Friday, November 16, 2007
The Thai Toad Test
Last week I was on the radio on the inimitable Dr Poonpit's show, chatting about Wagner. Only, as so frequently happens when we start to chat, the subject begins to stray, and the good doctor began to describe an interesting piece of Thai traditional medicine which was practiced during his apprenticeship in back in the "dark times" ... well, let's say the 1940s or thereabouts. Toads were used as a pregnancy test.
The young apprentices had to catch male toads by moonlight each night and deliver them to the Siriraj hospital by morning. The toads were then assigned to different obstetricians in order of seniority. If there weren't enough toads, junior ob-gyns had to wait their turn.
The male toads received a sort of enema of the testee's urine sample, after which, it seems, if the woman was pregnant, the toad would become excited to the extent that its own bodily effluvium would contain a higher sperm count. This sample, viewed under a microscope, was the test which, according to Dr. Poonpit, is one of the few nuggets of genuine, Thai-originated medical knowledge ever to be discussed in learned circles in the west under the name of the Thai Toad Test.
This is the kind of thing one learns when one goes on the air to promote "Die Walküre"....