Reub's journey

06 July 2009

Hazelnuts and the cure for baldness

Hazelnuts. Whoops, I mean "filberts," according to the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board (why don't they call themselves the Oregon Filbert Marketing board if it's such a big deal?) Since moving here to Oregon 11 years ago, I have really grown to like and appreciate them. Tonight I just finished eating them in some pasta. Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat, contain lots of thiamine, B vitamins, and fiber. They are crunchy. And their shells make a good subject for the theme "texture" which is the assignment for the Friday shoot-out this week. I was visiting a friend and noticed they were using hazelnut shells to landscape the yard, so I took a picture (texture!!):

The Greek physician Dioscorides wrote about hazelnuts almost 2,000 years ago, and his 5-volume tome on herbal science, De Materia Medica, stayed in circulation well into the 1400's. That is a loooong time, especially when you consider books had to be hand-copied. Boy, that book better be worth it.

So, according to Dioscorides, here are the properties of the hazelnut:

"It cures chronic coughing if pounded filbert is eaten with honey. Cooked filbert mixed with black pepper cures the cold. If the ointment produced by mashing burnt filbert shells in suet is smeared on the head where hair does not grow due to normal baldness or to some disease, hair will come again."

"Hair will come again?" So, I thought: I bet he was vain enough to try this on himself...I wonder if there is a picture of him somewhere. Let's see. There is, and it's a drawing. It's public domain. And nobody knows who drew it. How convenient: you can draw your own conclusions! Indeed, he has lots of lovely, wavy hair because:

a. the artist imagined it
b. he had lots of lovely wavy hair and wrote about it
c. he hadn't yet heard about genetics and didn't know baldness had skipped a generation
d. Mashing burnt filbert shells, mixing them with suet, and smearing them on your head works wonders.

Dioscorides De Materia Medica, Arabic, 12th-13th century.

I think I am going to resist making further fun of Dioscorides (who is not here to defend himself) because of the sheer beauty of his books, handwritten and illustrated hundreds of years after his death. And who knows? Maybe he had something there with the hazelnut shells. I think I have some suet around somewhere, maybe in the bird feeder, and I know a lawn where they would never miss a few handfuls of shells. I bet I could make a fortune off of this stuff.

De Materia Medica, Byzantine, 15th century

Arabic: Dioscorides Book of Simple Drugs, 1334

If you are interested, go here for a heap of interesting hazelnut recipes.


  1. hmmm....eliza has a cold, maybe we'll try one of these remedies (right now she smells like garlic, eucalyptus and lemon balm...)

    don't you wish you could read that beautiful book in arabic? thanks for posting those pictures - it is gorgeous!

    (oh my gosh. here is my word verification: nutkl. as in nut kill. i am so wary of blogger...they are waaaatching...)

  2. NUTKI??? No way! If you try the cold remedy, let me know if you thought it helped, ok?
    I do wish I could read that arabic. It looks so amazing, even if it is just telling us to smear burnt hazelnut shells on our heads.

  3. Just be sure you don't walk barefoot on those shells! I wonder if my thick hair is a result of all the hazelnuts we ate in Belgium? Hmmmm.

  4. Not only should you not walk on them barefoot, you should avoid walking on them with waffle-soled shoes, like my running shoes: they get caught in your shoe and you track them all over the place!

  5. Hi, I was so pleased to see that you had dropped by my blog for a visit and left comment for me. I really love "Meeting" new friends. This is a great blog, all the things I love, like dogs and poetry, wonderful photography, and the horses on the farm - oh my gosh my daughter would just love them. She has been riding since she was 9 so 13 years now and loves all there is about horses. I myself am a dog lover and used to be a dog groomer. We have a collie/border collie mix now, a dog who definitely keeps this family on their toes! I will be back. Do you have a follow button so I can easily find your blog again? ciao, Debby

  6. I love the taste of hazelnuts and now I'm inspired. I wonder what Linda would think if I started putting them on my head?

  7. Hello Debby, all the way from Germany. Your collie-mix got my attention, what a beauty. Thank you for the swell comments about Ed & Reub; not so sure about adding the followers button because I can't imagine many people wanting to follow this, and also worry about having to be more responsible if somebody actually IS following it! Readers? Oh my gosh.

    Barry, honestly! Linda has been with you long enough that I bet she wouldn't even bat an eye.

  8. I will volunteer to participate in a baldness treatment experiment. Just one slight requirement: I think the hazelnuts should be administered orally. If I have my etymology right, "filbert" comes from the Greek "filbertupas" meaning "to fill up Bert." Apparently Bert was among the early filbert enthusiasts. Where do I sign up?

  9. Dear "anonymous:" thank you for your interest in the Cure for Baldness campaign that I am considering. But, dear one, Dioscorides does clearly state that the hazelnut (shell) concoction must be "smeared on your head." Are you willing to do that? In the meantime, eat all of the hazelnuts you want. Sounds like that's what Bert did. And he had way better hair than Ernie.


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