The headache 'remedies' that thankfully died out long ago

Matthew Champion@matthewchampion
Monday 14 July 2014 14:30

Got a headache? Just be thankful you weren't born in an age when these remedies were being touted.

Put a mole on it

It sounds like something Jez and Super Hans might debate adding to one of their tracks, but strapping a mole to your head was actually suggested by Ali ibn Isa al-Kahhal, the 10th century ophthalmologist known as the Oculist. It proves that despite being the most noted physician of his generation, probably century, he wasn't completely infallible. Other poultices used throughout history featured mashed earthworms, dead salt herring or live frogs.

Shave your head and burn your skin until you reach muscle (or even bone)

Aretaeus, known as the Cappadocian, was the most famous Greek physician of his day in the first century CE, but wasn't adverse to coming up with such advice for alleviating headaches. Thankfully he had the good grace to admit this particular piece of advice could amount to 'hazardous treatment'.

Inject yourself with oil

Or more accurately, inject soft oil into your ear to alleviate headache symptoms. We have Oribasius, the personal Greek physician of Roman emperor Julian the Apostate to thank for this.

Bathe in honey

Moses Maimonides, the 12 century scholar from Cordoba, actually wasn't too far off with this one, as who doesn't love a long relaxing soak at the end of a headache-inducing day?

Bathe in honey, but add electric eels

This is more like it, as suggested by the Dutch Society of Sciences in 1762: "When a slave complains of a bad headache, he has them put one of their hands on their head and the other on the fish, and they thereby will be helped immediately, without exception."

Drill holes in your head

This headache cure that could end your pain forever. A form of what we now know as trepanning was actually practised as far back as 6500 BC, with prehistoric skulls showing signs of holes being drilled or scraped in. The idea that such a surgical intervention could treat health problems enjoyed a renaissance in, well the Renaissance, before thankfully dying out.

Wrap a noose around your head

Yes, really. The Romans believed a headache could be relieved by wrapping a noose, specifically one used in a suicide, around the temples.

With thanks to this article.