Miracle ‘Coronavirus Cures’ Haven’t Changed in 700 YearsRoundup
tags: medicine, Disease, Spanish flu, coronavirus, Bubonic Plague, Antonine Plague
Jennifer Wright is the author of “Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them” (Henry Holt), out now.
Patience and plagues have never gone together. Legitimate cures take a frustrating amount of time for doctors and scientists to develop. When people are frightened, they may feel that’s time they don’t have, and latch on to anything that seems to help.
Back in the 14th-century, people tried all manners of supposed remedies to help ward off the bubonic plague, which was transmitted by fleas. The rich ate their emeralds, which did nothing to combat the plague, but did rip their gastrointestinal tracts and cause internal bleeding. The poor, lacking emeralds, tried drinking their own urine, or pus from their burst boils.
Doctors also applied poultices made with feces to people’s boils.
While those “remedies” sound absurd, some persist to this very day. During the 14th-century, people cut onions into pieces and placed them around their homes, hoping they might produce a scent strong enough to ward off the plague and purify the air. It didn’t then — and it still doesn’t now. Even so, a popular video shared by Mikel Afolayan on Twitter on March 22 declared that people should “get as many as possible onions” and cut them open, and place them around the house. The AFP (Agence France-Presse) has debunked that rumor.
Clearly, though, we haven’t progressed all that much in 700 years.
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