Do you suffer from headaches, sadness, low energy, high energy, hearing loss, anxiety, pain, hallucinations, or any other problem AND you have a uterus? This can only lead to one diagnosis: hysteria! 😱 Hysteria (from the Greek hystera = uterus) began as the idea of the uterus moving around the body, causing all sorts of physical and mental troubles on the way. 💥 The first mentions of the wandering womb date back to 1900 BC. Throughout the ages, hysteria remained an umbrella diagnosis for a variety of issues women faced, from more ‘reasonable’ ones (different ailments) to everything seen as ‘unwomanly’ behaviors, like being short-tempered, not wanting to marry, or not being interested in having children. 🤷‍♀️

As the history of hysteria spans thousands of years, the exact nature of the illness varies depending on the time period we’re looking into. Apart from the wandering womb, other reasons for hysteria included the imbalance of humors in the uterus, too much sex, not enough sex, childlessness, and even … demonic possession. 😈 Many beliefs, folk medicine, and superstitions surrounding these ideas survived in the minds of common folk for centuries, even when more scientific methods were taking hold.

The shift from the physical to more psychological background of hysteria in the 18th and 19th century was a small step forward, however, as it was still a catch-all diagnosis for diseases that should have been studied separately and, unfortunately, often a tool for controlling women who did not want to conform to the societal expectations. In extreme cases, ‘hysterical’ women were forced to spend the rest of their lives in asylums or undergo completely unnecessary surgical hysterectomies. The unwillingness of physicians to study female medical problems and sexuality combined with the blind belief in the well-established practices of the past led to the creation of dozens of bizarre therapies and cures, which we’ll be exploring in the following weeks. 🤯☠️

Tobacco Enema Rescue Kit

Great Inventions, Medicine

Have you ever wondered where does the phrase “blowing smoke up your ass” come from? Unlike other sayings, this one is quite… literal. We have to go back a little bit further in time than usual, though. ⏳

In the eighteen century, it was quite common to attempt resuscitation of the “apparently drowned” by blowing tobacco smoke into the rectum, which was supposed to warm up the unlucky victim and stimulate their body. 🌬️ At the birth of the method, the smoke had to be blown through a tube by mouth, but, thankfully, later special bellows were introduced to help out with the task. 🤪

The Royal Humane Society of London (previously called The Institution for Affording Immediate Relief to Persons Apparently Dead from Drowning) provided tobacco smoke rescue kits which were distributed along the river Thames. 🌬️ At this point you may ask yourselves “Why didn’t they think about performing mouth-to-mouth”? As it turns out, the mouth-to-mouth method was known by many people, especially midwives, but was considered “vulgar” at the time. 🙄💀

Quackery is one of the books in which you can find this and many other morbid curiosities 🙂