Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything” as Want to Read:
Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  969 Ratings  ·  224 Reviews
Discover 67 shocking-but-true medical misfires that run the gamut from bizarre to deadly. Like when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When snorting skull moss was a cure for a bloody nose. When consuming mail-order tapeworms was a latter-day fad diet. Or when snake oil salesmen peddled strychnine (used in rat poison) as an aphrodisiac in the '60s. Seamlessly ...more
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published October 17th 2017 by Workman Publishing Company
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Diane S ☔
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 Regardless of the less than ideal state of the world today, this is one of those books that at least medically, make one grateful that we were born in today's medical world. This book is incredibly comprehensive and we'll researched. I know most of us have heard of the use of leeches, cold water cures, opium, electro shock therapy and the use of these have made us shudder with the knowledge we have now.

Some of the things in this book I had never heard before. Such as the use of skulls and br
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia King is a 2017 Workman Publishing Company publication.

A jaw dropping collection of gruesome and ghastly concoctions and procedures guaranteed to cure whatever ails you… if it doesn’t kill you first.

Before there was an FDA to weed out potentially dangerous ‘snake oil cures', the market was open to all manner of experimental potions and concoctions sold to an unsuspecting public.

This is a fascinating look at some of the mos
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For lovers of the unusual side of medical history, this book features shocking true stories and well placed (if not disturbingly funny) puns and jokes.
Jill Hutchinson
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the 17th, 18th, or 19th century, if you were sick, call the doctor if you wanted to die more quickly! The horrors of "medical treatment" which even stretched to the early 20th century have to be read about to be believed. It was a guessing game and the patient was the lab rat who rarely survived the "cure". Physicians were obsessed with bleeding (even if your problem was loss of blood); enemas (even if your problem was diarrhea); drilling holes in your skull to release the bad spirits; arseni ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Lots of information and its graphics and hardcover book form are marvelous. This holds so much criteria and minutia of centuries of treatments and all kinds of paths to attempt cures or remedies. Not all were conducted in a malevolent or tricking to profit mode. Most were serious attempts to improve a dire health problem, disease, or some living condition that handicapped to strong degrees. Because so many of the original patient conditions are serious ones, these were often experimental attempt ...more
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
Most of us dread a trip to the doctor's office. I know I do! But have you ever thought how nice it actually is to go to one and, well, not have to fear heavy metal poisoning? Or... not have to lose a pint of blood to purge you?

Yeah, when I think about it, it's definitely good that the 21st century is the way it is, even if our medical systems are not perfect (I hear you.) But medicine hasn't always been like it is today. And this book will tell you how it was before it was like it is today.
I l
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A more complete review is available on my blog:

Not all quacks are snake oil salesmen. Of course, some of them are and in Quackery you will learn about them. Some quacks are not out to make a quick buck but legitimately believe in their own ineffective or harmful treatments. Lydia Kang, a physician, and Nate Pedersen, a journalist, will fascinate you with stories of how doctors used to use substances like cocaine, opium and tobacco to cure disease and did n
Alice, as in Wonderland
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I feel like I gotta give this 5 stars on account of it being 100% what I expected, which is essentially a book length Cracked article in the shape of a book.

It's gross, horrifying, and great.
Bernard O'Leary
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quackery keeps trying to hold the reader's attention by making lame dad jokes about the subject matter. I'm not sure if the chapter on enemas includes a line like "talk about a pain in the butt!" but that's basically the level of joke we're talking about here.

It doesn't actually need to do this, because it's a fascinating and well-researched journey through the batshit history of medicine. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the medicine we know (antibiotics, sterilisation, vaccines, w
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cocaine, Beaver Testicles, and the Healing Power of Man Grease

Quackery, by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, is a delightfully gruesome compendium of some of the worst medical techniques and beliefs in human history. Whether it’s the horrors of old surgical techniques or the best ways to eat a Ginger (not eat ginger… I mean eat ‘a Ginger’) for your optimum health, you’ll find it in this book.

The book is funny, informative, and fascinatingly grotesque. And it’s a wonder the human race survived our do
While reading this book, I had to keep reminding myself that the practices and methods discussed weren't just a product of the authors' imaginations but were actual "treatments" once thought to cure problems ranging from babies who wouldn't stop crying to parasitic infections. Opium to treat vision problems? Strychnine as an aphrodisiac? Mercury to soothe babies' teething pain? "Man grease" to cure gout? They're all here … and a lot more that will leave most readers shaking their heads.

Thank yo
☙ percy ❧
Apr 28, 2017 marked it as tbr-priority
Shelves: tbr-non-fiction
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very educational, very entertaining, and quite eye-opening in a "they can't have seriously thought that would work, could they" kind of way.

Recommended simply for the great writing!
Quackery follows a similar format as recent releases such as Get Well Soon or Wicked Bugs. Informative, witty, and irreverent, books like these have become a new way of learning. In Quackery, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen present all things medical from throughout the ages. Unfortunately, they fail at the witty and irreverent aspects of presenting information in this way, making for an uneven, somewhat uncomfortable read at times as they force their modern-day knowledge onto historical actions.

May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I am very interested in Medical cures so when I saw the book “Quackery” I thought it must be a good book to read about all the weird and failed attempts to cure disease which occurred in our past.

A book like this I just highlight the phony cures I find most interesting. One such cure I am familiar with because it was used on America’s founding father George Washington. Bloodletting is where a doctor would use a lancet (a curved or pointed blade with a handle on the end) or other instrument to p
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Especially enjoyed the touch of humor added to a shake-your-head discourse of medical cures.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating read and I highlighted quite a bit in the ebook; however, the constant joking really put me off. There was some extraordinary information about medical practices and the overall wacky treatments that have been done throughout history-and then there would be a lame "dad joke". I just felt none of that was needed as it was such an awesome read and the information and pictures were enough to hold my intrigue. Learned quite a bit from this one.

Entertaining and informative!

I received a c
Noah Goats
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s funny to read about how people have tried to cure themselves with quack remedies like ground up mummies, radioactive water, bleeding, leaches, and cocaine, but when you consider the pain, fear, and desperation that drove them to these extremes, it’s actually very, very sad. (And there is nothing funny at all about lobotomies at any level. The career of Walter Freeman, America’s lobotomy evangelist, is the straight up plot of a horror movie.) This is soft, entertaining history, never approac ...more
Kristie Lock
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kudos to Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen for taking what should be a boring topic and making it interesting and humorous. I never thought dysentery and enemas could be the topics of a dinner conversation.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written with tongue firmly in cheek, Quackery is a delightful romp down the road of history's bad medicine. The authors have the tone of a sarcastic blogger and it makes the experience wonderful. If you are of that execrable race that loves puns, there is a groaner on practically every page.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very informative and funny book. Do not recommend reading before a surgery. Very glad I know where the phrase “blowing smoke up my arse” came from. 😂
Steve Dustcircle
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quirky and fun. Truly a gifted author with a witty smartness about her.
Read my full review here!
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Before the review, an important note on my rating system. Two stars from me does not mean that the book was bad. It means, that the book is actually good, it's just something that I can't see myself reading again just because of my personal preferences.

This book was highly entertaining and gory at the same time. As I was reading it, I kept thinking how glad I was to be alive during a time when we know procedures used in the past are actually harmful. I wonder how many of the things we done in he
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
It's a fun, interesting read. But the authors have, apparently intentionally, conflated actual quackery with pre-scientific medical beliefs. Humoral medicine wasn't quackery when it was the standard treatment, but it would be if somebody tried to sell it now. Not sure why they went with a title that doesn't really suit the book they wrote.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review to come!
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
There is a scene from one of my favorite HBO series Rome in which one of the main characters undergoes a trepanation to remove debris from his skull after a bar brawl. Without anesthesia.

That was the grossest and scariest moment I had ever seen, beating out nearly ever horror movie I've watched since I was a tween.

I thought, "I'm so glad I live now and not 30 BC."

That was my mindset as I read Quackery.

It was lurid, fascinating and outrageous filled with historical anecdotes, pithy and sarcast
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fun, wacky book that will appeal to lovers of medical history or just quirky history, in general, Quackery tells about the various attempts that have been made at curing ills for thousands of years, often killing people in the process.

The first chapter is about purging (from both ends) via various poisons. I'm telling you this as a warning. It's by far the most stomach-turning of the chapters. After that, it improves. There are chapters on opioids, water cures, bleeding, burning, mesmerism, e
Kathie Gibson
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do you remember the smell of Mercurochrome? I do and it’s bright orange color and the magic I felt when mom would paint it on my skin somewhere. I wonder now if it actually did anything to cure. Quackery is an interesting read about the many and various ways people have tried to cure themselves of ills and ailments in history.

My mother also had this salve, Sayman's, that I crave to this day or at least the smell. I suffered with eczema as a child and she would lather this salve on my hands. I h
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was a revelation. Everyone knows that early medical practitioners and medications were iffy at best, but to read the details of the depths to which quacks sunk over the past few centuries was mind-boggling. Strychnine, cocaine, arsenic, lead... Thank God for the FDA. The authors were hysterically funny, throwing in quips and pop culture references at every opportunity. It's so refreshing to see good writers who also have a sense of humor. Some of the stories in this book were tragic, s ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
I love salt more than chocolate. I'm somewhat small, yet deceptively strong. Sort of like an ant.

I'm a part time doc, full time family member, and if you offer me snacks, I'll be a friend for life.

My adult fiction debut is an historical forensic mystery, entitled A BEAUTIFUL POISON, coming August 2017 from Lake Union Publishing.

I have a nonfiction adult book written with Nate Pederson entitled Q
More about Lydia Kang

Nonfiction Deals

  • A Guide to the Present Moment
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Breaks of the Game
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
    $12.74 $2.99
  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Dry
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Measure of a Man
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    $13.99 $2.99
  • 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival
    $8.49 $1.99
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
    $17.48 $1.99
  • The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
    $12.49 $1.99
  • The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Scar Tissue
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Running with Scissors
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
    $9.99 $2.99
  • 1968: The Year That Rocked the World
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    $9.99 $2.99
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini
    $22.95 $1.99
  • Facing Your Giants: The God Who Made a Miracle Out of David Stands Ready to Make One Out of You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Egg and I
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
    $12.74 $1.99
  • City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Just Another Kid
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Second World War
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
    $11.24 $1.99
  • Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism
    $13.99 $1.99
  • I Am Not Myself These Days (P.S.)
    $13.24 $1.99
  • In the Beginning...Was the Command Line
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Toltec Art of Life and Death
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It
    $9.49 $2.99
  • The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top
    $17.99 $2.99
  • A Brief History of Time
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Penguin Lessons
    $12.99 $1.99
  • What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011
    $12.99 $2.99
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About God
    $11.49 $2.99
  • Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Johnny Cash: The Life
    $12.99 $3.99
  • No God But God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Can't Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business
    $12.99 $2.99
“Today, we now know that overconsumption of gin—or really any alcohol—can also lead to “gin blossoms.” Yes, sometimes that means a late-night dose of sentimentality and “Hey Jealousy” on repeat as you wax nostalgic about the Clinton years, but also, more harmfully, gin blossoms on your face. These gin blossoms are the red lines and dots on the faces of heavy drinkers, which are dilated capillaries caused by drinking too much alcohol.” 2 likes
“His speed was so mighty that once he accidentally sliced off the testicles of the patient. A free castration, to boot! Another time, he accidentally cut off the fingers of his assistant (who often held the leg in place); during the procedure, one of the onlookers dropped dead from terror when the knife slashed close enough to cut his coat. Unfortunately, the patient died. The poor assistant also later died of gangrene from the finger amputations, and thus Liston became the proud surgeon who could now boast a stunning 300 percent mortality rate from one surgery.” 0 likes
More quotes…