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Health and Sanity

Valentina Nicolae
Journalist
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piqer: Valentina Nicolae
Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A Podcast About Feminist Nuns, Migraines And Pot

This episode of Distillations, a podcast that takes deep dives "into a moment of science-related history in order to shed some light on the present", starts with the story of Hildegard von Bingen. She was a 12th century nun, writer, founder of two monasteries, challenger of patriarchy, and Devendra Banhart wrote a song about her. She also had what at the time were thought of as visions of heavenly origin, but today are recognized by neurologists as migraines. 

This neurological disorder that we still don't have a full grasp of has been linked, throughout history, to superstition and witchcraft, race and class (in the 18th century it was believed that smarter, wealthier people had more fragile nervous systems, so they got migraines more often than the uneducated who had thicker nerves), mental illness (psychiatrists in the '60s and '70s thought migraine patients should be put in mental institutions) and sexism (when men got migraines they were just using their brain too much, studying too hard, but with women it was just them being frigid).

What's the situation with migraines today, you might be wondering? To put it shortly, there's still a lot of stigma around it (sufferers are either not taken seriously, or blamed for their illness), and there may be an effective treatment for it – namely the psychoactive compounds in marijuana – but scientists are not allowed to experiment with the compound, because there's stigma around that, too. 

A Podcast About Feminist Nuns, Migraines And Pot
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