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The Wonder Pill

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Coincidental Cures
Written by Jacqueline S. Mitchell
Designed and programmed by Polly Hanson

Illustration of an old remedy

February 18, 2003

Before the pharmaceutical boom and the birth of the clinical research trial after World War II, it's not a stretch to say the entire history of medicine was the history of the placebo effect. In every human culture, there have been medicine men, shaman and healers. But those figures of authority had little in the way of effective cures to offer those they ministered. Instead, they used what they found around them - household objects, common plants - and imbued them with ritual, meaning and symbolism. And often, it worked. People felt better. Did these ancient healers know something we don't?

Probably not. Consider this old remedy for curing nosebleeds: tie nine knots in a piece of string. If this remedy ever worked, it's a safe bet it was mere coincidence. But folk cures that seemingly worked with more consistency merited a look under modern science's light. Click on the patient below to see what traditional cure he would have recieved yesterday, and what science has to say about it today.

  Click here to lern more about old cures for depression
Click here to learn more about old cures for blood disorders
Click here to learn more about old cures for stomach problems
Click here to learn more about old cures for skin problems
Click here to learn more about old cures for  joint pain

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