BALDNESS

2010

NETTLE juice combed through the hair to prevent baldness has been a common folk practice. The Wiltshire cure for dandruff was to massage the scalp with a nettle infusion each day. PARSLEY was recommended for baldness as far back as Pliny’s time, repeated a long time afterwards as “powder your head with powdered parsley seed three nights every year, and the hair will never fall off”. Actually, it really does make a good lotion for getting rid of dandruff, and helps to stave off baldness. ROSEMARY, besides providing the base of various hair rinses (see COSMETICS), was also used for the more serious purposes of preventing baldness. A manuscript from 1610 claims that “if thou wash thy head with [rosemary water] and let it drye on agayne by itselfe, it causeth hayre to growe if thou be balde” (Gentleman’s Magazine Library; Popular superstitions p162). Equally optimistic was “a wash to prevent the hair from falling off”, noted in the Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant for 1862. It required “a quarter of an ounce of unprepared tobacco leaves, two ounces of rosemary, two ounces of box leaves, boiled in a quart of water in an earthen pipkin with a lid, for twenty minutes…”. Sniffing HORSERADISH juice will cure baldness, so it was believed, and the Anglo-Saxon version of Apuleius recommended WATERCRESS “in case that a man’s hair fall off, take juice; put it on the nose; the hair shall wax”. Watercress actually is a good hair tonic. There is a saying in French that a bald man “n’a pas de cresson sous le caillou” — loosely, has no watercress on his head. Gypsies use ST JOHN’S WORT as a hair dressing, to make it grow.

WALNUT, by the doctrine once current bearing the signature of the head (see DOCTRINE OF SIGNATURES), was used for all maladies relating to the head and brain, from madness back to baldness. Even in Evelyn’s time, the distillation from walnut leaves “with honey and wine”, was being used hopefully to “make hair spring on bald-heads”. HAZEL leaves had that reputation, too, as well as providing a dark hair dye, just as CASSIA oil, mixed with olive oil, is used in Palestine to keep the hair dark, and also to prevent baldness. ONION juice “anointed upon a pild bald head in the sun”, will bring “the hair again very speedily”. The tuber of a JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE, cut in half, and the cut side rubbed on the roots of the hair, was an old country remedy for baldness.

SOAPWEED (Yucca glauca) roots were widely used by native Americans as a soap substitute, and by Pueblo Indians as a hair wash shampoo as part of the ritual in initiation ceremonies, though people like the Kiowa claimed it was an effective cure for baldness and dandruff. One of the more extraordinary remedies for baldness involved SPEAR PLUME THISTLE — see Gerard: “… being stamped before the floure appeareth, and the juice pressed forth, causeth the haire to grow where it is pilled off, if the place be bathed with the juyce”. Langham was equally optimistic about BEETROOT — “the asches of the root with hony, resoreth haire, and keepeth the rest from falling”. Aqua Mellis, which Burton took to be a decoction of BALM, was much used in 17th century England against baldness.

Early settlers in New Zealand rubbed the juice from cut stems of the tree called by the Maori RIMU over bald heads; they found it an excellent hair restorer. INDIAN TOBACCO (Lobelia inflata) is used in Indiana, where the practice is to fill a bottle with the pulverized herb, add equal parts of brandy or whisky, and olive oil. Let it stand for a few days, then bathe the head once a day with the liquid.