Skip Navigation or Skip to Content

In the 17th century, toothache was believed to be caused by toothworms, which lived in the afflicted tooth. While remedies existed to treat the pain, if the tooth needed extracting a patient would need to see a barber surgeon.

For pain relief

"Take a crude Opium, an ounce; Saffron, half an ounce; Cloves and Cinnamon, each half a dram; Spanish white wine, ten ounces; draw a tincture, with moderate heat in Bain Marie and [filter] it.  "from the Pharmacopeia Edinburgensis, Wellcome Collection. 

A woman with toothache. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Applying a plant under the chin

"Take a [pretty] quantitie of Staggwort (Ragweed), bruise the green therof well in your hand and Lay a good quantitie of the same under your chin and Jaws and soften it well and change it in twelve or twentie four hours as you find occasion. " from the Women's Recipe Book.

Writing the pain away

Written charms to cure toothache were common in the Highlands. This charm was signed by a woman named Jessy McKenzie, who was the wife of a gamekeeper at Garve in Ross-shire. It was given to a domestic servant in Dingwall in 1869 (H.NO 19). The charm was probably folded up and worn by the sufferer at all times.

Back to top