A History of Tampons

Today, tampons are a popular form of period care. Their convenience and compactness have many women Have you ever wondered where that small wad of fabric comes from? Or how it came to be that people with periods decided to put a fabric tube in their body?

It’s a good question. You may be surprised to learn that the tampon is rich in history and wasn’t always used to help people with their periods. Made from some of the most unlikely materials and substances such as rock salt, cotton, and even elephant dung, they were used for medical purposes, to contraceptives, and more!

So, how did the modern tampon come to be? Well, it all started a long, long time ago in Egypt.

The Egyptian tampon

Before we travel back thousands of years, it’s important to remember that the modern tampon wasn’t always used to help aid your periods, but was used for some weird and wacky medical solutions.

It was the Egyptians that first came up with the idea of putting something foreign into the vaginal cavity, but it wasn’t used to help with their periods. The first tampon was called a pessary and was used to help with gynecological problems. What sort of problems would people with periods have back then? The same ones they can have today! The pessaries were used to help women with an unusually large amount discharge.

The Egyptians believed that the earth was the best form of medicine, so they put dirt from the river Nile, mixed with honey and galena (a mineral form of lead) in a cloth to help prevent excessive discharge from the vaginal cavity.

You may be thinking – oh, that’s not so bad. But the next history lesson may surprise you even more. Pessaries weren’t just used to help combat excessive discharge but were also used as a contraceptive device. The Egyptians would put elephant dung mixed with acai juice inside a cloth to be worn in the vaginal cavity. This was thought to prevent pregnancy. Whether it worked or not, who knows! But they had some pretty creative ideas for the first tampon.

The Tampon that was made out of anything

Egyptians were not the only ones who thought of using an insertable DIY tampon-like device for birth control.

In 4th century, India, ancient #BlumeBabes also created a tampon that would be used as a contraceptive device. It was made out of rock salt and oil. According to modern-day scientists, these materials would have actually been effective to a certain degree, as rock salt is lethal to sperm. They also guessed that it would have probably stung really bad!

Even in the early 19th century, the tampon was still being used as a contraceptive around most of the world. It was made out of pretty much anything that doctors could find: lint, flax, cotton, fine wool; essentially anything soft and absorbent.

Only ancient Japan used tampons for period care. They created a paper tampon that had to be changed 12 times a day. 

The World War 2 tampon

The tampon has been through some major transformations in its time, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it began being used worldwide for period care.

The concept of the modern-day tampon was developed and patented by a Colorado doctor named Earl Haas in 1931, but it was a woman, Gertrude Tendrich, who bought the materials and started to produce it. Eventually, she would expand from sewing tampons at home to distributing them under the now-famous brand name Tampax.

Despite its skepticism, the tampon gained rapid usage during World War 2, especially when women became a part of the workforce and needed better period care when they had their periods.

The Modern tampon

After thousands of years of periods being used for variety of, sometimes shocking, uses we’ve finally come to the modern-day tampon. Thank goodness Blume has organic tampons instead of elephant dung!

Surveys conducted today estimate that around 42 % of people with periods use them for period purposes, but that doesn’t mean that just because they're popular they don’t face a lot of problems.

Modern tampons face new challenges that our ancestors were perhaps unaware of. There are many  discussions now about the green future of tampons. Many tampons have large environmental impact as they fill landfills and wash up on our beaches. Tampons have proven to be strong little things and are usually non-biodegradable.They're also often made using some fairly body-damaging chemicals (like chlorine; ew keep that in my pool please not my body), so we can understand why people are concerned and want tampons to be more eco friendly. .

At Blume, we're proud to be at the frontier of protecting the environment with our 100% environmentally friendly tampons and 100% all-natural cotton, that are safe and healthy for your body.

The future looks bright for tampons, and tampons don’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. As long as the modern-day tampon can adjust to the growing standards of health, safety, and environmental preservation, tampons will continue to be an essential.