What’s really in your toiletries?

October 13, 2015

 

Natron is a naturally occurring mixture of soda ash and sodium bicarbonate found in the dry lake beds of arid environments. In Ancient Egypt, natron was used among other things as a basis for soap, an antiseptic, and a drying agent for mummification (see my blog of August 25, 2015). But in THE DEADLIEST LIE, while in Aspasia’s apothecary shop, Miriam considers buying natron for her fiancé as a teeth cleanser and breath sweetener:

A waist-high, wooden bench spanned the warped floorboards at the center of her shop. I could see from the pyramid of crushed cannabis leaves on its marble top and an open scroll of De Medicina that she’d been compounding suppositories to relieve the pain of hemorrhoids. With the sunlight streaming through the open shutters, I could read on neatly printed labels the contents of each amphora, ceramic jar, and alabastron on the tower of shelves near her bench. She stocked the usual: castor oil, figs, and white hellebore for constipation; opium for pain, diarrhea, and insomnia; aloe for rashes; crocodile dung and sour milk to blend for a contraceptive; and various animal fats to combine for treating baldness. Those were just some of the remedies I recognized.

 

And then on a polished porphyry counter that spanned the front of the shop, she displayed racks of double-handled greenish glass vials containing her own formula for a mouth rinse and her own chewable breath sweetener, probably made from natron. I was tempted to buy the mouth rinse and breath sweetener for Noah, but I knew he’d be embarrassed so I didn’t.

 

Don’t you think you’d better check the ingredients in your own grooming products?

 

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