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Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales
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Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  150 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Eating clay, drinking urine, applying honey to deep wounds and mere plaster to crushed bones: these are all folk remedies for ailments, passed on through the generations and thoroughly discounted by modern science. It is too bad, write scientist-historian couple Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein, who deplore the loss of proven methods developed without the blessing of the ...more
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published April 9th 1999 by Macmillan (first published September 1st 1997)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 22, 2012 Willow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book fascinating.

I must admit, I usually pick up nonfiction books with a bit of trepidation. Some of them are so dry, I fall asleep reading the intro. This book I could not set down though. I was fascinated by all the squirm-worthy and nasty cures in this book and the medical science behind them.

Until I read this, I could never understand why bleeding and leeches was such a popular cure for so long. Now I see that it was used to lower a fever and it actually worked. If only people
Margaret Skea
Jan 28, 2014 Margaret Skea rated it it was amazing

So much here to fascinate.

I generally reserve 5* for books that I will read and read again, and this is one of them - I've read it, listened to it on CD and read it again. Great for car journeys - can't fall asleep with these facts being read to you. As a writer of historical fiction it has a particular interest for me - some of this will definitely make it into my books - engaging and easy to follow style also - glad to have it on my bookshelf.
Oct 05, 2009 Sofia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading about the origins of many folk remedies, but the book is rather poorly written. Especially distracting were the cheesy puns and clichés at the end of each chapter. The extremely biased section on circumcision seemed rather out of place with the rest of the book.
Aug 19, 2009 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sent this book on to my friends Sofia. She thought the same thing I did. Good information, mediocre craft and what is with the militant advocacy chapter on circumcision?
A surprising number of modern medical treatments have their roots in folk remedies. Even those that have been shown to be too dangerous or impractical for modern use have informed modern medicine.

Organized by treatment or substance, this book is fairly well-written (although a tendency to barely-relevant and overly-verbose tangents can be annoying) and gives a good presentation of the relevant medical issues for the layperson. The extensive bibliography helps determine the right direction for de
Apr 10, 2015 Sacha rated it liked it
Enjoyed the chapters on specific cures: maggots, honey, head-out immersion, geopharmacy, blood letting, leeches, laudable pus, licking wounds, urotherapy, circumcision, contraception, and cellophane as a bandage. These chapters included interesting history, science, and warnings. The writing was rather verbose. There would have been no loss if about 20% of each chapter had been cut in my humble opinion. The last three chapters of the book were not focused on specific cures and less interesting t ...more
Maureen Watson
May 29, 2008 Maureen Watson rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in medicine or science
Recommended to Maureen by: Heard about it at a conference
This book gives the history of medicinal cures before the discovery of antibiotics. There are still a lot of viable uses for the information today, especially with the high cost of medical care in some areas. It was very interesting.
Nancy Herbst
Oct 20, 2016 Nancy Herbst rated it really liked it
I'm not sure I would have finished this one if I was 'reading it,' but it was a great 'hear.'
Sep 25, 2011 Cerise rated it did not like it
The actual remedies are interesting, unfortunately the writing is distractingly poor. I started skipping the last sentence of each chapter to avoid the inevitable atrocious puns that were lurking there. These are not clever puns (which may make you roll your eyes but still make you smile), these are groan out loud, painful and embarrassing to read Fozzie Bear caliber puns:
pg. 30 " After all, maggot therapy didn't turn out to be such a flyblown idea, did it?"
pg: 70 "chalk up another success for
Willa Grant
Aug 03, 2012 Willa Grant rated it liked it
I really liked this book for the research into old & ancient medical treatments, I just wish that the authors were able to cast as critical an eye on modern medicine as they do on old treatments. It doesn't seem to occur to them that turning an ancient herbal treatment into a big pharma pill, is not necessarily better or safer & has it's own problems. Modern medicine has it's own amounts (sometimes quite significant) of mortality & morbidity. This book is worth owning just for the in ...more
Kristin Bishop
Jun 25, 2013 Kristin Bishop rated it it was amazing
This book is fabulous. It doesn't waste anytime in giving you the most interesting information. From the very first chapter, I was hooked! They talk about folk remedies that have been around for hundreds and thousands of years that have actually been proven to work and are being revisited in the medical field today. Everything from eating clay, drinking urin, and using cellophane to dress wounds, this book will get you thinking! The only drawback is the last 2 chapters were hard to get through f ...more
Aug 01, 2010 Kevin rated it liked it
Interesting information, but watered down at most times and overly preachy at others. I understand that old remedies are the basis for modern medicine and that sometimes today we do things medically that are just as baseless as the "ancient" or "old-wives tales" - but that doesn't necessarily mean we should stick to the old ways.

The author's attempt at defining the science/medicine behind the tales was a nice start. What I'd like to have read was more than a start. Plenty of authors have succes
Tom Schulte
Feb 18, 2015 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating overview of the scientific basis and potential benefits of such folk remedies as honey-sugar wound bandaging, geophagy, circumcision, maggots, wound-licking (even cross-species!), leeches, and more. I wish the section on quackery was more in depth, but the section on how the economics of health care in American means low-cost and proven folk remedies can never be offere on scale as their is not the profit possibility to support approval. One potential example is Dinitrochlo ...more
Angi M
Nov 26, 2013 Angi M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book! So far, I've learned that you can heal bed sores and other lacerations with sugar and honey; use leeches to heal reattached limbs & skin, blood clots, glaucoma, and other things; wounds that have been infected with pus heal better than wounds that don't get infected; certain types of maggots are great for cleaning out dead tissue in gangrenous wounds but other types eat living flesh and make problems worse- you have to get the right kind of fly; bathing in water up to your ...more
Jan 12, 2016 V rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an interesting historical perspective on what preceded modern medicine. I borrowed it from the library mainly to read the chapters related to honey as medicine, but found myself engrossed in the other chapters too. We owe a lot to the Native Americans for their expertise in remedies. I was also intrigued by the idea that many healers found their inspiration by watching what animals do when they are sick or wounded. A good read.
Feb 06, 2016 Fishface rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to, health
Great little collection of effective remedies that work fine when expensive, high-tech medicine isn't available. Did you know you can heal those weeping sores diabetics get by packing them with sugar? Did you know that Kaopectate tastes like chalk because that's what it's made from? All kinds of cool stuff is in here. I only wish it had been longer.
Oct 04, 2009 Natalie rated it really liked it
This book goes through "the science behind folk remedies and old wives tales" such as, does licking a wound help? I liked that it talked about chemicals and actual reactions that can take place. It had a lot of eww, that's really cool moments, but I have to admit I didn't read it cover to cover.
Dec 23, 2012 Sandy rated it really liked it
Many current medical practices have their origins in home remedies and folk medicine. Today medi-honey is used for wound treatment, for example. I like off-beat books that teach me things. While not extremely well-written, this is a fun book to read if you have any interest in medicine at all.
Ok so really brief phone review: this book doesn't have a real standpoint but is and interesting rundown of medical practices that were subsumed by more modern/expensive practices but then sorta waffles on what this means
Jun 18, 2010 Wendy rated it really liked it
It just makes me wonder how I would identify the right kind of fly after I've seriously injured myself in a remote location. Luck of the draw to get the necrotic flesh-eating kind.
Mattathias Westwood
Mattathias Westwood rated it liked it
Apr 17, 2015
Rachel rated it it was amazing
Jun 21, 2007
Amy rated it liked it
Jun 13, 2010
Grace Wager
Grace Wager rated it liked it
Sep 13, 2013
Heidi rated it liked it
Mar 27, 2009
Tarah rated it it was ok
Jun 30, 2007
John Fricker
John Fricker rated it really liked it
Apr 16, 2012
paula rated it really liked it
Sep 20, 2008
It was incredibly interesting up until chapter 14. After that it was just a slog.
Tess rated it liked it
Mar 06, 2016
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