Wednesday 5 September 2018

Headaches in History by Joan Lennon

I think I can safely say, without any scientific back-up, that as long as people have had heads, they have had headaches.  Not to mention headache cures.

1890s advertisement for Bromo-Seltzer,
demonstrating just how you good you'll feel 
after it cures your headache
(wiki commons)

For example, in the 10th century, Ali ibn Isa al-Kahhal recommended tying a dead mole to your head.  In the 12th century, Cordobian physician Moses Maimonides advised sufferers to immerse themselves in a warm, sweet bath, using honey for preference.  In 1608, A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen suggested making a paste of house leek and "stamped" earthworms, and applying it to the temples.

The Head ache by George Cruickshank 1819 
(wiki commons)

Electric eels, willow bark, rose oil, hot irons, wearing a clay crocodile  on your head (an Egyptian remedy from around 1500 BCE), trepanation, feverfew tea, opium and vinegar solutions, the St Denis method*, a kiss**, patience*** - all have been proposed and practised, with varying degrees of success.

History Girls have arcane expertise spanning the centuries.  What headache remedies have you come across in your research rambles?  And have you ever tried them??? 

*detail from west facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral 
of St Denis
(Wiki Loves Monuments)

**The Headache by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

My head doth ache,
O Sappho! take
     Thy fillet,
And bind the pain,
Or bring some bane
     To kill it.

But less that part
Than my poor heart
     Now is sick;
One kiss from thee
Will counsel be
     And physic.

***If you can live up to around bus pass age, there's a reasonable chance they'll just go away of their own accord.  At least that's what happened to me.   

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Sue Purkiss said...

Like the idea of a hot sweet bath - not sure about the dead mole!

Susan Price said...

Nor me, Sue. How could I be sure of laying my hand (or head) on a dead mole when a headache started? Do you have to keep them in, like stocks of paracetemol? That would mean drying them -- or do they have to be fresh?

I'm as much intrigued by the clay crocodile -- how big was it? How heavy, when applied to your poor aching head? At least you could keep one of those around. Was it a sort of prayer to the croc-headed god? Questions, questions...

Ann Turnbull said...

Trying to keep a dead mole in place would definitely take your mind off the headache, wouldn't it? Otherwise, soluble aspirin (formerly known as willow bark.) Failing that, I've often felt like resorting to the St Denis method.
Oh, and point *** is true.

Joan Lennon said...

I like the hot bath idea too, and honey smells lovely, so that might help. I think the clay crocodile is tied onto your head with strips of linen with prayers written on them, though I never found either praying or cursing ever helped my headaches. At least a dead mole (fresh, I hope) would be soft ... And Ann, I'm very glad *** is true for you too!

Anonymous said...

I used to suffer Migraines but I became pregnant in 1972 and have not had even a tiny headache since then. Should I try to patent this 'cure'?