The Fart Jars of 17th Century Europe
When a mysterious illness is busy killing a significant percentage of the world’s population and medical knowledge is at a bit of a standstill, weird things can happen. Case in point: In the 1600s, some doctors recommended their patients fart in jars to help treat exposure to the bubonic plague.
Their very suspect logic went something like this: The Great Plague of London that devastated the city between 1665 and 1666 was believed to be a miasma, or a deadly air vapor spread through breathing in the atmosphere. Doctors felt that if a patient could somehow dilute the polluted air with something equally potent, it might reduce the chances of contracting the illness. So they advised their patients to have something foul-smelling at the ready.
To have some kind of putrid stench on standby, some homeowners retained a goat and let it stink up the place. Others took to the practice of farting into a jar and quickly sealing it, then would rush to inhale the stench when they suspected that they may have been exposed to the deadly germs.
While it’s unknown how many people were saved by such a method, it’s fair to assume that the likely answer is none. There is, however, no telling how those saved farts may have acted as a kind of methane placebo, calming the rattled nerves of those who were alarmed by the piles of dead bodies collecting in the streets.
Today, leading fart researchers claim that flatulence is a sign your beneficial gut microbes are in plentiful supply. Just don't expect your rips to ward off bubonic plague.