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Staying young

Wellness weirdness is nothing new

Gwyneth Paltrow: Chinese skullcap, anyone? Rachel Murray/Getty

Contraception in the Middle Ages was truly bizarre, says Laura Freeman in The Times. One guide, from the 1100s, advised women to carry around weasel’s testicles wrapped in goose skin. Alternatives included a mule’s ear, elephant dung, or “the small bone from a donkey’s vulva”. If none of that worked, a woman could try “putting peppercorns inside her, um, pepper pot”. Medieval prescriptions for gout were no less strange: one involved “stuffing a puppy with sage and snails before roasting it and using the rendered fat as a salve”. Cataracts? Mix a hare’s gall bladder with honey and dab it on the eye with a feather. “Apply nightly, for three nights.”

As daft as these faux remedies sound, we’re no better today. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop wellness brand recommends “extract of seaweed, concentrate of ashwagandha, elixir of white willow bark, boswellia, Chinese skullcap and feverfew”. At the “less organic end of the spectrum” are the plastics, plumpers and fillers we inject into our various bits. And let’s not even get into multivitamins and homeopathy. So hold your mockery of those “12th-century dupes”. “The ingredients may have changed but the wishful thinking stays the same.”