every time I read a site like this, I am thankful for the discovery of penicillin. because in the bad old days, if you caught syphilis, the treatments were either bizarre, ineffectual or even worse than the disease
Ulrich von Hutten was well acquainted with these ‘cures’, having suffered through the appalling mercury vapor treatment eleven times in nine years. As he explained the process in his book, patients were shut in a “stew,” a small steam room, for twenty or thirty days at a time. Seated or lying down, they were spread from head to foot with a mercury-based ointment, swathed in blankets, and left until the sweat poured down; often they fainted from the heat. Disgusting secretions issued from their mouths and noses; sores filled their throats and tongues, their cheeks and lips, and the roofs of their mouths. Their jaws swelled; often their teeth fell out. Everything stank.
Stranger methods for applying mercury were dreamed up, too. It could be taken internally, for example: one eighteenth-century recipe called for mixing the liquid metal with hot chocolate, though the author cautioned against this exotic beverage because he felt that the chocolate was too dangerous for those afflicted with the French disease. One entrepreneurial medic marketed underpants coated inside with a mercury ointment.
the ravages of the disease were ghastly and I’ll spare you the details but if you’re feeling either very brave or particularly reckless this is an amazing French site with what I hope are only wax replicas from the 18th century. you can scroll backwards or forwards but they are not for the faint hearted.
prostitutes, actresses and women of loose morals were often blamed for the spread of the disease. here’s a picture of some happy loose women to help you recover if you clicked the link and saw the chancre mou
if you survived long enough to reach the tertiary stages you would eventually succumb to insanity. there were plenty of gimcrack hospitals around then but you can be sure they weren’t staffed with nurses as pretty as ours.
nursemyra’s advice of the day: to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, always check your condoms for holes before use…