Putting a frog inside your mouth common cure for toothaches in the past

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Putting a frog inside your mouth common cure for toothaches in the past
23:28 Thursday 13th of September 2018
Putting a live frog inside your mouth, taking a tooth from a corpse, sucking cloves or drinking water from Holy wells were the most common cures for toothaches in 19th and 20th century Ireland. 
New research by Dr Carol Barron, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and Human Sciences, DCU and Research Assistant Tiziana Soverino analysed the many cures used to treat toothache, one of the most common ailments during this time.
 
The findings are published in the Journal of the History of Dentistry and are taken from an analysis of narratives contained in the Schools’ Collection, a folklore collecting scheme that was undertaken in the Republic of Ireland in 1937-38. It is the largest collection of medical folklore in Europe, taking into account nearly half a million manuscript pages overall, recorded in both English and Irish, which were subsequently re-ordered into 1,128 manuscript volumes. It includes over 250,000 stories gathered by school-children aged 10-14 in this time. 
 
A total of 6,847 cures were sampled from the collection of which 405 were toothache cures and classified under three specific categories: plant and mineral cures; quasi-medical cures and magico-religious cures. 
 
Salt and water were two of the most widely-used substances while, not surprisingly, the humble potato was also deployed to provide relief with the toothache sufferer carrying it in their pocket as an amulet to ward off toothache. 
 
Another common cure was to place a frog in the sufferer’s mouth and to repeat religious blessings during this ritual. The use of frogs was founded on a belief around their healing powers, interaction with water and the idea they could draw away pain from the sufferer by transference.
 
Packing the infected tooth with tobacco was one of the most common quasi-medical treatments. Inhaling hot smoke was also an option, owing to the common belief that toothache was caused by a tooth-worm. 
 
Considering the social context of Ireland at this time, religious elements played a significant part in sympathetic magic cures.
 
Speaking about the findings, Dr Carol Barron said: “The sampling of a large national folklore survey identifies the importance of folk cures for toothache, the third most commonly recorded ailment at this time in Irish society. "
 
She said:"It is a fascinating insight into the social culture at this time and also the transmission of ancient wisdoms and folk cures from one generation to another. All of the remedies should be set against the wider social and historical background to which they belonged and to notice how embedded they were in everyday life. The same cures were used quite frequently across the 26 counties with some minor variations, but overall there was a consistent trend."
 
She said:"It is also interesting to note that the data was collected in a pre-antibiotic era and also with a very low number of dentists operating in Ireland at this point in time as well.”

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