The Reason People Used To Drink The Blood Of Executed Criminals

As we may have pointed out before, medical science hasn’t always been an exact science. For a good long time, concepts like double-blind testing and direct observation were a pipe dream, and physicians seemed more inclined toward hunch-based treatments. Do you have bizarre beliefs that the human brain is made of sperm or that mercury injections are the best cure for syphilis? To hell with evidence. Go with your gut, doc.

That kind of thinking led to some pretty phenomenal horror stories, like when 18th century doctors prescribed a combination of dog feces and honey as treatment for sore throats, or the idea that breathing a healthy person’s flatulence could cure the plague.

But life, sadly, can’t all be poops and farts, and more often than not, ancient medical practices skewed less Farrelly brothers and more Joseph and Erik Menendez, and for a shockingly long period of time, a deeply backwards thought process led folks to believe that drinking blood could treat epilepsy. This led to one problem.

No, not proving it. Where were people going to get all that gosh dang blood?

History: It's bloody disgusting

The story goes like this: According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, ancient Romans kicking it around the first century picked up on this notion that blood had magical properties. It was probably one of those cultural idiosyncrasies that you pick up from a smaller civilization when you’re assimilating all of the Mediterranean like an olive-scented Borg cube.

The thought was that the blood or liver of a gladiator, when consumed, would soothe and strengthen the mind of a person who suffered from seizures.

Who knows? Maybe there was something to it, or maybe any hope of helping an ailing loved one was better than sitting on your hands and hoping they woke up again every time they lost consciousness. In any case, the practice continued, right up until gladiatorial combat fell out of fashion around 400 A.D., at which point everyone stuck their hands in their pockets, said “aw, shucks,” and admitted that the whole idea was pretty silly in the first place.

Just kidding. They started collecting the blood of executed criminals instead. And the practice didn’t stop until the early 1900s, when a neurologist named John Hughlings Jackson theorized that epilepsy had more to do with the brain than it did with … whatever people thought drinking blood would fix.

And if the disappearance of a noble homeopathic practice like vampirism bums you out, take comfort in the fact that, in 2018, National Geographic reported that folks in Bolivia have been trying to cure epilepsy by drinking bat blood, since apparently medicine is as much about “why?” as it is “why not?”

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