Updated 12 August 2013

5 strange medical practices

Here are five of the strangest medical practices still performed. But you would have to be quite desperate to choose one of these.

When you're really sick and you've tried almost every medical route available, desperation might lead you to try some very strange medical practices or treatments.

Although medicine has come a long way, miracle cures and treatments are still practiced by many. Here are five of the strangest medical practices performed.

Leech therapy

Leeches have been used throughout history to treat a variety of conditions. Medicinal leeches were first used for bloodletting. Leeches are applied to an injury site where they soak up blood and reduce tissue swelling which promotes healing.  They also secrete an anticoagulant which prevents blood from forming clots.

In 2004 the FDA approved the use of leeches in modern medicine. Leeches are now mostly used in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Fire cupping

Fire cupping is believed to be an ancient Chinese practice. It was first used to drain toxins from snakebites.

Specially designed glasses are heated and then applied to the body where a vacuum is created, pulling the skin into a cup.  The patient's back will be covered with circular marks. Patients report that the fire does not cause pain and when removed it feels like a mild case of sunburn.

Fire cupping is a form of deep tissue massage and is used for relaxation and stress release.  It is also believed to treat conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, colds, digestive disease and gynaelogical disorders.

However, according to the American Cancer society there is no scientific evidence that fire cupping has health benefits.

Urine therapy

The use of urine for medicinal purposes can be traced to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Aztec and Hindu histories. It is the use of one's urine either internally or externally to heal wounds or to treat symptoms of diseases.

According to the therapy is based on the belief that urine is a by-product of blood filtration. Blood filled with nutrients passes through the liver and toxins are excreted through solid waste. Purified blood travels to the kidneys where extra nutrients are eliminated from the body. Urine consists of urea which is an antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral agent.

Urine therapy is believed to treat a number of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis and eczema.

Most of the research surrounding urine therapy is anecdotal, and the drinking of urine is not generally accepted by the medical establishment.

Malaria therapy

Before the 1900s there was no effective treatment available for syphilis. Neurologist Wagner-Juarreg had the idea to treat patients infected with syphilis with malaria infected blood.  He believed that by giving someone malaria the high fever would be able to rid the body of the syphilis infection. The patient would then thereafter be given quinine which rid the body of both viruses. This treatment was common until penicillin and other treatments for STIs were discovered.


In ancient times losing blood was considered beneficial to one's health. Bloodletting was used to cleanse the body of impurities and excess fluid. It was believed to maintain the balance of the body and, in the 19th century, it became a popular treatment used to cure illnesses. It was believed that certain ailments were a result of too much blood.  To treat the patient surgeons would cut the patient and drain out a certain amount of blood.

In modern times the practice has mostly been discarded.



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