Posted by: Didapper PJ23 SEP 2010
As a child I learnt that some men will try almost anything to combat baldness. When my father found an amusing old remedy and sent it to the letters page of a national newspaper, our postman was soon delivering dozens of letters from desperate chrome-domes wanting to know where to obtain badger grease.
Since that early experience I have retained an interest in baldness remedies despite also keeping a full head of hair.
It seems that men have always worried about hair loss and been willing to try bizarre remedies. These have often involved animal dung or urine. For instance, Hippocrates treated his patients’ baldness with pigeon droppings and Aristotle applied goats’ urine to his own glabrescent scalp.
Animal fats have also been popular. One ancient Egyptian text gives a formula that would require a raid on a zoo, since it involves a concoction of fats from lion, hippopotamus, crocodile, goose, snake and ibex.
According to Galen, Cleopatra devised her own scalp rub to treat her balding lover Julius Caesar. The recipe? Just take equal parts of burnt mouse, burnt vine rag, burnt horse teeth, reed bark, bear’s grease and deer’s marrow, then pound the dry ingredients to powder and mix with the melted grease and marrow and some honey.
Another treatment from Roman times involved mixing ash from the burned genitals of an ass with one’s own urine and rubbing it into the scalp.
Poo, pee and odd animal bits have continued to feature in baldness cures over the centuries. One 17th century English physician recommended mouse and hedgehog dung, as well as hedgehog fat mixed with bear’s grease. Other animal products have included hartshorn shavings, bat’s blood and snake oil.
Is there scientific evidence for any of these treatments? Well, one traditional remedy involves having your bald pate licked by a cow, and it has now been demonstrated that bovine saliva contains a small amount of epidermal growth factor, which can stimulate hair follicle activity.
Just do not write in to ask where you can buy cow slobber.