Saturday, January 31, 2015

Still More on the Cerate of Galen, and Cold Cream

I'd previously located a 1530 edition of Galen that, in the index, pointed me to a recipe of rose oil, wax and (probably) verdigris as being the famous cerate which evolved into our modern Cold Cream. However, it seems to be considered that the addition of water to the cerate was really the key that made it special -- and that recipe I found had included no water. Another, more elaborate recipe in the book called Medicamentum Dia Acones did contain wax and water, but also a lot of other weird ingredients (it seemed to be sort of the Tiger Balm of its day) so I had trouble believing that was the originator -- still, I began looking for more information about it.

In consequence, I went digging through another edition of Galen from the 1580s. In this book, I found something that with my poor Latin skills I'm not 100% sure is the right recipe, but it looks like it may be a better candidate for the original cerate/cold cream. Maybe the recipe originally known as "cerate" was something else, and this mixture took on the title for lack of a better name? I'm transcribing it here as best I can, though it uses a few non-standard shortcuts in how its written.

Demonstratio, qua ostenditur, aquam frigefacere ex cerati, quod ex ea conficitur, effectu.Porro q[?] aqua ois dulcis perspicuo frigefaciat, hinc quoq; didiceris. Ceratu humidum si ex aqua frigida subactum acurateq`; madefactum calido alicui affectui imponas, protinus ipsum frigefacies. Oportet autem qua plurimum admiscere ipsius aquae, mistioq`; hoc maxime modo optime perficitur. Ceram quatum fieri maxime potest purissima, oleo liquantes humidu facere ceratum oportet: deinde refigeratum, ac rasum, in mortario manibus subigere, aqua effundendo frigidam quantu nimirum ceratum accipere valet, ac nondum aqua circunfluat. Id refigerat et eos qui in febre uruntur, si hypochondriis superponatur.

Near as I can tell, it's a recipe for wax scrapings beaten with fresh water in a mortar, maybe with oil, used to cool fevers and other "hot" ailments.

Why was this recipe not in the other book? It may be the 1530 edition was copied from a faulty manuscript, or perhaps even the 1530 edition itself has lost pages over time. It also may be that I simply missed it (again, I don't read Latin very well, especially this very old fashioned Latin that Galen uses.) I had located this by running a search for the word "aqua" in the manuscript, and if the word was illegible in the other edition, the computer might have overlooked the passage.

So that this point, it's looking like maybe two recipes from Galen were combined -- his skin-soothing rose oil cerate, and his cooling water cerate. Sounds good.

Friday, January 30, 2015

More on Galen's Cerate

I've been continuing to search around for info about the Cerate of Galen, in particular trying to see if I can find a translation or at least a commentary on the excerpt I located. No luck there, although I have come to the conclusion that erugino is a solid (it's indicated in other Galen recipes that it ought to be powdered.)

While searching around, I happened to find some information in Pliny that suggests, at the least, similar mixtures to the Cerate attributed to Galen were already known:

"In combination with vinegar and Cyprian wax, or oil of roses, [gum ammoniac] is extremely efficacious as a liniment for affections of the spleen."
"Kneaded into a paste with wax and rose-oil, [fig ashes] heal burns, leaving the slightest scar only." 
"Applied with water and oil, or else rose oil, [bread] softens abcesses." 

He also mentions "ceratum" as a known type of medicine. Since the Natural History was written about 50 years before Galen was even born, we can conclude that Galen was probably not the originator of this type of medicine.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mystery Solved -- Cold Cream is from Galen! Here's Galen's Cold Cream Recipe

I recently got lucky and was featured on Metafilter, specifically my post on Cold Cream History. This inspired me to try looking again for some of Galen's recipes, since it happens that new texts get added to places like Google Books and Project Gutenberg, and sometimes a text that was not available in the past becomes available.

I got lucky a second time, and found that Open Library has put up Galen's De Compositione Medicamentorum from an edition of 1530. I don't read Latin splendidly, but I can read it well enough to know I found the passage I was looking for:

Reperi solum ad compositionem idoneam eruginem et ceram: quibus acceptis, et ad ignem cera liquefacta cum oleo rhodino, ut liqui dum ceratum fieret, miscui cerati librae unciam unum eruginis, hoc est duodecima partem: statui enim decimam vel duodecimam temperare: suspicatus quidem majorem, ut acriorem cera futuram, minorem tanquam imbecilliorem.

Again, I've rather poor Latin, but it appears to be made just from beeswax, "erugino" (probably rust or verdigris) and rose oil (and for those who didn't get the memo before, that's vegetable oil infused with rose petals, NOT essential oil of rose) melted together -- no other emulsifiers, waters or preservatives, which makes it more of a pomatum. The addition of water and vinegar seems to be a Medieval innovation. We also lost the "erugino" which may be either a colorant or something believed by Galen to have another medicinal property (verdigris, for example, was once considered good for wounds.) This assumes I have a correct translation for erugino -- who knows, maybe it is a liquid?

This answers that question I'd long wondered -- namely, whether cold cream really was an invention of Galen's or if it was just attributed to him by later sources. It seems, from this, that the basis of the mixture is his, but it has come a long way since then with many recipes including changes and new ingredients like mineral oil, borax, rosewater, and more.

It may also be worth mentioning for these historical purposes that Rose Oil in ancient times could mean a more complex bouquet than simple roses. Pliny the Elder, writing about 75 years before Galen, described how Rose Oil of earlier times was "of the most simple nature, though more recently there have been added omphacium, rose blossoms, cinnabar, calamus, honey, sweet-rush, flour of salt or else alkanet, and wine." (Funny that rose blossom [flore rosae] would be a new addition, though perhaps he means the whole flower compared to just petals?) So it's not impossible that Galen's original rose cerate might have had vinegar or honey or some other ingredient via the rose oil he used.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Madame X's Lip Rouge

As previously mentioned, I used up the last of my Red Paint for the Face this Halloween. After the unsuccessful color-matching attempt, I've been scouting commercial cosmetics trying to find a close match.

Let's view our contenders...

Mineral Fusion, Adorn
First we have Mineral Fusion's Sheer Moisture Lip Tint, in the color Adorn. Kind of a brown-red hue, transparent, glistening, moisturizing.

Christina's Natural Qualities, Provocative
The next is Christina's Natural Qualities in the hue Provocative, being a matte, long-wearing color in an orangey-earth tone.

Both of these were found a bit off the beaten path -- one at the local Whole Foods, the other at the local herbal medicine shop. I think these are so far my nearest matches to the Red Paint, and if only either one made a halfway decent rouge I'd be all set.


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