CLOSE

Fried Lettuce, Slug Entrails and Other Insomnia Cures

Today's insomnia cures are slightly more scientific than the back in the day. But they're also less interesting, which is why we've rounded up some of the weirder insomnia treatments handed down through the ages. From what to rub on your feet, to what to line your belly with, here are 6 bizarre prescriptions for when you're tired of counting sheep.

1. Rub Your Feet in Dormouse Fat

In Elizabethan England, people who couldn't sleep would often rub dormouse fat onto the soles of their feet. Why dormouse and why feet has been lost to the ages, however, the dormouse has retained its snoozy image: The dormouse slept through most of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland.

2. A spoonful of Sea Slug Entrails

Most cultures have their own folk remedy, usually involving food, for putting insomniacs to sleep. I remember when I was a little girl, my mom would make me hot chocolate when I couldn't sleep. Little girls in Japan, however, might have gotten a plate full of sea slug entrails. In France, it could have been fried lettuce and in places in the US, a raw onion.

3. Pay to Hear a Sleep Concert?

A new craze is sweeping Japan and while there's always a new craze sweeping Japan, this one may offer some hope to sleepless office workers. They're called sleep concerts: Basically, you buy a ticket to the concert, plunk yourself down in a comfy seat, and drift off. One such concert, titled "Dreams: Good Sleep Concert," featured major Japanese musicians playing music that had been scientifically tested to induce sleep; a CD of the concert was later sold and won Japan's 22nd annual Gold Disc Award for Best Instrumental Album of the year in 2008.

4. Ancient Ambien

Sleepless Greeks and Egyptians used opium, typically mixed with several other herbs that probably had no effect, to induce sleep. The only problem with opium is the highly addictive nature of the poppy-derived narcotic. But drugs have always played a part in helping people sleep: Cannabis, typically smoked in cigarette form, was a popular sleep aid up through the 19th century. Some, especially those in college or who maybe spent some time touring with the Grateful Dead, might say it still is. And when all else fails, there's the time-honored tradition of drinking until you pass out.

5. Toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble

Potions have long been a part of the insomniac's medicine cabinet. Tinctures made from valerian root, mandrake root, and lettuce seeds are a few of the debatably helpful but generally innocuous variety, whilst the Middle Ages prescription of "drinking a potion made from the gall of a castrated boar" is just gross. Incidentally, the castrated boar juice was also included in a concoction to knock victims "“ er, patients "“ about to undergo surgery in the Middle Ages as well. So many uses for castrated boar gall, who knew?

6. Carry a compass to bed with you

In the Victorian era, people tended to be interested in slightly dubious spiritualist theories, including those involving magnetic fields and their impact on human health. Charles Dickens, who suffered from insomnia and for a time, tried a combination of opium and alcohol that left him with a wicked hangover, ultimately found relief after placing the head of his bed due north.

Ed note: We couldn't have written this article without help from Sean Coughlin's book, The Sleepyhead's Bedside Companion. And the image comes from those wonderful Serta sheep commercials.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
iStock
iStock

Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
iStock
iStock

Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios