10 Horrifying Medical Treatments From The 19th Century

Victorian England brings sweet images to mind; sprawling estates with manicured gardens, evenings whiled away over decadent meals, conversations and live music, and proper ladies strolling through parks with holding umbrellas.

But there is another side to Victorian England — a very dark side — and it’s horrifying, even to modern day eyes and ears. Moments from a time when doctors boiled water, but not to make you a cup of tea. When babies were given narcotics and you could buy anesthesia at the local drugstore. When a particular diagnosis could land you an orgasm, and medical treatments claimed your life while attempting to save you. These are ten frightening medical practices of the 1800’s, and they are sure to leave you in shock!

Surgery Went Like This

Before anesthesia was discovered, patients were awake during surgery, fully aware of the doctor’s every move! A dose of brandy didn’t mask the pains of a tooth extraction, much less having a leg amputated, or a breast removed and chest bones scraped. Until mid-century (when anesthesia came on the scene) doctors prided themselves on the speed with which they could perform the surgery since the procedure was unbearable for both the patient and the doctor.


Consumption (aka Tuberculosis) was considered a disease that affected the sinful ones, those guilty of seeking pleasure through wearing improper clothing, masturbating, using alcohol, and smoking. Treatments varied and one of the less expensive (and more common ones) was for a mixture of gases to be inserted in the rectum.