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The Surprising and Impressive History of Botox

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When most people go in for their Botox treatments, they think they are taking advantage of a recent medical development. Most people do not realize that there is actually a long history of Botox which dates back to the 1820s. For centuries, people knew that certain foods could make people sick or even cause them to die, but no one really understood food poisoning until the German biologist Dr. Justinus Kerner began an intense study of some sausages that had caused the death of several people. He speculated that there was a substance in the sausage that made people sick, calling this substance the “wurstgift.” He even injected some of this “wurstgift” into himself, and while it didn’t give him a younger, more rejuvenated appearance, it did lead to discoveries about the symptoms and treatment of food poisoning.

In the 1880s, Belgian scientist Dr. Emile Pierre van Ermengem discovered the bacteria Clostridium botulinum found in spoiled meats and responsible for food poisoning. Other scientists went on to discover seven strains of this bacteria, four of which cause disease. It is this bacterium – in much smaller amounts, of course – that is the primary component in Botox treatments. Although the bacterium was discovered in the 1880s, it was not until after World War II that scientists began to study its useful health properties. One scientist, Dr. Vernon Brooks, injected a small amount of the bacteria into muscle that chronically suffered spasms and discovered that it temporarily helped the muscle to relax and stopped the spasms. Dr. Alan B. Scott also discovered that Clostridium botulinum was useful in treating crossed eyes in monkeys.

In the 1970s, scientists began human testing with the bacteria. They soon discovered that it offered a helpful treatment for crossed eyes in humans, and in the 1980s, they discovered it could also be used to treat spasms in the face, neck, shoulders, and vocal cords. In 1988, the FDA approved the treatment for eyelid spasms and crossed eyes, and the name of botulinum toxin type A was changed to Botox. Throughout the 1990s, new uses for the drug were discovered, including relief from writer’s cramp and cerebral palsy. In 1992, Dr. Jean Carruthers, a Canadian ophthalmologist, discovered that her patients who received Botox for cross-eyes and eye spasms were also beginning to lose the wrinkles in their faces. She published her studies, and thus began the phenomenon. In fact, demand for Botox was so high that in 1997, the country temporarily ran out, and the New York Times ran a major celebratory story when the new batch was released.

Today in NYC and elsewhere, Botox treatments are more popular than ever. Scientists continue to discover new medical uses for Botox, but its popularity rests on its astonishing age-defying properties. Next time you go in for your Botox treatment, give just a thought to the hundreds of scientists who pioneered this invention. It just might cause you to raise your brows in astonishment – and then relax them, of course, as your doctor begins your injections.

When you need NYC Botox, Midtown Neurology & Aesthetics is a general neurology practice, wellness treatment provider, and also offers aesthetic rejuvenation techniques as part of the wellness center offerings. Midtown Neurology & Aesthetics operates under the direction of Dr. Alina Rabinovich, M.D., a practicing attending Neurologist in the Division of Vascular Neurology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 212.759.5596 or 212.759.5598 or visit

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