A Hodgepodge of Ancient Trivia

The next time you clean the kitchen floor or reach for something to ease a pounding headache, take the time to thank the early inventors and tinkerers who made products like ammonia, aspirin, and scented oils a possibility. In this article, you will learn some of the ancient connections to popular, everyday items.

The Ancient Legacy of Ammonia

The colorless, recognizable gas called ‘ammonia’ is easily soluble in water. The liquid ammonia we find on grocery store shelves contains the gas dissolved in water. Ammonia is considered one of the oldest compounds used to clean. The ancient Egyptians used it. Interestingly, the word itself comes from the Egyptian deity named Ammon, who had a temple in what is now known as Libya. The land has ties to creating the earliest form of ammonia when they created ‘sal ammoniac’ , a result of burning camel dung.

You probably didn’t know that the ammonia-making practice also has a past linking it to the Middle Ages, where northern Europeans created the solution by heating the scrapings of deer antlers. This concoction was called ‘spirits of hartshorn.’ Fast-forward to the First World War and ammonia was mainly manufactured through the process of dry distillation, which utilized nitrogenous vegetable and animal products. Nowadays, the majority of ammonia is created in a synthetic manner using what is known as the Haber process, which involves the combination of hydrogen and nitrogen gases. When placed under extreme pressure and mid-level temperatures, ammonia is the result.

An Ancient Pain Reliever

When it came to reducing a fever or eliminating pain, ancient inhabitants relied on the bark of the willow tree, which contained a high amount of salicin. During the 3rd century BC, Hippocrates ( , used the substance to ease the discomfort of headaches, as well as take away the pain. This was a practice of many traditional healers, including the Native Americans, who sought out herbs that contained salicin for the treatment of cold and flu symptoms.

The modern form of the pain reliever didn’t come until 1899 when a man by the name of Felix Hoffman found a way to make it a treatment that was easy to administer. Hoffman worked as a chemist for a German company famously known as Bayer, which marketed the medicine as aspirin.  

Smelling Nice During Ancient Times

Since the very early days of time, it seems that spelling good was a desire for even the earliest of humans. The use of perfumed body oils is believed to have taken place as far back as the Neolithic period (7000 to 4000 BC). At the time, early man living in the Stone Age mixed olive and sesame seed oils with fragrant plants.

During ancient Egyptian times, scented oil was also quite popular, especially for use during religious rituals. The use of body oils was even mentioned in the Bible. Myrrh and frankincense became a part of both religious and secular practices. Other early cultures to use scented oils include the Asians and Native Americans.