Weird Remedies

Weird Remedies

New, tried and true, surefire remedies for headaches are not a recent phenomenon. They have been prescribed since the first pain in the head struck the first prehistoric human. The original remedy may have been the most sensible: crawl back in the cave away from noise, strain, and falling rocks and sleep it off.

The added suggestion to "take two aspirins" is probably the best quick fix. But purveyors of painkillers continue to proclaim theirs as the greatest breakthrough in the history of pain, and televised commercials demonstrate the effectiveness of each new remedy with a staged miraculous recovery. Sufferers seeking relief will purchase and try yet another panacea until it is replaced by a newer and better cure.

Before the days of pharmacies, some of the guaranteed remedies were quite bizarre. Among the preaspirin headache cures: rubbing cow dung on the temples or tying the head of a buzzard around the sufferer's neck. Anyone who prefers to actively participate in the therapy might lean the offending head against a tree while someone else drives a nail into the opposite side of the trunk. This remedy comes with the recommendation that the tree be thick enough that the nail will not be driven into the aching skull. If all of these remedies prove ineffective, one might try sleeping with a pain—cutting pair of scissors under the pillow. These were just a few of the many headache remedies used in various regions of the United States before the turn of the century.

Although such remedies were always passed on with a testimony of approval, no one seemed to know or care how they worked. Perhaps doing something, anything, was better than just enduring. And applying treatment after treatment may have provided therapeutic distraction.

Since headaches are one of the various agonies associated with a hangover, many civilizations have tried specialized remedies that can cure them all. The problem with hangover remedies is that they generally haven't worked, so new cures have to be invented with demanding regularity.

Ancient cures of hangovers were as numerous and as outlandish as those of modern times, and probably just as ineffective. A sure cure among ancient Romans was to douse themselves with cabbage, the rationale being that supreme deities dropped their seeds in cabbage and lettuce. Therefore, if people with a hangover ate or rubbed themselves with these vegetables, they would become godlike and their heads would stop aching. Pliny the Elder recommended downing two raw owl's eggs; this remedy may also have been effective in emptying the stomach. The Assyrians chronicle two of their most dependable cures: they would rub lemons in their armpits and, if that didn't work, would gulp a teaspoon of ground—up swallow's beaks! Within a day or two all hangover sufferers would experience relief and proclaim a new miracle of healing.

In more recent times the Basque people, notorious for their ability to drink with no adverse effects, concocted the morning—after broth caldo borracho, or "drunken soup." The name certainly suggests, however, that where there is a cure there may well be an affliction. The simple ingredients are olive oil, garlic, saffron, eggs, and breadcrumbs. The broth is so easy to prepare that hangover victims may even attend to themselves. It does bear a resemblance to dishwater but is rather tasty. And who knows? It may share the winner's circle with chicken soup for therapeutic qualities!

From the book: 
Petrified Lightning