Thousands of drug capsules made from powdered baby flesh in China have been confiscated by South Korea customs agents. They were manufactured in northern China and smuggled in as stamina boosters. There were 35 attempts since last August, involving 17,450 capsules. Customs officials said that no one had been arrested, because the material, which contained bacteria and other harmful substances, was only intended for personal use.
BioEdge reported this story last year after a South Korean TV station investigated rumours that baby flesh was being used as an aphrodisiac. It sounded quite implausible and Chinese authorities dismissed the allegations. But it seems to have been true.
The gruesome news coincided with the publication of two academic books about similar practices in early modern Europe. Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, by an Australian, Louise Noble, of the University of New England, and another by Richard Sugg of England’s University of Durham, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians, claim that for several hundred years, peaking in the 16th and 17th centuries, many Europeans, including royalty, priests and scientists, routinely ate “medicines” containing human bones, blood and fat as remedies for everything from headaches to epilepsy.
According to a recent article in The Smithsonian, this practice reflected the leading medical theories of the time – that like is cured with like, that blood contained the spirit and strength of a person, and so on. These beliefs died out in the 18th century, but as late as 1908, an attempt was made in Germany to drink the blood of an executed prisoner.
Paradoxically, Europeans were horrified by the cannibalism that they discovered in the New World. “The one thing that we know is that almost all non-Western cannibal practice is deeply social in the sense that the relationship between the eater and the one who is eaten matters,” says Beth A. Conklin, of Vanderbilt, an expert in cannibalism in the Americas. . “In the European process, this was largely erased and made irrelevant. Human beings were reduced to simple biological matter equivalent to any other kind of commodity medicine.”
In some ways, a kind of attenuated cannibalism persists today when organs are taken from executed prisoners in China or when body parts are trafficked in the US. “It’s that idea that once a body is dead you can do what you want with it,” says Dr Noble. ~ London Telegraph, May 7