From the 15th century onwards, syphilis spread throughout Europe and beyond. Most of the supposed cures were almost as bad as the disease itself
image found here
It wasn’t until 1943 that penicillin became the standard, successful treatment. Until then, suggested remedies were creative if not bizarre. Unsuspecting wives were fed mercury-laced chocolates by their infected husbands, says Hayden.
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“Men were told to be sure after engaging in risky sex to wrap the endangered organ in a piece of cloth soaked in wine, shavings of guaiac (the wood of the guaiac tree was thought to penetrate areas of body mercury couldn’t reach), flakes of copper, precipitated mercury, gentian root, red coral, ash of ivory and burnt horn of deer.
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“If a chancre (ulcer) did appear, the ulcerated part was to be covered with a spider’s web and a band of violet fabric.”
Beethoven’s hearing loss is believed to be due to syphilis. One doctor suggested to him that he grate fresh horseradish on a cotton cloth and insert it in his ears. Another recommended tincture of green nut-rinds in lukewarm water be dropped into the ear canal while yet another advised Beethoven to try direct applications of electric current.
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Franz Schubert is also thought to have died from syphilis. In 1826, his friend Bauernfeld wrote “He is out of sorts and in need of young peacocks like those that cured Cellini”. In 1832 he consulted Professor Karl Kuhl who prescribed an “animal bath”
“Thierbäder” meant contact with animal warmth and substance. A Berlin dictionary of medical practice describes one simple method in use in 1830 as putting the affected part into the thoracic or abdominal cavity of a freshly-slaughtered animal and keeping it there as long as the natural warmth lasted. Schumann speculated (no doubt half humorously) that something of the nature of cattle might pass into his own. He added that he found the treatment invigorating.
The list of famous people who died from this insidious disease is a lengthy and depressing one. It includes Al Capone (perhaps we’re not so sad about his loss), whose photoshopped image appears below. Click the link to see some funny Charlie Chaplin photoshopping over at freakingnews.com