Before evidence-based medicine, people got pretty creative with their insomnia cures. Most cultures have their own folk remedies for sleeplessness, but some are particularly unusual. Here are 5 weird insomnia cures from the past (we would strongly recommend not trying these at home, though you probably won’t be tempted to anyway).
Rub your teeth with dog earwax
Now everybody with a canine companion can know the joys of restful sleep! (Kidding, really really kidding). An Italian Renaissance man named Gerolamo Cardano, otherwise known for inventing probability theory, suggested that smearing your teeth with the gunk from a dog’s ears helps one fall asleep. We don’t think you or your dog would appreciate this one.
Massage your feet with dormouse fat
In another incarnation of the "rub your body with something disgusting" cure, a 17th-century Elizabethan author outlined rubbing your feet with dormouse fat in his medical work The Anatomy of the Melancholy English. Some sources suggest that this was initially the idea of the ancient Romans.
Drink a brew of lettuce opium
This one is may actually have a hint of scientific credibility. Ancient Egyptians used to drink a brew containing lactucarium, a milky substance found in the stems of lettuce. Lactucarium is a mild sedative.
Lather up with yellow soap
Have any bright yellow-tinged soap lying around? According to an 1898 edition of Glasgow’s Therapeutic Gazette , lathering your hair with yellow soap and leaving it in overnight cures sleeplessness. The same article advised not drinking tea after 6pm, which is very reasonable advice for caffeinated tea.
Hemlock poultices and injections
This is definitely the most dangerous "remedy" on the list. In the late 19t century, the Canadian Journal of Medical Science recommended poultices, pills, or injections of hemlock to cure insomnia. For the record, hemlock is a potent poison—it’s what killed Socrates. Thank goodness for peer review.