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October 21, 2016

BehindTheMedspeak: Lebenswecker (Life-Awakener/Rescucitator)

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From Atlas Obscura:

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In 1847, German inventor Carl Baunscheidt was sitting in his room in pain, his hand aching from arthritis.

He was swatting at hungry mosquitos until he finally gave up and allowed one to bite his hand.

As the wound swelled, he was surprised when he felt a bit of relief.

"How, in a quite simple and natural manner, the morbid matter that may be found in the body, may be extracted from the suffering parts, and removed without the loss of blood," wrote Baunscheidt about his experience in the 1865 edition of his book "Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure."

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In other words, Baunscheidt was convinced that the bite, or "artificial pore," allowed the pain and poisons in the body to leak out of the skin.

This episode with a mosquito inspired Baunscheidt to create the Lebenswecker, or Resuscitator — a sleek ebony-wood staff with a spring that launches 30 thin sharp needles.

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From the mid-19th century to well into the 20th, people tried to cure everything from sleeplessness to yellow fever to epilepsy by puncturing different areas of the body with his homeopathic contraption.

An oil, called Oleum Baunscheidt, was slathered over the small welts, creating blisters and pustules like fake insect bites.

"If you created these blisters and they oozed, then that oozing would be sickness coming out of your body," says Kelsi Evans, an archivist at the University of California, San Francisco Library who came across a Resuscitator kit in the over 1,000-piece collection.

Baunscheidt had no professional medical training, yet he invented an assortment of medical devices.

He built a smallpox vaccinator, a breast pump, and a bloodletting device called the Artificial Leech (a thin device that used the same mechanics of the Resuscitator with only one needle).

But Baunscheidt's fame and fortune came after he released the Resuscitator in 1848.

To support the use of his device, he developed an alternative medical practice he called Baunscheidtism, a form of homeopathy heavily influenced by the ancient Greek theory that the body is controlled by the four humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.

Many people and practitioners during Baunscheidt's time believed that an imbalance of the four humors caused illness — an idea that allowed the technique of bloodletting to persist for thousands of years.

However, bloodletting was beginning to decline in popularity, and patients were not satisfied with the results of internal medicines and remedies, Baunscheidt wrote in his book.

He reasoned that removing the "disease-producing substances" through puncture wounds was a more direct, simple, and controlled treatment option.

Baunscheidt based his treatment on this balance and imbalance of secretions and liquids in the body, explained Evans.

"The idea is basically using the pain from the device to distract and send your body's illness to a location, a concentrated space."

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Baunscheidt's original Lebenswecker, which literally means "life awakener," is a simple device.

On one end of the staff is a loose, moveable piece connected internally to a tightly coiled metal spring.

This controls the needles sheathed inside the barrel-shaped container.

The operator pulls back the small handle about two inches to retract the needles and then releases the handle to snap the needles forward and pierce the skin.

The Resuscitator was often sold in an $8.00 kit with Baunscheidt's booklet and a bottle of the blister-causing oil.

The Oleum Baunscheidt kept the wound open longer, allowing more rapid removal of the "evil" in the body, Baunscheidt explained.

Immediately after being punctured by the Resuscitator, the oil was rubbed on with "a chicken feather or small pencil."

Within four to six minutes the skin would alight with "an eruption resembling millet seeds," patients feeling a "curious crawling sensation," he wrote.

For a more concentrated experience, users would dip the needles in the oil prior to application to receive an experience "kind of like an injection," said Evans.

Baunscheidt declared that all ailments could be treated with the Resuscitator.

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For a toothache, one should pierce the nape of the neck, between the shoulder blades, behind the ear, and on the side of the head where the toothache is found.

Sleeplessness and baldness call for punctures down the spinal column while asthma requires application on the chest and ribs.

Those with measles, influenza, or relapsed itch apply the Resuscitator over the entire posterior of the body and the abdomen.

While Baunscheidt provides suggestions for many diseases, testimonies reveal that users would experimentally stab themselves on all areas of the body until they felt a result.

"People who were writing to him were trying it for all kinds of things," Evans says.

"There is a woman in here with cramps, so she applied [the punctures] around her abdomen where the pain was."

One patient, C.A. Munk from Fostoria, Ohio, wrote: "I have applied the Resuscitator to my little daughter, who had been almost entirely deprived of hearing; and with the happiest results. She now hears very well again. I have also used it three times already, in cases of throat-diseases, with excellent effect. In cases of headache it produced good results."

By 1854, the Resuscitator was widely popular.

It was a common item in Germany and the United States, and testimonies reveal that there were Resuscitator users in Canada, Scotland, Chile, and Italy.

Competitors and profiteers made imitations of both the device and the oil.

Baunscheidt was extremely protective about the recipe of the Oleum Baunscheidt and kept it a secret.

While the original contents remain unknown, today the oil is described as toxic.

Around the mid-1900s the Resuscitator craze began to dwindle.

German editions of Baunscheidt's booklet were published until the 1940s, but foreign copies tapered off drastically.

Today, Baunscheidt's practice and the Resuscitator are widely discredited.

Physiologically, there is nothing that ties stabbing the skin and forming a blister with healing any kind of illness, explained Evans.

Yet Baunscheidt's Resuscitator is a unique device that differs from the many bloodletting and homeopathic contraptions invented during the 1800s.

"The Lebenswecker is an interesting tool because it looks like a bloodletting tool, but it's in fact not really tied in with the blood," Evans said. "It's tied more with this morbid matter, the idea that the blisters rather than the blood are going to release sickness."

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[via UCSF Archives and Special Collections]

October 21, 2016 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Money to Burn BBQ/Fireplace Starter

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Made from paraffin and recycled newspapers.

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3.9"L x 1.4"Ø.

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Three for $8.95 (bucket of charcoal not included).

Wait a sec... what's that music I'm hearing?

October 21, 2016 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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