'Blowing Smoke Up Your Butt' Was an Actual Procedure

It was used to save drowning people, among other things
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2014 9:23 AM CDT
'Blowing Smoke Up Your Butt' Was an Actual Procedure
Doctors used to actually blow smoke up your rear end.   (Shutterstock)

These days, if someone's "blowing smoke up your butt," they're (hopefully) not doing it literally; instead, they're offering a hollow compliment. But TodayIFoundOut.com explains that in the 18th century, doctors and rescuers did indeed blow tobacco smoke up patients' rectums using a tube and bellows—or even a smoking pipe, writes Terynn Boulton. In the mid-1700s, the procedure was advocated as a way to save those who'd nearly drowned; the idea was that nicotine prompted a stronger heartbeat and the smoke itself dried patients out. Native Americans had long used smoke in various medical contexts, and European doctors picked up on the practice.

An organization that developed in the late 18th century—then known as "The Institution for Affording Immediate Relief to Persons Apparently Dead From Drowning" and now as the Royal Humane Society—offered to pay people for saving lives. The group called for the use of tobacco smoke enemas, and the practice quickly became popular in the treatment of all kinds of other ailments, from headaches to hernias. So why hasn't your doctor tried it out? Well, in 1811, an English scientist showed that nicotine was toxic. Click for the full story. (More strange stuff stories.)

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