The 5 Most Bizarre Cures

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The medical community—from shamanic healers to cutting-edge modern scientists—has a long tradition of devising and attempting strange cures. Some cures have been solid successes or failures, while others enjoy a cult-like following undeterred by lack of evidence. And some are so stomach-turning that you might not want to try them, proof or not.

5 Goat Gland Cure

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Goats, too, have been sacrificed to the dreaded erectile dysfunction—at least by one early 20th century Kansas doctor named John R. Brinkley, aka “the goat gland doctor.” Brinkley attempted to cure impotence and infertility by transplanting goat testicles into the scrotums of human men. While Brinkley declared his treatment successful, this modality is conspicuously absent in modern medical clinics.

4 Cobra Whiskey

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Men around the world suffer from the dreaded condition of flagging virility. Sadly, the cobras, scorpions and other innocent bystanders of many Asian countries suffer worse for this same reason. These unfortunate critters wind up coiled in bottles of whiskey or rice wine, surrounded by floating seed pods and ginseng roots. As one giggling young vendor explained in a Cambodian night market, “It will help your boyfriend in the night.” Doubtful. Cobra whiskey is also used to treat muscle pain.

3 Fecal Bacteriotherapy

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Getting an enema with somebody else’s liquid feces might sound like a German porn site you wish you never stumbled upon, but it’s a real—if still not universally condoned—medical practice. The idea is that the bacteria contained in a healthy person’s feces can fight off the evil Clostridium difficile, which invades some unfortunate digestive tracts, causing awful diarrhea. C. diff, as it’s called on the street, is one by-product of antibiotic over-use. Fecal bacteriotherapy is gaining mainstream adherents to treat C. diff. However, some enthusiastic early adopters, such as Portland, Ore., naturopath Mark G. Davis, are addressing additional problems. Davis treats eczema, asthma, multiple sclerosis, depression and autoimmune disease with fecal bacteriotherapy, and offers a $4,000 five-day colon health retreat.

2 Urine Therapy

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Here’s a cure that’s free to all, no matter your race, gender or socioeconomic status. Is it socialized medicine? No, it’s drinking your own pee! Or injecting/bathing in/rubbing urine on your skin, depending on the ailment. This cure also traces its roots back to ancient times, but got a fresh kick in the panties in 1996 at the First World Conference on Urine Therapy. Alleged curative powers include healing asthma, colds, tuberculosis, eczema, psoriasis, skin cancers or just boosting your immune system, depending on who you consult. Jeff Lowe of Vanderbilt University offers some tips for pee-drinking newbies. Use midstream urine only. Start with a drop on the tongue and work your way up to a glass. And remember, urine should be “sipped like tea and not drunk like water,” Lowe advises.

1 Creepy Crawlies

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Leeches are known for their staying power; they bite and hold on tight. Their hold on physicians dates back to the bloodletting practices of ancient Egypt. The saliva of leeches increases blood flow and prevents clotting. Modern surgeons enlist this talent to keep their patients gently bleeding long enough for veins to re-grow and reinstate circulation. Leeches are especially beloved in microsurgery, where doctors reattach tiny but crucial veins. Maggots are another medically useful creepy crawly. They eat the dead and damaged tissue from various types of ulcers and post-surgical wounds. Don’t worry. These are specially raised “medical maggots,” not the lower-class maggots who inhabit your trash can.

Teresa Bergen writes about fitness, health, yoga, travel and the arts. She is the author of "Vegetarian Asia Travel Guide" and has written hundreds of articles for publications online and off. Bergen also teaches yoga, spinning and group fitness classes, and is an ACE-certified personal trainer.

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