I have a wonderful book that I picked up at a flea market. Its title is, “Vitalogy, or Encyclopedia of Health and Home.” It is described on the title page inside the cover as: “Beacon Lights for Old and Young, Showing How to Secure Health, Long Life, Success and Happiness, from the Ablest Authorities in this Country, Europe and Japan.” The date of publication is 1922, it’s published by the “Vitalogy Association, Chicago, Illinois,” and there are two copyrights: 1904 and 1913.
It gives us a snapshot of medical knowledge at the turn of the century—last century, that is. I find it hugely entertaining, and suspect that there may be hidden gems in it as well. At the very least, it is a captivating history of medicine in the pre-antibiotic days, when there was much confusion about the causes of disease–and perhaps a little too much confidence in anecdotal evidence regarding potential cures. Be that as it may, I’ll give the authors, Dr. Geo. P. Wood, M.D., and Dr. E. H Ruddock, M.D., Ph.D., top marks for trying.
I think that I’m going to make this a series, and present two or three excerpts from the book each time, detailing the causes and cures of various ailments. May we all learn thereby ways to improve our health and happiness…
LATEST METHOD OF CURING BALDNESS, AND PREVENTING HAIR FROM FALLING OUT
Causes—Excessive action of the brain, such as intense study, great mental anxiety, etc., producing unnatural heat of the brain-surfaces, thus causing the hair to drop off.
Remedies—People are often led to try many so-called specifics to prevent the hair falling off, but they are generally either useless or worse. Doubtless, there are many thousands of pounds of hog’s fat sold every year as bear’s grease, etc., to cause the hair to grow abundantly and prevent its falling off. Washing the head often with warm salt water and combing it with a fine comb, together with regular and temperate habits, are the best preservatives and restoratives of the hair.
The head should be as thoroughly washed as any other part of the person, and that weekly. When the hair is very thick and long, its roots can be washed without wetting its entire length. This is important for ladies and those children whose custom and fashion it is to wear the hair long. The outside of the head has more to do with its inside than many people suppose. A muddy and confused mind is often the effect of external dirt and neglect. The natural perspiration is thereby suppressed, and serious evils are sometimes the result.
A very common cause of injury to the hair-glands is the practice, among families as well as barbers, of using the combs and brushes of others. A comb or brush for the head should no more be used in common, by two or more persons, than a brush for the teeth.
The following is one of the best remedies in general use for baldness. It has produced a luxuriant growth of hair for persons who have been bald for many years, and will nearly always restore it, if the hair-follicles are not dead.
Tincture of Spanish fly (Cantharides), one ounce; aromatic spirits of ammonia, one ounce; oil of rosemary, one drachm; alcohol and water, of each, two tablespoonfuls. Mix. With a sponge, rub this mixture well over the scalp, so that it will come in contact with the roots of the hair. The use of it may have to be persevered in for six months or a year, and should be applied twice a week.
A celebrated physician called our attention to a fine head of hair succeeding baldness, which was obtained by a moderate use of kerosene, gently but persistently rubbed on the bald spot.
HAIR INDICATIVE OF CHARACTER
The character of persons is sometimes indicated by the color of the hair.
The bilious temperament, black hair and dark skin are generally found associated. These indicate strength of character and sensuality.
Fine hair and dark skin show purity, goodness and strong mind.
Stiff, straight and abundant black hair and beard are usually combined with strong, unyielding, straight-forward and rather bluff character.
Fine, brown hair indicates exquisite sensibility, with a strong will for what is good and right, when unperverted.
If the hair is straight and lies flat on the head, the temperament is melancholy, but you may safely rely on that person, be it man or woman.
If the hair is coarse, black and sticks up, there is not much sociability, and much that is stubborn, sour and harsh, in the character.
Coarse, red hair indicates much fire and energy, with unusual strength and firmness.
Auburn hair, with a florid face, gives purity, intensity, and great capacity for enjoyment or suffering.
Fine, silky, pliable, easily dressed hair indicates delicacy, sensibility and goodness.
Hasty, impetuous and rash people have crisp, curly hair, but if it is straight and smooth, even and glossy, a warm heart, a clear head and superior talents are indicated.
White hair, as a general rule, indicates a good, easy, lazy fellow.
The hair, naturally parting in the middle and falling on either side, indicates womanly refinement, purity and delicacy. When the hair extends and lies on the forehead in rings, it indicates a frank, open and genial nature.
The light-haired races are the thinkers, the poets and the artists of the world.
Dark-brown hair combines the two, and is the most desirable.
To sum up:
Black hair indicates physical strength.
White hair, mental vigor.
Red hair, a fiery temperament, passion and devotion.
Wavy hair, a pliable, yielding, accommodating disposition.
Straight, stuck-up hair, stubbornness and fidelity.
Very smooth, close-lying hair is “Oily Gammon.”
The good doctors do not tell us what sort of a character a bald person would have. Evidently these people are capable of tremendous mental activity (which, as we are informed, is what caused their hair to fall out), so it seems likely that they might be the entrepreneurs of the world.
Image by marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
At least I think we can agree that this white-haired man might be a good, easy, lazy fellow with mental vigor…
But some of us would have a hard time agreeing that the light-haired races are exclusively the thinkers and artists of the world.
Well, there you have it. I trust that you will use this information to your general betterment. I’ll just finish with a disclaimer regarding the advice to use kerosene for curing baldness…if you decide to try this, stay away from any and all sources of open flame. Or you’ll be missing more than your hair.
Be well, and don’t use anyone else’s hairbrush, okay?