You know how bad-breath kisses taste like butt?
Yeah, me neither.
Because I can smell nasty breath waaaay before I let it near my mouth.
But what if we’re living in the Middle Ages?
No toothbrushes. No floss. No Listerine. No breath sprays. Not even flavored gum to mask nasty butt-breath.
How did people kiss without vomiting into each other’s mouths?
The accepted methods of medieval mouthwash, if used today in place of our methods, would mean closed-mouth kissing for those of us who believe kissing should stir things other than bile…
You’re swept off your feet by his gallant charm, virility, and good looks. He takes you into his arms, pulls you close, and eyes your readily-puckered pout. His lips part, ready to make you swoon…and you do swoon.
Into a dead faint.
From the black fog rolling out of his open mouth.
“My darling!” he breathes, leaning over you, trying to revive you, not realizing his breath is slowly suffocating you…
Your gallant knight in fogging krypton does not suspect it’s his breath doing you in.
Why would he?
At 5am that morning, he had diligently chewed a twig, then used the frayed ends to scrub his teeth clean. Moreover, anticipating that he may come across a ravishing damsel such as yourself, he also polished his teeth with powdered chalk for good measure.
You should be flattered. Not unconscious.
Her eyes bat alluringly at you.
She lowers her fan, and you take notice of her luscious, upturned lips. You approach, sweep your hat from your head and bow before her. She lowers her eyes demurely. You rise, take her into your warrior arms, and pounce upon her puckered lips.
But as you pry them apart gently with your tongue, you gag…sputter…retch.
“My darling!” she breathes, her mouth nano-meters from yours, noxious fumes poisoning your lungs…
Your lovely medieval lady with her halo of black, butt-breath clouds, has no idea she is asphyxiating you.
Why would she?
Just that morning, she had her servant girl prepare the 11th century woman’s breath freshener: laurel leaves soaked in musk fragrance, or possibly in orange or rose flower water. Your lady held the leaves under her tongue for many minutes.
Surely, it’s her breath-taking beauty that you’re gagging on?
Here’s the deal: medieval breath stank.
And not because it was medieval.
Even though our remedies for butt-breath far surpass those of our ancient ancestors, I can still count on 2 hands and feet just a fraction of modern day peops I’ve come across with breath that would knock you back into the middle ages.
Apparently, medieval peops did take their breath seriously. There were quite a number of recipes and remedies for breath-cleansing.
Here are some of the most interesting – if not effective:
Butt-Breath Fighting Remedy #1: Rinsing with cold water (Hildegarde of Bingen, Physica, circa 1158, German)
“One who wishes to have hard, healthy teeth should take pure, cold water into his mouth in the morning, when he gets out of bed. He should hold it for a little while in his mouth so that the mucus around his teeth become soft, and so this water might wash his teeth. If he does this often, the mucus around his teeth will not increase, and his teeth will remain healthy. Since the mucus adheres to the teeth during sleep, when the person rises from sleep he should clean them with cold water, which cleans teeth better than warm water. Warm water makes them more fragile.”
Don’t kiss me. For centuries.
Butt-Breath Fighting Remedy #2 : Chinese toothbrush
“The Chinese were believed to create the first real toothbrush, or a device that was used to clean teeth, but it was much different than the ones that we are used to today. These first toothbrushes, crafted in the 1400s, did not use nylon for bristles, or plastic for the handles. They were crafted from bamboo, one of the most common plants from that area. The bamboo formed the handle for people to hold on to. Attached to this handle was a set of bristles, which were crafted from the tough hair of the Siberian wild boar. The hairs used came from the back of the neck of this animal. This is the toothbrush associated with having been the ancestor of the one that we use today.”
Okay, wouldn’t this be like sucking neck with a pig?
Don’t get me wrong – I love pigs.
Just don’t wanna tongue ‘em down.
Butt-Breath Fighting Remedy #3: Mint mouthwash (Bankes’ Herbal, 1525)
“For the stinking of the mouth and filth of the gums and of the teeth, wash thy mouth and gums with vinegar that mints have been sodden in; after that, rub them with the powder of mints or with dry mints.”
This is the solution for “stinking” and “filth”??
Well, at least there’s mint involved.
Butt-Breath Fighting Remedy #4: Breath-freshening powder (Gilbertus Anglicus, circa 1400, English)
“And let him use this powder: Take of pepper, one ounce; and of mint, as much; and of rock salt, as much. And make him to chew this powder a good while in his mouth, and then swallow it down.”
Okay, the ‘mint‘ might sway me into opening my mouth.
Butt-Breath Fighting Remedy #5: Spice balls (Gilbertus Anglicus, circa 1400, English)
“And let him use these pills that are good for all manner of stinking of the mouth: Take of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace, eight drams; of red sandlewood, ten drams; of quibibis, seven drams; of cardamom, five drams. Mix them with the juice of mint and make pills of the size of a fig. And let him to have two of them under either side of his tongue at once.”
“Stinking of the mouth” is a really powerful image-smell.
I can smell it from here…
Don’t kiss me. For centuries.
Save others from death! Check your breath!
It was a nasty past-y!!
Which one of these remedies would you tongue down??
*All remedies, unless otherwise noted, from: http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/teeth.html