Now before you rush off and do something inexcusable to that poor, innocent, canine friend of yours, please hear me out.
It appears that we don’t hold the monopoly on having a bad night’s sleep in the modern day-and-age.
In fact, insomnia has been around for many, many years.
Whereas in the 21st century we may look to treat insomnia naturally, some cures from years gone by can only be viewed as “unnaturally natural”.
So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce some weirdest, wackiest and utterly crazy ideas our ancestors have come up with to cure insomnia.
Rubbing Dog’s Ear Wax on Your Teeth
We have 16th Italian polymath, Gerolamo Cardano to blame for this monstrosity.
Cardano was proficient in various areas and was famed as a mathematician, physicist, biologist, chemist, astronomer, and interestingly, also as a Gambler (that explains a lot).
He is credited as one of the founders of probability theory and wrote over 200 works of science.
But to me, Gerolamo, you will always be the guy who came up with the daft idea of rubbing dogs ear wax on your teeth to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Well I say “daft idea”, but the English author, Robert Burton was still recommending this as a cure for insomnia over 50 years after Cardano’s death.
I’m pleased to announce that over 400 years later we are no longer using this as a method to treat insomnia (please, please, please don’t try this at home).
Eating Sea Slug Entrails Before Bed
I’m not adverse to a bit of sushi every now and then, but the Japanese folk remedy of eating sea slug entrails to cure insomnia doesn’t really do it for me.
I think this has more to do with the marine animal, the sea cucumber.
The sea cucumber is an echinoderm and therefore belongs to the same “family” as sea urchins and starfish. It can be used either fresh or dried in various cuisines and is particularly popular in Southeast Asia.
Dishes that are made with sea cucumber are typically slippery in texture and most commonly served with winter melon, Chinese cabbage, or shiitake mushrooms.
Something to help you sleep at night you say – well I almost feel as though I missed out, as I was only ever offered a mug of warm milk or cocoa as a child.
Drinking a Potion Containing the Bile of a Castrated Boar
There’s never a castrated boar around when you need one.
This medieval European elixir was referred to as “dwale”.
It was actually used as an anesthetic prior to surgery in the Middle Ages. However, it was generally loaded to the brim with opium as well.
Right, that makes a lot of sense. In that case you can keep your castrated boar.
And moving swiftly on…
Rubbing Dormouse/Field Mouse Fat On The Soles Of Your Feet.
No, wait! Obviously, I don’t mean the actual process of rubbing a mouse’s fat onto the bottoms of your feet.
I mean… well actually, I’m not entirely sure what I mean.
The dormouse is a nocturnal animal and they are well-known for their extremely long periods of hibernation (I think that’s where I was going with this above).
It appears that in Elizabethan England, tired, fatigued and frantic souls took to rubbing their feet with dormouse fat in the hope of getting a decent night’s sleep.
I’m guessing that they were hoping that the dormouse’s uncanny ability to sleep for hours, days, week, and months on end would rub off on them (no pun intended).
I think it’s only wise that I mention our friend, Robert Burton (remember him from above? The English author, who supported the theory of brushing your teeth with dog’s ear wax) was also a proponent of the dormouse ideology.
(Shakes head and face palms in disbelief).
Lathering Your Hair in Yellow Soap
I’m actually not feeling particularly proud to be British at this moment in time.
If the dormouse effect wasn’t enough, the various interventions of Robert Burton, and now it appears our Scottish ancestors wanted to get in on the act.
An edition of the Glasgow Herald from 1898 had a particularly helpful piece of advice for insomniacs:
- Soap your hair with ordinary yellow soap (I don’t even want to know why the soap is yellow in the first place).
- Rub it into the roots of the brain until it is lathered all over (The Brain??).
- Tie it up in a napkin.
- Go to bed.
- Wash it out in the morning.
- Do this for a fortnight.
Oh yes, sorry I almost forgot, and “Take no tea after 6pm”.
Makes perfect sense to me.
This fantastic natural treatment for insomnia involves weird colored soap, touching your brain apparently, napkins, and a couple of weeks hard work. It probably had nothing whatsoever to do with the cutting out caffeinated drinks in the evening.
The French and Egyptians Ate Lettuce
I never knew that a flimsy, green, salad leaf would be heralded in two different continents as the ultimate cure for all you insomniacs out there.
But how very wrong I was.
Firstly, we had the French remedy of eating fried lettuce just before bed. And there was me thinking that eating fried food wasn’t particularly good for you, never mind just before you hit the sack.
With that being said, whenever I hear the phrase “fried food”, Colonel Sanders and my love of poultry always come to mind.
The ancient Egyptians also had an insomnia treatment that involved lettuce (there might be something to this).
They consumed a milky substance made from varieties of lettuce stems, including wild lettuce.
Wild lettuce is often referred to as opium lettuce (I think I see where this is going).
Opium lettuce is now often used as a painkiller and sedative, and also as a recreational drug to alter the function of the brain.
So, the ancient Egyptians may have been onto something here… then again, they were probably just stoned.
Eating Raw Onions Before You Go To Sleep
Namely, you’ll probably get the bed all to yourself because no-one will want to be within 10 meters of your stinky breath.
However, raw onions do have a huge number of health benefits.
- Lowering the production of bad cholesterol.
- Vitamin C, which is present in the raw form of onion, can boost your immune system and the formation of collagen.
- Quercetin can prevent certain cancers.
- Folate can aid depression.
- Chromium may help to regulate blood sugar.
And the list goes on.
Nevertheless, I think personally I may be more inclined towards a hallucinogenic lettuce leaf than chomping on a raw onion.
Pointing Your Bed North
Well I guess if I’m unable to locate a castrated boar and Charlie or Buddy just won’t play ball when it comes to getting his ears syringed, I could always go to bed with a compass.
This “remedy” for insomnia comes from Victorian England (of course it does.)
Victorians actually believed that magnets had magical healing powers, including being able to cure hair loss and indigestion.
In fact, the great Victorian writer, Charles Dickens, swore blind that pointing his bed northward was the best cure for his own insomnia.
I have Great Expectations for this method (pun fully intended).
When Will It All End? Here Thankfully!
Regrettably, I’ll finish here, as I don’t want to subject you to:
- Rubbing breast milk on your brow.
- Watching a video of a crossword puzzle tournament.
- Toe curling exercises.
- Consuming a beverage made with the poisonous plant, hemlock (your sleep may be a little more permanent than just one night).
I hope you enjoyed my countdown of the weird and wonderful cures for getting a good night’s sleep.
I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.
However, if your sleeping habits are no laughing matter, and you really would like to treat insomnia naturally, may I suggest that you check out my review of the Six Steps to Sleep Program.
I promise there isn’t a dormouse, bar of yellow soap, or onion in sight.