Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine artwork

Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine

418 episodes - English - Latest episode: 3 days ago - ★★★★★ - 13.7K ratings

Join Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin McElroy for a tour of all the dumb, bad, gross, weird and wrong ways we've tried to fix people.

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History of Abortion

May 24, 2022 16:00 - 46 minutes - 65 MB

With the recent news about Roe v. Wade, it’s important to talk about the history of abortion in the United States. The right to autonomy over one’s own body in regard to medical care is one of the basic tenets of medical ethics; but no matter what anyone personally believes, banning abortion doesn’t stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Infant Formula

May 17, 2022 17:00 - 47 minutes - 65.1 MB

The United States is currently in a dire formula shortage, and people are taking to the internet to propose some less than ideal solutions. Dr. Sydnee talks about the origins of how formula came about, how the shortage came about, and why people on the internet are wrong. And just in case you miss the message: do NOT try to make your own formula. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Harry Beno: The Poison King

May 03, 2022 16:00 - 35 minutes - 48.8 MB

Harry Beno (not BEAN-o) one day walked into a barn hungry for biscuits and emerged the poison king. Believing himself immune to strychnine, Beno took to eating poison for an audience. From there his act escalated to the next logical step, hammering nails into his head and burying himself alive. Justin and Dr. Sydnee tell the story of “Beno the Wonder” who confused doctors but couldn’t escape the ultimate Sawbones lesson: don’t drill a hole in your head. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers h...

Testicle Tanning

April 26, 2022 16:30 - 39 minutes - 36.8 MB

Some people believe that men in the world are getting softer and masculinity is under attack. But not to worry, there’s a solution: tanning your . . . nethers. Although the idea of exposing your soft bits to the sun may be embarrassing, there's also, as Dr. Sydnee explains, zero evidence that it's beneficial. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


April 19, 2022 16:00 - 41 minutes - 38.8 MB

Remember when the Cheerios box said it would lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease? Well, it doesn’t say that anymore because cereal isn’t medicine. But this is just one example in a long history of breakfast cereals claiming to be beneficial to health. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

The World of Warcraft Plague and COVID

April 12, 2022 17:30 - 36 minutes - 33.7 MB

A very long time ago, in 2019, we talked about the Corrupted Blood plague, a pandemic within the World of Warcraft. How it affected the digital world was used as a model for how people might behave during an actual real-life pandemic. Well . . . we’ve got that real-life pandemic now. So how did it actually play out (and is still playing out) versus how it went in-game? Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Bach's Flower Remedies

April 05, 2022 16:00 - 38 minutes - 35.6 MB

In the mid-20th century, Dr. Edward Bach developed a series of diluted tinctures from ingredients of the natural world to combat negative emotions, and by extension, disease. Bach supplied that these remedies were different for everyone, depending on mood. And to find out what you need? Just take an online quiz! Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Food Dye and Behavior

March 29, 2022 16:00 - 38 minutes - 35.5 MB

Do artificially colored food dyes make your kids behave badly? This sounds like it could be true, and is certainly alluring to parents as an easy fix. But are they actually related? In the 1940s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold was set to research just that, believing that food dye not only could cause bad behavior, but was linked to asthma, eczema, and hives. But the solution to how to solve any of these problems is a bit extreme – too extreme to be practical or even show any real results. Music: "M...

Spring Medical Questions Are in the Air

March 22, 2022 18:30 - 41 minutes - 38.3 MB

It’s time to do a little bit of inbox spring cleaning with all these listener medical questions! Justin reads and Dr. Sydnee answers medical questions about things like healing hickeys, eating all of the meat, tongue-based diagnostics, and tasting with your feet. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Star Jelly

March 15, 2022 16:00 - 35 minutes - 33.2 MB

Have you ever gone outside and found gelatinous goop on the ground? It’s jelly from the stars! But actually . . . what is it? As far back as the 14th century, people have noticed mucilaginous goo that has been associated with both the medicinal and the magical. Dr. Sydnee talks about the many instances of “star jelly” throughout history, what it could possibly be, and the effect it has on people – sometimes harmful, but mostly benign. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Update: Havana Syndrome

March 08, 2022 17:00 - 50 minutes - 47 MB

Havana Syndrome has been in the news lately, so we've brought an update. The CIA has continued to look into people experiencing the symptoms of this strange illness and have found . . . there is some sort of cause after all? So enjoy the full episode explaining the history of Havana Syndrome, and what we've learned in recent weeks.  Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Dr. Charles Drew and Blood Donations

February 22, 2022 17:00 - 37 minutes - 34.7 MB

In a Sawbones rarity, we’re talking about someone who contributed positively to the medical field. Very positively. Dr. Charles Drew, the first Black person to get a doctorate from Columbia University was also the person to discover a better method for preserving blood for use in transfusions. And we’re glad he did, because did you know there’s a national blood shortage? For information on the blood shortage and how to donate blood:

Now That’s What I Call Weird Medical Questions

February 15, 2022 17:00 - 44 minutes - 41.2 MB

What question would you ask a doctor if you were sitting next to them? That’s what the goal is today on Sawbones, where “we”, mostly Sydnee, answer listeners’ most pressing weird medical questions. Questions about cool things like ear gauges, absinthe, the strength of car doors, self-advocacy, hydration, and the hole that is your belly button. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Ben Franklin’s Glass Armonica

February 08, 2022 17:00 - 41 minutes - 38.5 MB

Benjamin Franklin: Prolific writer. Founding Father. Inventor. Creator of a killer instrument? The Glass Armonica, more or less a series of singing water bowls with haunting melody, became a popular instrument for a very short amount of time. But by 1830,  it ceased being played entirely. Was it because its strange harmonics were making people ill? Or maybe it was just very fragile and hard to carry around?  Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Doctoring While Sick

February 01, 2022 17:00 - 40 minutes - 37.2 MB

Work culture often lauds the idea that you should go to work even if you’re sick. This is true among a lot of occupations, but the self-declared worst offenders are doctors and other health professionals. Dr. Sydnee explains from her own experience and that of others why it is often the case that doctors are reluctant to become patients. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Baker-Miller Pink

January 18, 2022 17:00 - 35 minutes - 32.5 MB

This episode of Sawbones is a little lighter, and what’s lighter than pink? Nothing, especially when we’re talking about Baker-Miller Pink, a hue theorized to calm people down, quell violence, and maybe even influence muscle strength. It wasn’t the first color thought to have an effect on people’s behavior, and it’s EXACTLY as affective. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

The Omicron Variant

January 11, 2022 17:30 - 51 minutes - 48 MB

After a week of working on the hospital floor, Dr. Sydnee discusses her personal experience with the current state of the health care system and what the experts say the omicron variant might mean for the future of the COVID-19 pandemic. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Mariko Aoki Phenomenon

January 04, 2022 17:00 - 34 minutes - 32.3 MB

Have you ever had the sudden urge to go to the bathroom while browsing in a TJ Maxx or a book store? Well, apparently many people have. This phenomenon was first mentioned by Mariko Aoki to a Japanese magazine in 1985, and has recently made its way to TikTok. Dr. Sydnee and Justin investigate some different theories and philosophies around the sudden need to poop while book shopping. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Twelve Days of Christmas

December 21, 2021 16:30 - 42 minutes - 39.8 MB

The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" sounds like an extravagant and generous cavalcade of gifts. But what if your true love had less than pure intentions? Justin and Dr. Sydnee go through each present and speculate what deadly diseases they could potentially give you. Not hard to theorize, considering these gifts include two dozen birds. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Sawbones Classic: Home Alone

December 14, 2021 22:00 - 34 minutes - 31.8 MB

We're re-releasing our classic holiday episode all about Home Alone. For your listening edification, Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her lovely assistant Justin McElroy are delighted to present a full accounting of the injuries likely sustained by the Wet Bandits. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Tis the Season for Weird Medical Questions

December 07, 2021 17:00 - 44 minutes - 41 MB

We're warming the December chill with another Sawbones Q+A, answering all the weird medical questions that can only be answered publicly, on a podcast. Questions about milk and lost limbs, mole hair, spontaneous UTIs, dead germs, where does the vaccine go, and sexy sneezing.


November 30, 2021 17:00 - 45 minutes - 41.8 MB

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a LEGACY it is. Welcome back to Justin McElroy’s Medical Brand Hall of Fame, where we can put aside questions of science and efficacy and focus on what really matters: How Juliana Marguiles’ dad wrote a jingle that was hidden for 20 years before it changed the world.

How to Detox from a Vaccine

November 23, 2021 17:00 - 41 minutes - 38.6 MB

You can’t.

Arsenic Wallpaper

November 16, 2021 17:00 - 37 minutes - 34.3 MB

No, dear listener, “arsenic wallpaper” is not just a great band name, it’s also a reference to a mid-1800s fanaticism around using arsenic to create a particular vibrant shade of green. A sort of . . . jade? Sage? Anyway. You’ve probably already guessed how that works out, but we’ll lay it out for you just the same on this week’s Sawbones.


November 09, 2021 17:00 - 42 minutes - 39.3 MB

 You may have heard about a recent deadly outbreak related to gemstone-laden room sprays. The culprit in that sad situation is called “Melioidosis,” and this week we’ve got a history of how humanity tracked down this slippery ailment.

Sex and Gender

October 26, 2021 16:00 - 40 minutes - 37.5 MB

There has been lots of discourse about gender expression recently, and “science” is often trotted out as an argument to deny the experience of others. “Feel however you want,” these arguments typically begin, “but there are only two sexes, and they’re easily defined, and that’s just science.”  That’s … well it’s crap. This week on Sawbones, join us as we make it extremely clear where science stands on this complex issue.

The Green Children of Woolpit

October 19, 2021 16:00 - 33 minutes - 30.8 MB

For Halloween, Sawbones is bringing you a story rooted in folklore and mystery: two children  showed up one day in the English town of Woolpit, speaking a strange language . . .and with green skin. But their curious appearance may have a logical and medical explanation, and we bring you our best guesses.

The Malaria Vaccine

October 12, 2021 16:00 - 41 minutes - 38.5 MB

As an intro to new listeners, we’re bringing you science unfolding in real time that’s actually really good: the malaria vaccine. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: It’s called Mosquirix. Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But the good news? It could save tens of thousands of children’s lives every year.

The Pill that Helps Prevent HIV

October 05, 2021 17:00 - 43 minutes - 39.8 MB

Were you aware there’s a medicine that with an extremely high degree of efficacy can prevent the spread of HIV? There is! There’s just one problem: It’s costly. … And not enough people know about it. … And many doctors don’t know enough about it. … And it’s the center of a protracted legal battle . . .  Okay, so there are a few problems. This week on Sawbones, we’ll explore them all.


September 28, 2021 16:00 - 38 minutes - 36.1 MB

Well, in one of the classic parenting whoopsies, Justin and Sydnee dented their daughter (she’s fine). In honor of her contusion, this week on Sawbones we’re talking about bruises.  Are steaks part of it? Should you put most of a charcuterie board on there? Also, what’s up with the little irons boxing guys get rubbed on their face bruises? All of your questions about bruises will be answered, friend. Hold tight!

Weird Medical Questions Strike Back

September 22, 2021 17:00 - 39 minutes - 36.2 MB

Is there evidence that sugary drinks cause worse hangovers? Does green snot mean there’s an infection? We’re answering more of your weird medical questions. Well, to be fair, Dr. Sydnee is answering your medical queries about sticky lip germs, C.diff, and the hot debate about that thing on your back.

Black Oxygen Organics

September 14, 2021 16:00 - 45 minutes - 41.7 MB

Well, people are eating dirt. Real expensive dirt, too. That’s where we’re at. There’s a multi-level marketing company that sells people dirt to eat. We’re doing a Sawbones about it, and it turns out that we actually think it’s a really cool and good idea! Eating pricey dirt goo, we mean. … No, no, it’s terrible. It’s all terrible.


September 07, 2021 16:00 - 49 minutes - 46 MB

If you’ve seen a new smoothie shop or “Nutrition Club” open up in your area, take note: It may not be a smoothie store at all. This week on Sawbones, we explore the history of Herbalife and why this multi-level marketing weight loss company is opening smoothie shops with no smoothies for sale. CW: Discussion of dieting and weight loss Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Havana Syndrome

August 31, 2021 16:00 - 41 minutes - 38.3 MB

We’ve got a real mystery for you on Sawbones this week: Havana Syndrome. It’s either a secret beam being blasted at American diplomats . . .  or a mass psychogenic illness . . . or a complete fabrication. Or anything in between? Yep, it’s a weird one. Hang in there. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


August 24, 2021 16:00 - 46 minutes - 43.1 MB

In the 1950s, Thalidomide was rolled out very quickly and what followed was a tragic story that highlighted perils of greed and hidden agendas. This week on Sawbones, Dr. Sydnee and Justin attempt to untangle this murky narrative, and highlight the doctor who heroically kept this disaster from claiming many more lives. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


August 10, 2021 20:30 - 42 minutes - 39.7 MB

Justin takes over Sawbones researching duties from Dr. Sydnee this week as he begins profiling the unsung heroes of business: Brands. In this inaugural attempt, he’ll present the story of Vicks and how the company’s VapoRub took over the world. Also: The puzzling truth about NyQuil’s name. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


August 03, 2021 16:00 - 47 minutes - 44.3 MB

How well do we understand viruses? We were fighting them before we could even see them. Fast forward to today, Dr. Sydnee explains how all of this relates to what we know now about the Delta variant. To donate to the Immunization Action Coalition: Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


July 27, 2021 19:00 - 42 minutes - 39 MB

Sawbones is finally doing the Balto episode! What happens when a remote town in Alaska has a diphtheria breakout, but their entire anti-toxin supply is expired? Call up Balto and the pack of hero dogs and mushers to make the harrowing journey. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


July 20, 2021 19:00 - 45 minutes - 42 MB

Naloxone is known as the “life-saving drug,” since it can bring someone back from an opiate overdose. Dr. Sydnee goes through the history of this hero drug, how it works, and the recent struggle of keeping it accessible in some communities.  Check out the Free Naloxone Day Fundraiser: Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Hot Medical Question Summer

July 13, 2021 16:00 - 42 minutes - 39.8 MB

It’s time to answer more of your medical queries, like what is Texidor’s Twinge, when does the sunscreen clock start, and yeast infections: why? Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Jimmy Buffett

July 07, 2021 13:00 - 44 minutes - 40.9 MB

We recorded this episode live on the Joco Cruise 2020, where Dr. Sydnee dissects the medicine mentioned in the songs of Jimmy Buffett. What is recommend for “Island Fever”? What should Mr. Buffett be concerned about when eating that “Cheeseburger in Paradise”? And do the lyrics of “Frenchmen for the Night” mean he may have Jumping Frenchmen of Maine? Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Physician Burnout

June 29, 2021 17:00 - 46 minutes - 42.8 MB

Workplace burnout is commonplace in the 21st century, but it’s a fairly recent idea. It’s especially insidious among physicians, who are taught that any fatigue is a sign of weakness. Dr. Sydnee shares her personal experience with exhaustion and what might be done to address this problem in the United States. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Black Lung Disease

June 15, 2021 16:00 - 42 minutes - 39 MB

As any proud West Virginian knows, the history of mining in the United States is tied tightly to the history of the labor movement. This was partially to address something known as coal worker’s pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease. Though unions may have won the battle for recognition, the war against this disease continues to this day. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

COVID Variants and Guns for Vaccines

June 08, 2021 16:00 - 52 minutes - 48.9 MB

You might have heard about the COVID variants that have some people worried, and how effective the current vaccine will be against them. But not to worry, we’ve got the sweet sweet data from the Lancet, and some good news regarding the (specifically Pfizer) vaccine. And if you haven’t gotten a vaccine yet, maybe a car or lotto ticket will motivate you. Or a gun? Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

The Parasite Delusion

May 25, 2021 19:30 - 38 minutes - 35.8 MB

Last week, we talked about if eating papaya seeds could rid your body of parasites (spoiler: it can’t). But being concerned about having parasites is not new. We continue the conversation by looking into the phenomenon of Ekbom’s syndrome, or delusional parasitosis, a difficult disorder to both manage and treat. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Papaya Seeds and Parasites

May 18, 2021 16:00 - 38 minutes - 36 MB

TikTok is where the kids are getting all their information on new new wellness trends, so Dr Sydnee decided to check one that’s been popping up a lot: eating Papaya seeds. The main claim is that the seeds awesomely force parasitic worms out of your body – worms you didn’t even know you had! But is there a SEED of truth in these claims? Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Revenge of the Sawbones Quiz

May 11, 2021 16:00 - 40 minutes - 37.9 MB

Test your medical history knowledge from this past year’s episodes in the Super Secret Sawbones Quiz of Interesting Information to Inform and Enlighten and Entertain and Impress Your Friends 2021! Consider becoming a supporter of our show: Sad Trombone by Benboncan: Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

May 04, 2021 16:00 - 50 minutes - 47 MB

For MaxFunDrive 2021, Sawbones is talking about gross medicine of a different sort. In the United States (and New Zealand) we see a lot of those commercials for prescription medicines with jaunty names and a full minute disclaimer at the end. How they came to be the norm here is a complicated history of bad medicine and the shifting of credence among doctors, patients, and pharmaceutical companies. Consider becoming a supporter of our show: Music: "Medicines" by Th...


April 27, 2021 16:00 - 41 minutes - 38.6 MB

Along with Dr. Sydnee’s amazing videos, TikTok is also a host to an interesting wellness trend: chlorophyll. The green pigment that helps plants turn sunlight into food and oxygen has also been thought to boost your immune system and help with body odor. But chlorophyll as a health food is an idea that dates back to 1930, and spoilers ... it's just as effective now as it was then. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers

Vaccine Verification

April 20, 2021 17:30 - 52 minutes - 48.4 MB

About a year ago, Sawbones discussed what herd immunity was not. In this episode, we look at how we’ll get there, and what role vaccine verification will play. How has it impacted public health historically, and what can we anticipate in the near future? Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


Mary Roach
1 Episode