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Pound of flesh: in light of China’s “baby pills,” a history of European medical cannibalism

News just this past week out of South Korea was that they need to start cracking down on pills made of dried infant flesh, said to cure diseases and boost male sexual performance. Who knew this was a thing?

But before we get our harumph on about the crazy shit they do in Asia, lets review quickly the Smithsonian.com article on European medical cannibalism:

“The question was not, ‘Should you eat human flesh?’ but, ‘What sort of flesh should you eat?’ ” says Sugg. The answer, at first, was Egyptian mummy, which was crumbled into tinctures to staunch internal bleeding. But other parts of the body soon followed. Skull was one common ingredient, taken in powdered form to cure head ailments. Thomas Willis, a 17th-century pioneer of brain science, brewed a drink for apoplexy, or bleeding, that mingled powdered human skull and chocolate. And King Charles II of England sipped “The King’s Drops,” his personal tincture, containing human skull in alcohol. Even the toupee of moss that grew over a buried skull, called Usnea, became a prized additive, its powder believed to cure nosebleeds and possibly epilepsy. Human fat was used to treat the outside of the body. German doctors, for instance, prescribed bandages soaked in it for wounds, and rubbing fat into the skin was considered a remedy for gout.

Lets not forget also that Europe has a tradition of binding books in leather made of human flesh. Uses include many medical tomes, but also as a special fuck-you to one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot immortalized by Guy Fawkes Day. The list of offenses by Father Henry Garnet was bound in a book made of… his face.

So yeah. Claim it as ancient history if you prefer. Just don’t call it unheard of.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.