Medicinal Cannibalism





Medicinal Cannibalism

The human body is useful in healing other human beings. Human suffering especially sickness, injuries, and ailments have been part of human life. In response to the suffering, people have engaged in the search for means to alleviate pain. Medical cannibalism is one discovery that aimed at eliminating human suffering. The belief that human body has an extraordinary healing power promotes the practice of medicinal cannibalism (Noble 18). This belief led Leonardo Da Vinci to write about the practice. His quote that, “We preserve our life with the death of others. In a dead thing, insensate life remains which, when it is reunited with the stomachs of the living, regains sensitive and intellectual life.” expounds on the idea of medicinal cannibalism. Historically, people believed that human body including the body parts, organs and excretions are useful in healing people from health issues. Paracelsus and Galen, influential figures in the medical field supported the idea of the curative potential of a human body (Noble 18). According to Paracelsus, the best medicine for human beings is a human body. He argued that human blood, marrow, cranium, fat, and dung has a medicinal power useful in ailment treatment.

Historically, literature supported the idea of human beings having medicinal properties. Human remains were believed to be medicinal, and it was acceptable to use the remains as medicine ingredients. While, today people would think that consuming human beings would lead to fatal illness, in the 17th century, Europeans believed in the healing power of human remains (Noble 19). Tombs were raided to steal mummies whose remains would be used to make remedies. Egyptian mummies were most sought after since it was believed that they had valuable healing powers. Even kings believed in medical cannibalism. For example, the King of England, Charles II used to drink his concoction made of alcohol and ground skull (Wrenn 6). It was believed that the fresh the blood from human body the healthier. This made people pay executioners to get a cup of fresh blood upon execution. The argument behind the practice was that consuming human blood was equivalent to consuming their soul which translates to gaining their strength. This is evident in Leonardo’s argument of preserving human life with the death of other people. His argument supports the idea of using human remains as medicines.

Though currently, people consider the idea of medicinal cannibalism as horrible, human body parts are still considered important in promoting health. Human body parts are being considered as part of life-saving technique (Wrenn 7). The practice of blood transfusion, donation of organs, and skin grafts are modern forms of medicinal cannibalism. People with defect organs such as kidney can easily be treated through transplant after a donation from human beings. Blood transfusion is a common practice in the world, and more lives have been saved with this technique. This practice partly supports Leonardo on the argument that people rely on the death of others to preserve their lives. Partly because, in modern cannibalism, human beings can save others from health issues by donating their body parts without having to die (Wrenn 7). Blood transfusions are also done when donors are still alive. While the dead body is currently not very beneficial in saving human life, the donated body parts or blood helps the unhealthy people to regain consciousness and continue living their life. Modern medicinal cannibalism helps in promoting human life. While it may not give people the strength of the donors, it gives then enough strength over ailments.

Work Cited

Noble, Louise, “Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture,”          Palgrave Macmillan (2011).

Wrenn, Eddie, “Europeans indulged in cannibalism until the 1900s, two new books claim.”     Original 2009. Accessed on 2 May 2018 from      new-books-claim/