1841: Stick your diseased finger in a Chinese frog

In April 1841, Doctor Peter Parker gave a lively address to the Boston Medical Association. Dr Parker was reporting on his experiences as a medical missionary in Asia. He arrived in China in 1834 and spent several years there, helping with the institution of charitable hospitals in Macau and elsewhere.

A good deal of Parker’s address focused on the “medical quackery” he had observed in China. A Chinese dentist, Parker claimed, will keep the teeth he has extracted and string them onto his horse’s reins; this serves both as advertising and “evidences of his skill and extensive practice”.

Dr Parker also recorded seeing:

“…a man with his whitlowed [diseased] finger thrust into the abdomen of a [live] frog, the poor writhing reptile being tied on to cure the disease.”

Parker report mentioned many other bizarre treatments. Local doctors attempted to revive a drowned child, Parker said, not by draining and massaging the lungs but by blowing air into the rectum with a hollow feather. Another Chinese physician, treating a merchant’s wife for constipation, sent a messenger to the hospital asking if he could borrow a corkscrew.

Source: Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, vol.24, April 21st 1841. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.