Illness, NetGalley, Non-fiction, Trivia

The Shameful Bit of Medicine History? Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen

Most of us dread a trip to the doctor’s office. I know I do! But have you ever thought how nice it actually is to go to one and, well, not have to fear heavy metal poisoning? Or… not have to lose a pint of blood to purge you?

Yeah, when I think about it, it’s definitely good that the 21st century is the way it is, even if our medical systems are not perfect (I hear you.) But medicine hasn’t always been like it is today. And this book will tell you how it was before it was like it is today.

I love receiving ARCs, but the saddest bit about having this one was that it was electronic, and I longed for nothing more than to actually have a beautiful print copy on my coffee table, to be able to flick through it and read up on the hilarious/ scary/ icky medicinal history whenever I wanted to. This is just one of those books you don’t read in one sitting – it’s one of the books you find on your grandpa’s shelf when you’re visiting, when you’re little, and you peer into the world it tells you about little bit little, bit by bit, because you’re too afraid to peek for too long, but too curious to let it go, and too worried you’ll run out of the book if you read it properly.

Quackery is organized like one of those trivia books – it doesn’t follow a particular storyline, but is focused on the different types of quackery that’s been attempted to sell and successfully sold to people in the history of the known world. Examples follow:

  • Antimony puke chalices
  • Radium jockstraps
  • Arsenic wallpapers
  • Strychnine potency drugs
  • Cocaine toothache drops for kids
  • And let’s not forget the famous snake oil

You’d be surprised at all of the disgusting, weird and utterly stupid things people have done throughout history to cure their ails. I am simply unable to tell you the extent of it, and I feel like I don’t have to – that’s what this book is for. It’s creepy, it’s colorful, it’s got great graphics, it’s got amazing trivia. What’s more, it’s not some boring history book either! It’s written in a very engaging and witty style, so you will never be bored. I do recommend it to everyone, even to the squeamish (that’s me!) There might be a few chapters you skip because of this, but if you’re as curious as I am – you will definitely enjoy it.

I thank Lydia Kang, Nate Pedersen and Workman Publishing Company for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange to my honest opinion. You can purchase a print copy here on Book Depository, and if you buy it from my link, you also support my blog.

Are you spooked by reading about illnesses and medicine in the middle ages?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

22 thoughts on “The Shameful Bit of Medicine History? Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen

  1. This book sounds fun. Even though I work in the medical field, we are still just “practicing” medicine. Some things we were doing just a few years ago seem crazy today, and vice versa. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I’m not spooked by reading old medical practices, I’m freaked out by the fact that things I was told as a kid or had done to me are NO LONGER DONE. That’s how fast medical office changes!

    1. Yeah! I actually now wonder which ones you are talking about 😀 care to share?
      The problem with a lot of stuff though, is that it is often opinion based, and some stuff that’s good for some people is not good for others, cause it’s false to assume humans = same. And then there’s also the subconscious working with the placebo effect… so many factors that make it so hard to interpret results. Medicine is tough!

      1. My family tends to have more moles than most, and they are typically raised a bit. Well, when I was a kid, my mom noticed one that looked more purple than brown. We went to a dermatologist, who decided that this was no mole, it was a vein that was growing out of my skin instead of under and chose to cauterize it right then and there. He warned us that I was very luck; had this vein been bumped, it could have ruptured and I would have instantly bled to death. Well, today we know that this situation is very normal and that doctor’s simply let the little bit of skin fall off on its own. No cauterizing. No danger. *sigh*

        Of course, there are the porcelain fillings instead of the mercury/metal ones, too.

        1. Oh dang! That’s a scary one! Although of course it’s always better to have a scare that’s not real than the other way round. And you’re totally right about the fillings, didn’t even think of that one. Over here they used to have you drink hot milk with honey for colds… My worst-nightmare home remedy, lol. Used to make me puke. Later they started saying that it’s apparently really bad for you. Was I ever happy to hear that! It’s not a thing anymore. Don’t know if any of it’s true, but I hope I never have to drink THAT ICK ever again.

    1. They still use grub worms in some areas that have trouble with, um, being behind in technology or are hard to reach. And leeches are also good in certain cases, but not in so many as they were used! You should totally read this book 🙂 I think you would enjoy it.

  3. “But have you ever thought how nice it actually is to go to one and, well, not have to fear heavy metal poisoning? Or… not have to lose a pint of blood to purge you?”

    No. But I will now!

    I see my doctor a lot (way more than I like), and I do sometimes marvel at all the things they can find out now; and all the vaccines you can get. There’s always new medications to try and new ways of treating illnesses.

    And the other week, I had an iron infusion. A few years ago they used to take 4-6 hours and have crap side effects so I’ve always refused them, these days, it takes 15 minutes (well, 50 if you’re me lol) and off you go to carry on your day. Magic!

    They still use leeches and maggots for some things though (I’m forever amused and grossed out by this).
    Wattle recently posted…A Trip Down Memory Lane #1: Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite HenryMy Profile

    1. Sorry you have to see your doctor so much :/ how do they actually do the iron infusion? It’s not actual blood, they just put more iron in you, sort of, right? I’m just curious, if it’s okay to ask.
      Yes, leeches and maggots are used as far as I know, and they’re good for certain things. I am also pretty grossed out xD but come one… Medicine is all kind of gross! Even leeches aside 😀

      1. Yep that’s right, it’s a huge dose of iron. They hooked me up with an IV catheter, the first bit was saline solution (to make sure it doesn’t leak out of the vein, because it can stain), then a small bag of iron went through and then another small bag of saline. I had my doubts, but it was much easier than getting a series of injections 🙂

        I was freaking out the entire time though, it’s not like they can get it back out if you have a reaction to it; and I made the mistake of googling it and other people’s reactions oops!
        Wattle recently posted…A Trip Down Memory Lane #1: Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite HenryMy Profile

        1. Oh my gosh, when you put it like that 😀 “get it back out”… OMG. I am glad everything turned out well. And rule #1 😀 NEVER google people’s reactions! Because it might happen only because you googled them 😀 our brains are funny that way. Glad it worked out for you anyway 🙂

  4. I can’t imagine all the weird things people did to cure their illnesses. This does sound like it has some fun content, and that it is presented in a fun and digestible (oooof, not sure if I should be using such words here hahaha) way. I however don’t know if I’d put this on my coffee table though hahaha Great review! Thanks for sharing this. It’s definitely not something I see around the blogosphere. For sure! 😀

    1. Digestible totally works :DDD hahaha, I should have used that word in my review 😀 that’s great! Actually, I’ve seen this book around the blogosphere a few times, but that was at least a half a year ago, because it was available on NetGalley like a half a year before it’s release date or even more 😀 most people blogged about it and forgot, I blogged around the release 🙂 but it’s SUCH a fun book! Despite the topic, indeed 😀

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