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Human Feces as Medicine?

­­­During my childhood, medicine always tasted disgusting and I suspected that adults made it so deliberately to spite children. They could have made it delicious had they wanted to.

Disgusting ingredients have been used in supposedly therapeutic concoctions down the ages. They had three qualities: vileness, rarity, and expense. These strongly promoted the placebo effect, for who would not claim to feel better if continuing to swallow camel’s goat’s bile were the alternative? A little bit of what revolts you does you good, that is the theory.

Now at least when we resort to disgusting means, they are scientifically reasonable. I worked for a time for a surgeon in a country where antibiotics were not easily available, who wanted to test honey as an antiseptic dressing for open wounds (bacteria do not grow in honey). I cannot remember the results from the bacteriological point of view, but I recall that the aesthetic results were not pleasing.

I have also seen the use of maggots for wound cleaning. The therapy is effective, but it is difficult not to be repelled by it, especially if (as I have) you have actually suffered a parasitic skin infection by maggots.

However, my disgust at honey and maggots paled by comparison with what I felt upon reading the title of a paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, "Duodenal Infusion of Donor Feces for Recurrent Clostridium difficile." The excrement of various creatures was long an ingredient of supposed remedies in the days when nothing really worked, but I had fondly supposed that medicine had passes what Freud, in another context, would have called the anal stage.