Cover Image: Quackery


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Member Reviews

This book is an entertaining and interesting history of quack cures and outlandish medical procedures. The book may not be the most comprehensive history, but it presents a great sampling of the many crazy and outrageous things people did and believed about medicine and health.

The book is organized into five major sections: 

    Elements. Using things like mercury and arsenic for cures. 
    Plants and soil. This includes opiates (which to an extent are still used today), tobacco, and even eating dirt. 
    Tools. Procedures like bloodletting, lobotomies, and cold water cures. 
    Animals. Using leeches, fasting, and cannibalism among other things. 
    Mysterious powers. Using things like electricity, magnetism, and radionics. 

In addition, the book includes Hall of Shame sections on topics such as women's health, men's health, and weight loss. 


The book is very accessible and easy to read. The authors describe the cures and procedures in detail, and they balance the narrative with a good dose of humor. The light jokes throughout the book make the subject interesting and amusing. Additionally, the book features a variety of illustrations, diagrams, and photos that enhance the book. The stories range from disturbing to ridiculous; it just draws you in and makes you want to read more. 

As the authors states, the book is not comprehensive. It focuses mainly on past treatments, and the authors add that some topics not covered deserve books of their own. Overall, what this book does cover it covers very well in an amusing and informative way. Readers who enjoy history, medical trivia, and a bit of humor will enjoy this book. 


The book is definitely a great choice for libraries. Overall, I really liked this one and recommend it.
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A jaw-dropping, mind-boggling collection of gruesome and ghastly concoctions and procedures guaranteed to cure whatever ails you… if it doesn’t kill you first
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I wasn’t able to access this book. Unsure of how I can review something I wasn’t able to read. I’m not sure what format this is or what it’s compatible with.
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One of the most interesting books I've had the pleasure of getting my hands on. It made me think all while being very entertaining.
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Quackery is a tour through the most unusual, wacky, and downright bizarre medications, tinctures, and medical tricks used down the years. Odd as most may seem, many of these were the paving stones along the road to medical innovation.

There are five different sections looking at the various tools, tinctures, bizarre animal-based cures and tricks such as radionics that our ancestors used over the course of time. At the end of each section is a brief “Hall of Shame” focusing on different topics such as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Antidotes, and Eye Care.

Section One covers the use of elements such as mercury and antimony in treating ailments.
Section Two deals with plant derived ‘medicines’ such as tobacco, cocaine, and opiates, and how their use evolved. Also includes the use of dirt.
Section Three looks at ‘tools’ like surgery techniques, lobotomies, and anesthesia.
Section Four is all about animal medicine including leeches, anthropophagy, and animal derivative meds.
Section Five covers ‘mysterious powers’, such as electricity, mesmerism, and radionics.
This book is packed with so much neat information! It’s fascinating the things humanity has believed through the ages. We’ve gone through many trials, and made many errors to get to where we are today medical-wise. It’s so hard to believe we once thought ingesting things like mercury, strychnine, and radium were beneficial, or that cocaine and opium were in medications casually given to children. Or the various means and methods leading up to modern anaesthesia.

Things I particularly enjoyed were learning about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and how they found mercury in the latrine pits, verifying the members had used a particular medicine en route, Phineas Gage and the history of mesmerism that evolved to modern hypnotherapy. Other things of interest and amusement were butt bellows, and the theory that blowing smoke up the ass was helpful in drownings, the evolution of vibrators as medical tools that turned into sex toys, Frankenstenian experiments with electricity, and using mummies as a cure for, well, anything.

If you love history, and medical trivia, this is the perfect book for you!

***Dos mere to Workman Publishing for providing an egalley ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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"Quackery" is enlightening and highly entertaining!
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3.5 stars

I don’t enjoy reading historical books, yet the write up for this book sounded very intriguing. I’m happy I opted to give it a shot because it was actually quite interesting. Shocking, horrifying, and hilarious at parts, but oh so interesting. 

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the review opportunity.
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A interesting telling through history about the methods so called ' quacks'  and actual doctors gave and did  to their patients. In some cases quite disturbing. The research and information in this book is well thought out and collated to produce a book that is both entertaining and informative, that will leave you scratching your head as to ' did I read that right' .  It delves into all sorts magical claims and diagnosis for all sorts of medicinal properties from products such as opium, cocaine, gold to name a few. There is also a good dose of humour injected into this book and this balance is just right.  
I really enjoyed this book immensely and would recommend this book. 
Thank you to NetGalley and Workman Publishing for letting me read and review the book.
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This makes a great gift book for that person in your life that loves weird facts. It's a great and informative read as well as funny. I highly recommend.
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I’ve always been interested in mysteries, medical investigations, and even murders cases. If they come with a strange, weird twist, even better. While I was searching for a next interesting reading, I saw “Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything,” by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. What a good choice I did by taking it.
Despite the fact that it is a book about medical matters, “Quackery” doesn’t use a complicated language or complex terms. All the descriptions are crystal clear so those who only read the medical recipes can even memorize those parts that impress them the most; I certainly did and will be waiting for the best time to traumatize some of my friends.
Many, many sincere thanks to the publisher for providing this ARC, I’m not an avid reader of non-fiction publications, but I’m glad I could discover Kang and Pedersen’s work. It’s sweet to see juicy books like this still in the market.
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Did you know that one crazy cure for an arrow in the body in ancient times was to string it on a bow and try to shoot it OUT of the body? Or that radium was once seen as a cure all tonic, until it killed a famous playboy known for his addiction to radium water?  Most have heard of past practices of leeches being used to suck blood out of patients, but, even more fascinating, they still are used today in a very small subsection of medical science.  Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen is packed with such fun and interesting facts, with the added bonus of an entertaining informal narrative voice making puns and sarcastic asides throughout to elicit a smile. 

	As an avid history fan who is a sucker for quirky historical facts and trivia, I was immediately drawn to this book and it exceeded my expectations.  While it isn’t for everyone – I had a few family members get a bit squeamish– the short witty chapters make it an easy read that can be picked up and set down as necessary – though the subject matter always compels one to read more.  The effortless blend of cultural history, medical history, and societal background which never drags or borders on dry reading is truly impressive.  I highly recommend this book for all history buffs, those in the medical field, trivial pursuit addicts and fans of Mental Floss.  A fun and quirky read that will have you alternately cringing and laughing.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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An amazing read. To see the birth of the modern medical industry in such detail was an amazing read. i highly recommend this book and enjoy all other that may come from this author!
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Equal parts mortifying, morbid and fascinating, Quackery is a guided tour through the horrifying world of medicine and health care in days gone by. I eat these kinds of books up like candy, who doesn’t like lurid trivia of the not-so-good ol’ days I know I do! I really liked the layout, it’s akin to my favorite magazine, Mental Floss with little factoids on every page to highlight the subject. Very well organized, full of stomach turning stories of medical mistakes and maladies, it kept me turning pages and very thankful I live in the modern day.
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Such an interesting book about the history of medicine and treatments. There are so many different ones out there, so many frauds and it makes you really wary.
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Tongue-in-cheek humor abounds in this sometimes terrifying tale of quack cures from long ago and, even more scary, from not that far back. 

It's one thing to look back at a period of time when we knew basically nothing about the human body and laugh that people thought that if the King touched your horrible rash, it would cure it. It's quite another to hear about quackery from not that long ago, like the book that came out in 1992 called, Sharks Don't Get Cancer by William Lane and Linda Comac, that started a run on shark cartilage supplements. (Seriously, I remember this fad and BTW, sharks get cancer.) One you can laugh at and sort of understand the poor serfs that didn't know any better, the latter, well it could have you checking your bookcase or vitamin supply. 

Sitting under blue glass can cure all sorts of stuff and make your livestock huge, some guy in Pennsylvania swore in the 1870's. Face west, pull out a hair sample, and send it to a dude in San Francisco for both your diagnosis and cure, just be sure to also send your first deposit for your Radionic Device. (That dude was worth $2 million when he died in 1924 and Upton Sinclair, the amazing writer of The Jungle, thought he was the bee's knees.) There have been so many quack cures that you just have to shake your head for the poor fools that bought them and hope to gosh that you never fall for one.

I'm not sure if it was the feeling of "I'd never fall for that" or the sense of humor that pervades the book, but I kept turning pages like I was looking for my own cure for something. I enjoyed it!
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Thanks to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for the opportunity to read and review Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang. The book has sections for elements, plants and soil, tools, animals and mysterious powers. The first section begins with the medicinal use of mercury. Interesting and intriguing in its awfulness, especially the part about using it for babies who are teething; whoa! Then I learned about the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty who was desperate for immortality and was given mercury medicines by his alchemists because they thought that was the answer. He died at forty-nine and his mausoleum rivals Egyptian pharaohs and is said to be flowing with rivers of mercury! Tidbits of mercury use include historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon and Edgar Allan Poe. Reading about Opium use was eye-opening and jaw-dropping, especially the part about giving it to quiet crying babies and children! The No More Pain with Cocaine part all the way to cannibalism and corpse medicine kept me morbidly fascinated. 5 stars for a must-read of a sketchy piece of history!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
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The human body has been an enigma since time began when Adam and Eve discovered the meaning of nakedness. Mankind has been obsessed with maintaining a sort of harmony of body and soul which has led to some interesting "techniques" flavored by both our passions and our ignorance of scientific facts. Even if a procedure had some foothold in curing our ailments, there were those who deigned to use their talents to take a popular idea, twist it up, package it prettily, and make a profit off of the foolish purchasers who paid big bucks for something which at best had a placebo effect or at worst could kill you.

Which brings us to the book, Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Petersen which provides an in-depth discussion of the various "cures" which have been perpetrated on society since "written" records have existed (this includes drawings on cave walls). The sixty seven entries fall under five categories - Elements, Plants and Soil, Tools, Animals, and Mysterious Powers. Kant, a doctor, and Petersen, a journalist, investigate various medical techniques giving a complete historical background of their usage along with fascinating anecdotes, also delving into the lives of those individuals who took advantage of the public's ignorance to sell a product they knew was worthless (such as snake oil without the snake or the oil). This book covered  a multitude of topics relevant to the 21st Century reader. It will surprise you to discover how many recognizable names supported and even died using some of the listed cures - even a couple of United States Presidents. In my review copy, the index was incomplete and the numerous illustrations and photos were labeled in a language other than English, although I assume this will be corrected before publication. 

It wasn't until the last century that we started to recognize the value of cleanliness so our forbearers suffered from all sorts of maladies related to infections that set in from the after effects of common diseases. To top it off, "doctors" had the idea that out was better than in, so techniques such as bloodletting, leeches, and enemas (they were obsessed with excrement), were commonly used to alleviate the body of harmful elements. Of course, constipation must have been common because opiates in various manifestations were used on a regular basis. Mothers little pill in the form of laudanum could easily become addictive. It did relieve ones' pain, however, although an overdose was lethal. Considering heroin use, a cheap opiate, has become such an epidemic in the United States that the Governor of New York State has called for people to walk around with syringes full of narcon (an antidote to a heroin overdose) tells the tale that we haven't learned enough from our past mistakes.

Besides narcotics (which included ether and laughing gas), people also were "cured" with known poisons such as mercury, arsenic, and strychnine. When Marie Curie discovered radiation it became a tool for treating cancer and while it is still a useful tool  (now a limited dose pinpointed at an exact location) it originally was taped to the body or even inserted into the vagina to treat cervical cancer. While I'm sure this reduced tumors, the radiation poisoning might kill you instead. Ignorantly, doctors would carry radon around in their pockets thus hastening their own demise. 

The philosophy was often: "If some is good, more is better". So while a hot bath would be soothing, two weeks in a hot tub might not be a good thing, especially if you had to sit in your own excrement. Other treatments included being prodded with a hot poker, swallowing pearls and gold, or drilling a hole in the head and letting the brain leak out.

Perhaps the most disgusting item was the eating of human flesh (right next to drinking the blood of people being executed, preferably from a human skull). Mummy remains were also a popular repast, and when mummies became scarce (those tomb robbers weren't just looking for gold and gems), individuals killed by the desert elements were a good second choice. 

Mesmerizing became popular in France in the 1700s, which was really a sort of mass hysteria, but after a while it fell out of favor. However, hypnotism was a natural progression which still is in use today to treat various ailments such as quitting smoking or losing weight. It was also used as a type of anesthetic at the time when there was a lack of such products. 

The upsetting point is that despite our knowledge of medicine, quackeries still exist in 2017. Non-doctors make their "inventions" sound miraculous when in reality there is no scientific evidence to the truth in their advertising. In order to be an acceptable medical practice, the results have to be reproducible. Many people still believe that vaccinations cause autism based on one doctor's discoveries even though the medical community has debunked this idea. Still, enough children have skipped their required shots to result in more than one measles epidemic. 

Alternative" medicines, even if banned in the United States, are available in other parts of the world, taking advantage of desperate people who will try anything, a fact which the shysters count on when they package their products. I was determined to find a "cure" for my dyslexic son, and even tried Irwin Glasses (tinted purple to help him follow a line of print) and Fast Forward (a computer program which was supposed to reconfigure the brain). While eventually he did learn to read (more due to his teachers and programs such as  Earobics and Orton Gillingham) he is still dyslexic. My philosophy was to throw everything at the problem and see what worked. I, however, would not try any methodology which even hinted at physical damage. I didn't mind losing money, I would mind if my son were harmed. 

While fascinating, this book did have a sense of tongue and check irreverence, making witty and at times silly comments about the more outrageous "medical" promises. I thought it added some humor to an already ridiculous topic, although some might not like the mixed use of tones - at times serious and at times frivolous. However, this is one of those nonfiction books which is both entertaining and educational with an easily readable format, although it makes you wonder about some of the common approaches used in medicine today. Four stars.

A thank you to Netgalley and Workman Publishing Company for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is divided into five sections.  Elements, Plants & Soil, Tools, Animals, and Mysterious Powers.  Each section gives the reader information on a subtopic and shares detailed information on that topic and how it was used. in days gone by.  Did you know, in ancient Rome, your barber was also your dentist and bloodletter? My favorite chapter is "The Weight Loss Hall of Shame." Tapeworms for dieting? I think not! Reading about these previously thought valid remedies was kind of scary.  I found myself stopping often and sharing what I had just read with others.  This book is surely a conversation starter.  I am giving this a 4-star review.  I gained a lot of knowledge and had some fun conversations, so yeah it definitely deserves 4 stars.
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Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen is a funny, intelligent, and entertaining book by Workman about the past methods used for curing the most important or little illness.
Historical, precious, great old-fashioned illustrations, you will fall in love for Quackery because it will make you smile, laugh, it will entertain you and at the same time will inform you about various chemical elements adopted in the past for the cure of various illness. We will discover the collateral effects for the body with historical important examples. 

The book is divided in: Elements, Plants and Soil, Tools, Animals, Mysterious Powers. 

Some example?

We will learn that President Lincoln started to suffer of bad headaches and they became more horribly important at some point because doctors insisted to curing them with mercury pills and so with devastating consequences for his body. A man was buried because a mercury addicted; he thought he discovered the fountain of youth; surely a luminous fountain of death.

Arsenic is another important poison. In the past a perfect and elegant "gun" for killing someone. Tasteless, it could be added in food or drinks. Medici and Borgia fans of this poison. 

Someone else tried to cure alcoholism with a potion including gold! symbol of immortality as well.

I could continue with long descriptions of other various chemical elements (and not only) used in the past for trying to heal people from the most diversified illness, imagination has no boundaries in this sense, but I just can tell you something: I have a digital copy of this eBook and it's stunning. I guess that the physical copy is incredible and trust me when I tell you that if you will buy this book your money very well spent. There is great quality, it's an old-fashioned book, with a lot of medical history treated with lightness and a lot of fun, and plenty of funny medical stories.

Highly recommended.

I thank NetGalley for this beautiful eBook!
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