Trepanation (drilling holes in the skull) – Africa

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The practice of drilling holes in a person’s skull dates back to prehistoric times, yet is still done today in parts of Africa. This mutilation is used in various cultures for treating headaches, epilepsy, and mental illnesses. Modern techniques such as a craniotomy are considered trepanation and used in neurosurgical procedures such as hematoma treatment.

Urine therapy – China

Credit: Maja Dumat via Wikimedia Commons

China is home to the Urine Therapy Association and boasts thousands of members. Urine therapy is as simple and as gross as the name suggests: using one’s own urine for medical or cosmetic needs, including drinking it. Advocates claim urine contains essential nutrients. Scientific studies have disproved this.

Snake therapy massage – Indonesia

Starting in Indonesia in the 90s and slowly slithering its way to the US by 2020, snake therapy involves incorporating a full-sized snake into a massage session. Fans of this treatment claim the weight and pressure, along with the slow movements of the snake, release endorphins, supposedly alleviating stress and curing minor ailments.

Cow dung therapy – India

Cow dung therapy – or panchagavya – is the practice of combining cow dung, urine, milk, curd and ghee and allowing it to ferment. This delightful mixture is then consumed. Proponents in India believe this vile concoction can cure cancer, though scientific evidence shows that given the amount of bacteria in cow dung, side affects can be as severe as death.

Bee venom therapy – Russia

Dating as far back as ancient Greece, the use of bee venom, or apitherapy, has proven popular in Russia, although it can be found being practiced around the world. The bee venom is extracted and then injected into the patient. This is believed to be a beneficial treatment for cancer. As with the vast majority of pseudoscientific claims, evidence shows there to be no benefit whatsoever.

Cactus slapping – Mexico

In what sounds like a prank you would play on a friend, the unconventional practice of nopal therapy involves using cactus pads to slap individuals as a supposed remedy for ailments like arthritis and circulation issues. This Mexican practice, rooted in traditional beliefs, lacks any scientific evidence. While some proponents claim benefits from the combination of the cactus’ texture and supposed energy flow stimulation.

Crying rituals – Middle East

In select Middle Eastern cultures, illnesses are attributed to the so-called evil eye. To counter this perceived negative influence, people partake in crying rituals. These rituals, rooted in emotional and spiritual healing, aim to release negative energy and restore balance. While the practice may lack scientific validation, some do say there’s nothing better than a good cry!

Dog saliva treatment – Central Asia

In areas of Central Asian, dog saliva is believed to possess antibacterial qualities that promote wound healing. This tradition involves applying the saliva directly to wounds. While some natural compounds in saliva might offer mild antibacterial effects, the practice raises concerns of infection transmission and potential complications. That, and the smell.

Fecal transplants – USA

Granted FDA approval in 2022, Fecal microbiota transplantation involves transferring fecal matter from a healthy donor into a patient’s gastrointestinal tract. Despite its potential to treat conditions like clostridium difficile infection, the concept of introducing someone else’s feces into your own body is still seriously gross.

Worm therapy – USA and Europe

Helminthic therapy involves deliberately ingesting live parasitic worms to affect the immune system and address autoimmune disorders. While the treatment is currently in the testing stage in the US, initial results have been promising. However, the idea of willingly gulping down on live parasites is certainly unnerving.