May 27, 2007

Eat One Hedgehog and Call Me in the Morning...

The formulary of drugs in use against E. is growing. With it, the discomforts, side effects and dangers. Someone I know once said that I “...take medication strong enough to drop a horse” and it feels that way, often. It's no wonder some of us would give our right hoof for a good alternative.

Among the quirky cures suggested (and rejected) by me, are: hot mineral baths, colonics, yoga, fasting, Black Strap molasses, Deadly Nightshade, ginger and licorice roots, mistletoe, magnets, mud baths and chiropractic adjustments. I am sure each suggestion has something to recommend it, but they are not what I had in mind. There has to be something else. A look at the past efforts of physicians and healers might suggest alternative therapies.

So, let us look to Rome.

Pliny the Elder was an accomplished man: a warrior, writer and, appointed by Emperor Vespasian, Prefect of Rome. He died as Prefect, and his death was extraordinary. When the volcano, Vesuvius, erupted and eventually smothered Pompeii and Herculaneum, Pliny the Elder set sail with the Roman fleet to observe and assist. Pliny the Younger reports that his uncle died from inhaling poisonous gases, while he stood on the deck of his ship in the Bay of Naples.

One of his enduring accomplishments is his encyclopedia of all the knowledge of his day. He wrote and compiled the 160-volume set and included medicinal treatments and cures for the most commonly encountered ailments of the time. Epilepsy was just such an ailment, and merited inclusion. According, to Pliny the Elder (c. 79 A.D.): "If lion fat is added, a slight taste cures epilepsy, provided that those who have taken it, at once, aid its digestion by running".

If you have no lion fat, Pliny directed: "A camel's brain, dried and taken in vinegar, cures epilepsy, as does the gall, taken with honey...". So, it seems you had a choice in Pliny's day over what animal you would use to effect a cure from E.: lion or camel.

In Witches, Druids and King Arthur, R. Hutton writes of a researcher "...collecting information on folk medicine in the border counties of England and Wales" who was startled at "the remedies confidently reported..." : a "...cooked hedgehog cures epilepsy." Among the Scottish Celts, "A magical cure for epilepsy was to bury a black [rooster] at the spot where the patient had his last fit".

(I vote "no" on the hedgehog treatment.)

In the United States, nearly 2,000 years after the death of Pliny the Elder, John George Hohman (1819), Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, published a little book of charms and cures against all sorts of things, from thievery, to worms in horses, to human ailing. He specifies that to cure epilepsy, one must "take a turtle dove, cut its throat, and let the person afflicted with epilepsy drink the blood." My grandfather's people were from neighboring Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and I heard about this cure growing up, but no one ever tried it on me.

In the Andes mountains south of Ecuador, a cure for E. is still hunted, much to the chagrin of the World Wildlife Fund: the mountain tapir.

Craig Downer is a friend of the mountain tapir, and if you met him he could most probably tell you anything you would like to know: how the mountain tapir lives, what it eats, who its friends are. But there is no indication, in what Downer writes, that he has a care for the humans of the same territory. He has apparently never even learned the names of their tribes. Downer has a web site where this description can be found:
"Indians will eat or sell the meat, and often use or sell the hooves and snout for folk medicine. It is believed that these provide cures for epilepsy and heart disease." (

Admittedly, wild game epilepsy cures are less subtle than are the herbal. Taking a cup of steeped flowers, leaves or roots is less dramatic than either blood-drinking or eating BBQ hedgehog ribs. But if one considers the time spent acquiring a wild animal, preparing it and then administering it to another person, one may conclude:
the value of these sorts of cures is as dear as the affliction is distressing.

Some are willing to try anything to rid themselves of E...others have been willing to try what they have.


Philip. said...

Just one question. Do you boil or roast the hedgehog??? - LOL

I bet you have to be careful with the spikes :-)

Great blog!


Ruth said...

Reallly enjoyed this post :) Also related to Feeling E. I think you raise excellent points about how we can choose to present ourselves/ our disability to others.

Damozel said...

A fascinating blog on a fascinating subject....Fortunately, my seizures have abated with age (I'm nearly 50) but when they were worst, nothing helped very much and I might have been tempted to try one or more of these. Thanks for visiting my blog.

seahorse said...

Paula, I couldn't leave this under your latest post so I hope you get it.
It's a tag for a random meme, and up to you if you wish to do it of course: