Steve Eighinger

Thank heaven, we were not born back in the day

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 21, 2018 8:25 am

Personally, I have always been grateful to have been born when I was. I have grown up -- and old -- with things such as electricity, running water and ESPN.

And did I forget to mention modern hygiene and medicinal practices?

It's easy to take places such as Quincy Medical Group or Blessing Hospital for granted, or even something as commonplace as deodorant. If we're sick, we see a doctor. If we stink, we take a shower and put on deodorant.

It's hard to imagine life without a family doctor or knowing that there is likely a cure available for whatever ails you. Or a grocery store a few blocks away to buy that deodorant.

To say it wasn't always that way would be a harsh understatement. Consider some of the following "remedies," "medical" practices and hygiene horrors from decades and centuries past the next time you complain about having to get a flu shot or needing to buy some more deodorant -- or toothpaste. I stumbled on these items on several compilation sites dealing with old health practices:

º Ancient Romans used mouse brains to brush their teeth. (For the record, this is the specific item that piqued my interest in this topic, which led to these other "discoveries.")

Those old Romans mixed the mouse brains with baking soda to form a paste. Since baking soda is still an ingredient in toothpaste today, I'm assuming the mouse brains were used for, ummm ... flavor?

º At one time, dentures were made of the teeth of dead soldiers. The soldiers' teeth would be removed, then placed in artificial gums for use by living people.

º In the 17th century, rich people ate human corpses. They thought that consuming flesh, drinking human blood, and even rubbing human fat on the outside of the skin could cure any number of potential diseases. Nowadays, instead of eating corpses, we simply watch "The Walking Dead."

º At one time, the "cure" for baldness was supposed to be chicken manure. Men rubbed a combo of chicken manure and potassium on their heads to try to get their hair to grow back. It did not.

º Medieval women were given eagle droppings to ease pain during labor. It was usually administered with oil and vinegar, so it was basically an eagle dung salad, according to one writer.

º The tall hairstyles of the 18th century were built up, in some cases, using lard, and they weren't washed for days or even weeks. This meant that a whole ecosystem might live in a woman's coif, including all sorts of vermin, which might bite you as you slept.

º Egyptian servants were sometimes slathered in honey to keep flies away from the pharaoh. Fortunately for those servants, honey has antibacterial properties, so their skin probably looked great, except for all the dead flies.

º Deodorant was invented in 1888. Before that, everyone was just dousing themselves in perfume and hoping for the best.

º People carried flowers to mask how bad they smelled (presumably, before 1888). Since people back in the day didn't bathe much, they carried flowers to help cover their odor. If you've ever heard the term "nosegay" for a small bouquet, this is where it comes from. The small bunches of flowers made your nose happy.

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