Medical therapy drifted in many strange and unusual directions until physicians were required to test their treatments according to the scientific method with controlled series.
splenic douche from Rational Hydrotherapy (1902) by J.H. Kellogg
Water therapy is one of the most ancient forms of treatment, and was popular in ancient Egyptian cultures probably because water was so readily available, and was capable of producing so many easily recognizable physiological effects. The Romans had baths where the afflicted could get treatment at various temperatures. Hydrotherapy continues to be employed, especially in spas around the coutry.
Bauncheidt Lebenswecker with oleum and application brush (ca. 1870)
The Bauncheidt Lebenswecker was an ebony device containing multiple spring-loaded needles that was popular during the latter art of the nineteenth century. The physician would make multiple punctures after he prepared the skin with a coat of special oil, or “Oleum.” It was promoted as a "counter-irritant," or a way of creating a path for noxious internal materials to exit the body without surgery. It was also promoted by some as a "life awakener" to bring back the dead. Probably the only benefit was in pain reduction since discomfort produced in one area of the body can sometimes reduce it elsewhere.
hospital use of the Oxypathor (ca. 1900)
At the end of the nineteenth century, Dr. Hercules Sanche “invented” the Electropoise, claiming that it “forces oxygen into the blood stream,” thereby treating any number of serious medical conditions. Its successor was an 1896 upgrade aptly named the Oxydonor that contained a piece of carbon, and sold for $35. The claim for this device was similar in that it “causes the human organism to thirst for and absorb oxygen, the true vitalizer of the blood, through pores in the skin.” The oxypathor was another variant.
Actina by the New York & London Electric Association, Kansas City, Mo. (ca. 1910)
“Professor” William C. Wilson recognized the difficulties people were having with their hearing and vision, and so produced the Actina Pocket Battery, which purportedly cured both blindness and deafness for a mere ten dollars. In fact, the Actina was simply a small metal cylinder that contained a piece of muslin soaked in sassafras, mustard oil, belladonna extract, ether, and amyl nitrate. The device had to be sent back to the manufacturer three times a year to be “recharged” (for one dollar) and of course, a “caution” was included in the package insert: “Do not allow any one under any circumstances to recharge your Actina. Our formula is a secret..."
Sexual activity has always been a controversial subject, not only within the medical community, but in all aspects of society as well. Masturbation, or spermatorrhoea (including nocturnal emissions), was a topic of great medical interest and had been associated with the development of weakness, mental illness, blindness, and countless medical disorders for generations.
Adolescent Onanism Device
Onanism is another term for masturbation, the term derived from Genesis when Judah directed that his son Onan have intercourse with the widow of his brother Er, as required by the law at the time. This is an early 20th century adolescent onanism, or anti-masterbation, device.
spermatorrhoea ring (ca. 1900)
This ring was to be worn by men at night to prevent nocturnal emissions (which would weaken the system and result in numerous other conditions including hair loss, blindness, and early aging). Should the wearer have an erection, the spike would awaken him rather abruptly.
conditions related to the spastic rectal sphincter
Rectal dilators were popular in the early 20th century, and were sold as a home device to treat any number of medical and neurological complaints, the theory being that the use of this product stimulated nerve pathways that controlled metabolic functions in various organ systems. This illustration is from Manual for Young’s Rectal Dilators (ca. 1920)
early twentieth century rectal dilators
(top left): Young’s Rectal Dilators by F.E. Young and Co., Chicago, (top right): Valens Bio-Dynamo Prostatic and Rectal Normalizer, George Starr White, MD, Los Angeles; (bottom left): Curvlite glass rectal dilators, (bottom right): Electro-Thermo Dilators by the Electro-Surgical Appliance Co., Inc., San Francisco