Medical History Museum Blood-Letting Cupping Set


Bloodletting was a popular mainstay of medical treatment until the mid-19th century, and is a practice that dates back some 3,000 years.

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

What do you bloody think?

Select an emoji...

The Artist: Medical History Museum

The Medical History Museum at The University of Melbourne is a free museum for those inquisitive about medicine’s contribution to scientific discovery and community well being. Since its inception in 1967, the Medical History Museum has developed a diverse and varied collection of over 6,000 items encompassing documents, photographs, artifacts, ceremonial objects, medical and scientific equipment and associated research material. The collection encompasses the history of medicine in Victoria, Australia and internationally.