February 24, 2011
Curious Colonial Remedies and Cosmetics
Birch sap is used fir making birch beer and strawberry water sounds like it would work just as lemon does for the skin but orpiment (a toxic mineral that contains arsenic) and (::gulp::) frog-spawn water just sound crazy to me.
Even today some people swear by the whites of eggs to remove blackheads and using the plant Soloman's Seal (Polygonatum) to cure acne.
The vermin most likely meant in this recipes are fleas, lice and mosquitoes which were responsible for spreading many diseases and were also very annoying. Ships often carried lice and every sailor and passenger on a ship with an outburst would eventually become infected. Stavesacre (line-bane) is very toxic and I don't think that honey would help keep the mosquitoes away.
In some places, especially at the beginning of the 1700s, it was common for people to share bowls and cups at the table. Dishes were not washed with soap, even in taverns where many people could have used the same cup all day.
*Note: The baby in the picture at the top is wearing a "pudding cap" which protected the heads of children while they were learning to walk.