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Nose Piercing: Historical Significance and Potential Consequences

Barry Ladizinski, MD; F. N. U. Nutan, MBBS, MD; Kachiu C. Lee, MD, MPH
JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(2):142. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.1568.
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Nose piercing is the process by which a needle penetrates the nostril, nasal septum, or nasal bridge to create an opening for the placement of jewelry. The practice, which is performed for symbolic or beautification purposes, originated more than 4000 years ago in the Middle East, migrating to India in the 1500s and reaching Western civilization by the 20th century.1

In Genesis 24:22, Abraham's son, Isaac, gifts Rebekah, his bride-to-be, a shanf, which can be interpreted in Hebrew as “golden nose ring.” Nose rings would later be used as a dowry by some Middle Eastern and African tribes; the rings could also be used as collateral in case of divorce. Septum piercing was popular among the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, and some Native American, Alaskan, and Indian tribes. According to Ayurveda (Indian medicine), piercing the left nostril, which is symbolic of the female reproductive system, eases menstruation and childbirth. Some individuals in India pierce both nostrils to cover the costs of an unexpected expense such as a funeral.1

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