A Curious History of Medicinal Cannibalism

March 12, 2010

Matt Brehmer

Prior to the advent of modern medicine and the scientific method, many cultures prescribed strange and fascinating treatments for various ailments. Some of which were known to involve ingredients of human origin. While in many cases the patient may have been better off not relying on folk wisdom, hearsay, or their local apothecary, modern medicine and chemistry tells us that some of these treatments may have actually worked. During this presentation, we will venture to Renaissance Europe, black market bazaars of the Middle east, Sung Dynasty China, and Soviet Russia, examining several unorthodox treatments within their cultural backdrop. As for the modern era, have we become more squeamish when it comes to such forms of unorthodox medicine? Or are our “cannibalistic” treatments subtly disguised: we no longer prescribe blood baths, but blood transfusions.