The following article is republished from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader.
Next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold, thank your lucky stars for 21st-century medicine.
On the morning of February 2, 1685, King Charles II of England was preparing to shave when he suddenly cried out in pain, fell to the floor, and started having fits. Six royal physicians rushed in and administered emergency “aid.”
* They let (drained) 16 ounces of blood.
* They applied heated cups to the skin, which formed large round blisters, in order to “stimulate the system.”
* They let 8 more ounces of blood.
* They induced vomiting to purify his stomach, gave an enema to purify his bowels, and made him swallow a purgative to clean out his intestines.
* Then they force-fed him syrup of blackthorn and rock salt.
* They shaved his hair and put blistering plasters on his scalp. The king regained consciousness. The treatment seemed to be working, so they kept at it.
* They gave him another enema.
* Then they applied hellebore root to the nostrils, more blistering plasters to the skin, and powdered cowslip flowers to the stomach.
* Special plasters made from pigeon droppings were attached to his feet. After 12 hours of care, they put the ailing king to bed.
A depiction of medical cupping. (Image credit: This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom, via Wikimedia Commons)
* Charles awoke and seemed much improved. The attending physician congratulated themselves and continued the treatment.
* The let 10 more ounces of blood.
* They gave him a potion of black cherry, peony, lavender, crushed pearls, and sugar. Charles slept for the rest of the day and through the night.
* He awoke, had another fit, and was bled again.
* They gave him senna pods in spring water, and white wine with nutmeg.
* They force-fed him a drink made from “40 drops of extract of human skull” of a man who had met a violent death.
* They made him eat a gallstone of an East Indian goat.
* Then they proudly announced that King Charles was definitely on the road to recovery.
The process of bloodletting. (Image credit: This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom, via Wikimedia Commons)
* The king was near death.
* He was blistered again, re-bled, repurged, and given another enema.
* He was given Jesuit’s powder -a controversial malaria remedy- laced with opium and wine. His doctors were mystified by the king’s weakening condition.
* Showing no improvement, the king was bled almost bloodless.
* They scoured the palace ground and created a last-ditch antidote containing “extracts of all the herbs and animals of the kingdom.”
* The king was dead.
Postmortem: It was rumored art the time that King Charles II had been poisoned, but no proof was ever found. Modern doctors offer three theories as to the cause of death:
1. He was poisoned -but not by an enemy- by himself. He often played with chemicals in an unventilated palace laboratory, where he contracted acute mercury poisoning.
2. He suffered from kidney failure.
3. He had a brain hemorrhage.
Would the king have survived without treatment? Probably not. But at least his death wouldn’t have been so excruciating.
This article is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader.
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