Did you know the Egyptians had a formula for toothpaste as far back as the 4th century AD? Researchers looking through a collection of papyrus documents at the National Library in Vienna, Austria recently found the ancient formula. And to their amazement, the recipe contained a simple flower that provided "white and perfect teeth."
An Egyptian scribe wrote the formula on papyrus paper with black ink made of soot, gum arabic, and water. After more than 1,500 years, the writing was faded. But the researchers were still able to figure out the recipe. This is now the world's oldest recipe for toothpaste we've ever discovered.
So what is the flower in the recipe? It's the common iris flower.
Iris, as you may know, is a summer flowering plant that's common around the world.
The Egyptians used dried iris flower as the main ingredient in their toothpaste. But they also used mint, salt, and pepper. The researchers said the Egyptian recipe was "ahead of its time," as dental researchers have only recently started looking at the iris flower's ability to fight gum disease.
The researchers who made the discovery prepared the recipe and gave samples of it at a recent international dental congress. One dentist who tried the sample said, "I found that it was not unpleasant," and, "afterward my mouth felt fresh and clean."
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Dr Hermann Harrauer, who discovered the long-lost recipe, believes one of the monks in the Christian monasteries wrote the toothpaste recipe. "As papyrus was hard to come by, it was often reused, and this document had on the back details of correspondence between monasteries, implying that perhaps the person who wrote it was connected with them in some way. Maybe he was a monk. By the fourth century AD, Egypt had been Christianized and Christian monks were also physicians, and this would fit in with what we know."
During this same time period, the great Christian theologian "Basil the Great," Archbishop of Caesarea, encouraged the monasteries to practice medical and health care. Dr. Harrauer believes the toothpaste formula was "written by someone who obviously had some medical knowledge, as he used abbreviations for medical terms."
The iris flower has many medicinal uses. But most of the information we have on it comes from ancient uses of the flower. For instance, Native Americans used an iris tea to fight lymphatic and kidney cancer. But new research is beginning to look at this flower more seriously. Because the research isn't up-to-date, there aren't many iris products on the market. There's also concern that ingesting too much of it can cause nausea and diarrhea.
However, some product companies are starting to catch up with the ancient Egyptians. There are a few iris toothpastes on the market, including Benco-Dental's Iris Mint toothpaste, which you can find here: https://shop.benco.com/Product/4357-144/iris-mint-paste-85oz-cs36. Maybe one day more companies will use iris in their toothpaste. When they do, you'll be the first to read about it.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
Viegas, J., Oldest Toothpaste Formula Used Iris, Discovery Channel, 11 February 2003.
Zoech, I., The ancient Egyptian recipe for toothpaste, The Telegraph (UK), <www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/01/19/wtooth19.xml>, 4 August 2003.