancer with the grape diet and enemas). A bibliography of primary sources and websites offers further information.
VERDICT A useful starting point for students and the general public interested in the history of medicine.
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