History of Europe

How did they cure migraine pain in ancient times?

What we today call migraines, and by extension terrible headaches, for the ancient Egyptians, Greeks or Romans would be some punishment from the gods for forgetting an offering or having scrimped in the last sacrifice. Well, they already had a remedy for this "evil of the gods" that we have now recovered.

A few days ago I read the news of the launch of Cefaly , a cranial electrotherapeutic device that uses electrical impulses to stimulate the trigeminal nerve (controls sensation in the face and brain) to reduce pain and prevent migraines. In short, it resorts to a therapy already used in ancient times:electrical shocks .

The Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus, who lived around 600 BC, observed that rubbing amber, a yellowish resinous substance, with a cloth or animal skin, acquired the strange property of attracting light objects. And it even seems that in some places they used amber to remove leaves or dried herbs that were stuck to clothing. And from that amber, in Greek elektron , we have the electricity . Although they did not know how to explain that strange phenomenon, they did know how to use the electrical discharges generated by certain fluvial and marine animals to "stun" their victims and hunt them comfortably:the Egyptians the Nile electric catfish; Greeks and Romans the ray fish that on many occasions were bred in captivity (just like the moray eel fish farms).

Black Torpedo

Pliny wrote…

Electric fish are used medicinally to relieve headaches and gout.

Long Scribonium , 1st-century physician who served at the court of Emperor Claudius, compiled in De Compositione Medicamentorum one of the first pharmacopoeias with 271 prescriptions. One of them…

To immediately eliminate and cure a long-lasting, excruciating headache [migraine], a live black torpedo [stripe] is placed on the site of pain until the pain subsides and the area becomes numb.

And continuing with the remedies of Scribonius Largo, they were also used to cure gout in the foot:put bare feet in shallow water between black torpedoes until the foot went numb. In other writings, it is also advised to use these animal electric shocks to cure arthritis or epilepsy. And finally, remember that it is not good to self-medicate…