We’ve known for a long time that smoking is seriously bad for you, but once upon a time, tobacco was believed to have a number of medicinal uses.
Historians at the Wellcome Collection, the iconic museum and library in London, has shared a new blog documenting the changing attitudes to smoking in the 500 years since Europeans first tried to drug, and it’s enlightening, to say the least.
Most people are aware that doctors once believed smoking to beneficial for our health, but few seem to realise how prolific tobacco use was amongst our ancient ancestors.
In the post, the Wellcome Collection’s Matthew Wood, wrote: “Tobacco is a nightshade plant first introduced to Europe in the 16th century.
“The leaf had been widely used for centuries by the peoples of North and South America, where smoking formed an important part of religious beliefs and medical remedies. European physicians and apothecaries were particularly interested in its potential uses in medicine.”
Surprisingly, one of these uses was for enemas. In other words, smoke was blown up people’s butts.
In the Georgian era, British doctors even believed that tobacco enemas could revive drowning victims who had fallen into the river Thames.
Wood continued: “Physicians had believed that tobacco smoke combated cold and drowsiness, making it a logical choice in the treatment of drowned people in need of warmth and stimulation.
“Tobacco-smoke enema kits were provided along the River Thames by the Royal Humane Society.”
If that wasn’t weird enough, doctors also allegedly revived a dead woman with the technique. Hung in 1650 for the supposed murder of her stillborn baby, she survived the execution thanks to having “heat and warmth” pumped into to her bowels. Lovely.
Fortunately, the crazy fad disappeared in the early 19th century. Good thing, as we doubt Queen Victoria would have approved.