Sleep and Its Secrets: The River of Crystal Light

By Michael S.; Aronoff | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Getting on a First-Name
Basis with Mr. Sandman

Pills, Potions, and Remedies

A quiz: What do soothing hot showers, a warm glass of milk, the droning hum of the fan or air conditioner, and the well-worn Teddy Bear have in common? Answer: All are sleeping comforts, if not sleeplessness remedies, for selected individuals who may consider themselves to be "insomniacs." Another question: What distinguishes a mixture of white poppy seeds, lettuce seeds, balsam, saffron, and sugar, stewed in poppy juice, from modern-day recipes having fractured-dictionary names like Placidyl, Restoril, Compoz, or Halcion? The answer: about 500 years. The first is a formula proposed by Marsilio Ficino in his treatise The Book of Life written in 1489 (translated by Charles Baer) to remedy insomnia in intellectuals in whom "wasteful sleeplessness ... leads to the drying out of their brains!" The latter are present-day pharmaceuticals which similarly promise relief and repose, and whose names inspire one to take Madison Avenue on with appelations for as-yet-to-be-developed pharmaceutical agents like: "Bon Appetit" ... for the treatment of calcium-poor, postmenopausal women with osteoporosis; "Acro-Bat" ... for combatting the fear and panic induced by high places; "Rectify" ... for correcting constipation ; or "Limber" ... for use by the masseur as a cooling gel.

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