It was commonly believed that health was dependent on the balance of four humors – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm – and that purging an excess humor would restore the body’s equilibrium.The procedure involved scarification, in which the blood vessels just below the skin were cut using several concealed small blades. Warmed glass cups were then placed over the wound which, as they cooled, would create a vacuum that would increase the flow and extraction of blood.
This bloodletting set is from the 1830s, a time when the therapeutic value of this practice began to be questioned. Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis (1787-1872) was instrumental in discrediting the perceived scientific benefit of this therapy.
Five cupping glasses with four padding covers in chamois, scarificator, spirit bottle and lamp, c1830
Image: Gavan Mitchell