7 Historical Cures for Insomnia

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This story originally appeared in print in the August issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe to our print edition here, and our iPad edition here.

Warm milk isn’t cutting it? Take a cue from the Renaissance and swab Rover’s ears.

1. LETTUCE OPIUM

Ancient Egyptians drank a brew of lactucarium, a milky and supposedly psychoactive latex that oozes from wild lettuce stems. It contains a hint of lactucin, a sedative.

2. DORMOUSE FAT

Seeing how dormice fatten up before hibernating, the Romans figured that slathering your feet with the rodent’s fat was your ticket to the land of nod.

3. MAGNETISM

Victorians believed magnets could cure everything from hair loss to indigestion. Charles Dickens swore that pointing your bed northward would lure the sandman.

4. BREAST MILK

Sixteenth-century French physician Antonio Mizauld suggested patients rub their brows with rose water, vinegar, and an ointment dabbed with “woman’s milk.”

5. POTION CONTAINING THE GALL OF A CASTRATED BOAR

Called “dwale,” the elixir was a common presurgery anesthetic. (It was also loaded with opium.)

6. DOG EARWAX

Gerolamo Cardano, a Renaissance polymath, suggested smearing your teeth with a dog’s ear gunk. (As the founder of probability, Cardano knew that you can’t guess correctly every time.)

7. HEMLOCK POULTICE

The 1879 Canadian Journal of Medical Science recommended hemlock. Seeing as the poisonous plant could make you sleep forever, this might work too well.


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August 13, 2014 - 12:00am
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