The 13 Craziest Things Ever Used As Medicine (In America)

List Rules
Vote up the things you can't believe were once used as medicine in America.

A doctor's mind is supposed to be filled with endless amounts of knowledge. We trust them with our health, even with our lives, to be on the cutting edge of the latest treatments and cures for us, but do they really know best? This list is compiled of things doctors used to prescribe to patients as “go-to cures” – things such as heroin, soda, and sex toys. Next time you go to the doctor, ask them if you can have a beer and line of cocaine for your migraine... it worked in the 1920s.

What are the craziest things ever used as medication? These odd items will be sure to pique your interest and should be pretty surprising.


  • Trepanation
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    545 VOTES


    Much like a lobotomy, trepanation was a treatment for seizures and migraines. Doctors thought that if you had mental issues, physical or emotional, you probably needed a couple of holes in your head.

    The doctor would lay you down and take a contraption with three drills, place it on your head (side, front, back, it didn't really matter) and drill. This practice went on for a very long time, even though people had no relief from their aliments.

  • 2
    680 VOTES

    Soothing Syrup

    Soothing syrup was said to be an "indispensable aid to mothers and child-care workers." This little concoction was considered a medicinal product invented by Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow and first marketed by her son-in-law, Jeremiah Curtis and Benjamin A. Perkins in Bangor, Maine, in 1849.

    They marketed this product in recipe books, women's magazines, anywhere they could get mothers to see it. It claimed to cure everything. Toothache, stomach ache, colic, you name it, and this "soothing syrup" fixed it.

    Want to know what was in this amazing syrup? Well, one grain (65 mg) of morphine per fluid ounce, cannabis, heroin, and powdered opium. It also had sodium carbonate, spirits foeniculi, and aqua ammonia in it.

    The product was removed from the market in 1938.

  • 3
    376 VOTES

    Back in the 1830s, there was something called Dr. Miles' Compound Extract of Tomato. These pills were used to treat indigestion, diarrhea, and liver disease, and taken as a cholera preventive.

    Not only were the pills ineffective, but they weren't even made with tomatoes. They did, however, popularize the red fruit in American cuisine.

  • Lobotomy
    Photo: Photography Harris A Ewing / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    342 VOTES


    Walter Freeman was the father of the lobotomy. The process was as follows: he "lifted the patient's eyelid and inserted an ice pick-like instrument called a leucotome through a tear duct. A few taps with a surgical hammer breached the bone. Freeman took a position behind the patient's head, pushed the leucotome about an inch and a half into the frontal lobe of the patient's brain, and moved the sharp tip back and forth. Then he repeated the process with the other eye socket."

    This became a treatment after it was discovered that chimpanzees became subdued when their frontal lobe had been damaged. This was before people realized that the frontal lobe controlled memory and the decision making of human beings.