Sunday, March 13, 2016
R IS FOR ROGAINE
Sorry, whoever it is that makes Rogaine; you're way late to the baldness-curing party.
About 3,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians were rubbing the fats of various animals (lion, hippo and crocodile, to name a few) into their scalps to regrow hair. As an alternative method, they would sautee the leg of a female greyhound in oil with the hoof of a donkey, and apply the resulting mixture to their scalps. Alas, we don't have any before-and-after photos to prove how incredibly effective these methods must have been.
A thousand years later, the Greek physician Hippocrates (you've heard of his Oath?), who found himself going bald, prescribed a remedy he had invented: a topical mixture of opium (good for whatever ails you, as I noted in my "Doping" post), horseradish, pigeon droppings, beetroot and spices. OMG, how could the Egyptians not have thought of that???
And yet somehow, male-pattern baldness persisted. But, as you might expect, scientific knowledge had made tremendous leaps forward by the 16th century. That's when British herbalist John Gerard recommended that hair-loss sufferers stand in the sun while rubbing onion juice into their scalps to stimulate the hair follicles. Apparently King Henry VIII either was not privy to this information, or tried it and wasn't happy with the results. Several sources I found report that when Henry started losing his hair, he addressed the problem by rubbing both dog and horse urine into his scalp. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of him engaging in this practice to show you, and that leaves me to wonder whether he did the rubbing-in himself, or entrusted that task to his Groom of the Close Stool. But here's what else I wonder: whose job was it to follow the dogs and horses around with bowls or jars or whatever else they might have used to catch the flow?
I don't know whether or not that enchanting custom died out after Henry's death, but allow me to present you with a recipe from a book called Queens Closet Opened: Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chirurgery, Preserving, Candying, and Cookery (1655):
Take three spoonfuls of Honey, and a good handful of Vine sprigs that twist
like wire, and beat them well, and strain their juyce into the Honey, and
annoynt the bald places therewith.
This remedy might have been every bit as futile as the animal-urine one, but can we agree that it would have made the user a whole lot more popular?