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12 Bizarre and Repulsive Practices from the Past

Did you know about these practices from the past? 

One would be shocked to learn that the everyday lives of the ancients weren’t all that dissimilar when looking back through history. On the other hand, there are still a lot of antiquated customs that still baffle us. If you were a patient who had asthma, you would probably be advised to smoke some cigarettes to cure it. Say, what?

If this is uncommon, get ready to be creeped out because I have some weird stuff to share with you. Just have a snack and enjoy the lecture. Trust me when I say that all these practices from the past are downright bizarre and… repulsive.

practices from the past, history
Photo by Doro Guzenda from Shutterstock

1. Clean teeth? Do some gargling with urine

This is by far one of the worst and least hygienic practices from the past that’s why it must be put in the first place. Can you actually imagine that people used to believe that this was one of the best methods to clean your teeth?

Additionally, chances are low that they were using their pee. Families saved their urine in special chamber pots, and dealers even collected it from public urinals and were required to pay a special fee. Yikes, that’s even worse!

2. Toilet paper is overrated! Use a sponge on a stick

Of course, toilet paper wasn’t available back in the day, but you had to clean your butt after you used the toilet. And what was the main item used? I’ll tell you what that was: a sponge. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? But the story doesn’t end here.

The “tersorium” (or the wannabe toilet paper) was just a wooden stick with a sea sponge attached, and users would “sterilize” it for the next user by dipping it in a bucket of vinegar. Marvelous! However, people without access to high-end sponge sticks were forced to use broken crockery as a substitute for wiping. Ouch!

3. Did you want to dye your hair? Leeches were your friends in need

In today’s world, it is possible to switch from one hair color to another in the blink of an eye without worrying too much about what will damage your hair or, worse, whether it will fall. Back in the day, dyeing your hair was one of the most complicated procedures.

In ancient Rome, pickling vinegar and leeches for 40 days was a common hair-coloring method. Not only was the combination pickled in a leaden jar, but there was also a chance of poisoning due to this. I don’t know about you, but suddenly, I think I love my natural hair color!

4. A different “period” for women

When it came to dealing with intense menstruation symptoms, Roman women used tampons dipped in opium, while Egyptian men were urged to take time from work to tend to their menstruating wives or daughters.

5. Gladiator blood was the cure for epilepsy

The blood or liver of a fallen gladiator was thought to have holy virtues, and some medical writers of the era claimed that swallowing it might cure. Following a prohibition on gladiatorial combat, the blood of the executed became an alternative substitute.

6. Lysol was considered a great contraceptive method

This was by far one of the worst practices from the past! Birth control was prohibited for married people in the United States until 1965 (and for singletons until 1972). Lysol, marketed as a “feminine hygiene” product, was the best-selling “contraception” medication during the Great Depression, even though it caused several deaths when used.

7. No pants allowed

Among the weirdest practices from the past, there were some customs from Ancient Rome and Greece and one of them was to avoid pants. Although they were present, the Romans and Greeks did not wear pants. Given that Germanic peoples to the north typically wore them, the Romans saw them as “for the barbarians,” while the Greeks felt they were ridiculous.

8. Cutting the gums

Going to the dentist is scary enough now, but can you imagine what was it like to live in the 18th century? In Europe, it was customary to cut a baby’s gums to prevent teething since it was thought to be less dangerous than the actual teething process.

Teething was thought by many doctors to be the cause of diarrhea, convulsions, and other conditions that were killing newborns at the time. Up until the 19th century, the practice of severing a baby’s gums down to their teeth was rather common and was even carried out in the United States.

9. Drilling holes into human skulls

If you know about lobotomy, then this won’t scare you! Scientists aren’t entirely sure why exactly this technique, known as trepanation, was carried out, but archaeologists have discovered evidence of it in many skulls.

Many experts think that trepanation may have also been a component of spiritual ceremonies, even if studies suggest that some societies utilized it as a pain treatment method. This is by far one of the most harshest and bizarre practices from the past.

10. Chainsaws were used to help women give birth

Sheesh! Among the worst practices from the past, this has to be the most painful one. The chainsaw was created in the late 1700s as a more effective method of cutting the pelvic bone during delivery, which was a standard technique at the time.  When the pelvis was very narrow, a procedure known as a symphysiotomy was required to split the bones.

This experience was made easier by the chainsaw, which was invented in 1780. Before that, the bones had to be sliced with a little knife, which required a laborious and drawn-out process. I guess you were better off kids!

practices from the past, history
Photo by leoks from Shutterstock

11. Toothaches? Just apply a dead mouse into your mouth to soothe the pain

Applying a recently murdered dead mouse right into the mouth was a normal remedy for toothaches in ancient Egypt. Mice were utilized to treat a wide range of illnesses and were revered as “Givers of Life.” An actual mouse would be sliced, and the patient’s gums would be covered with half of the still-warm animal when the patient had a toothache.

If you are interested in reading more about other practices from the past, especially the ones from Ancient Egypt, you should check out this book. Ancient Egypt: 500 Interesting Facts About Egyptian History allows you to discover the mysteries of ancient Egypt with five hundred fascinating facts.  It’s available on Amazon in various formats, and the prices are between $8 to $17. 

12. Shaved eyebrows? Replace them with mouse fur

Back in the day, fashion was a bit extreme, and both women and men would do anything for the sake of it just to look younger, thinner, and more distinguished in the eyes of society. In Georgian England, for instance, ladies would catch and skin mice, then glue the fur to their faces as a substitute for their shaved eyebrows.

Ladies I bet you were better off with your eyebrows but who am I to judge?!

If reading about these bizarre practices from the past made you curious for more, you may also enjoy reading about 8 Weird Foods That Were Considered “Junk” in Medieval Times


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