Cosmetics and Hygiene Information from De Ornatu Mulierum – Cosmetici e Igiene da Trotula di Salerno

Queste sono cose che le donne e gli uomini del trecento usavanno quotadianamente per igiene e cosmetici.

Prima, per pulire il viso, utilizzare questo.

– Crema Galeni (2 ° / 12 c) – olio d’oliva, cera d’Api, acqua di rose, aceto bianco infuso con rose. (Da Hildegard Bingen et al).

Poi per sbiancare il volto, utilizza questo.

– Trotula # 236: perla fondazione – cosmetico piombo sostituto (ossido di zinco, caolino argilla), acqua di rose.

Prossimo, per pulire e profumi i capelli, utilizza questo.

– Trotula # 248: acqua di capelli – chiodi di garofano, Noce moscata, rose, crescione, galangal.

Aggiungere colore alla labbra e alle guance con queste.

– Trotula # 278: rossetto – mondiglia di verzino, allume, acqua di rose.

Finalmente, utilizzare questo olio per idratare e proffigurare il corpo.

– Trotula profumato olio (congettura) – olio d’oliva, Noce moscata olio essenziale, chiodi di garafano olio essenziale, rose olio essenziale. (Olio da aggiungere al vasca o applicata dopo il bagno sono menzionati in molti testi, tra cui il 12 c trotula testi. Oliatura se stessi prima e volte dopo il bagno era una pratica standard in epoca romana, e non vi è la prova la pratica persisteva nel Medioevo e la rinascimentale).


– Acqua di rosa

– Petali di rosa

– Chiodi di garofano

– Bastoncini di cannella

– Lavanda


These are things that women and men of the 14th-century used daily for hygiene and cosmetic purposes.

First, to clean the face, use this

– Cerotum Galeni (2nd/12th C) – Olive Oil, Beeswax, Rosewater, White Vinegar infused with Roses. (From Hildegard Bingen et al).

Then to whiten the face, use this.

– Trotula #236: Pearl Foundation – Cosmetic Lead Substitute (Zinc Oxide, Kaolin Clay), Rosewater.

Next, to cleanse and perfume the hair, use this

– Trotula #248: Hair Water – Cloves, Nutmeg, Roses, Watercress, Galangal.

Add color to the lips and cheeks with this.

– Trotula #278: Rossetto – Brasilwood*, Alum, Rosewater.

Finally, use this oil to moisturize and perfume the body.

– Trotula Perfumed Oil (Conjecture) – Olive Oil, Nutmeg Essential Oil, Clove Essential Oil, Rose Essential Oil (Oils to be added to the bath or applied after bathing are mentioned in many texts, including the 12th C Trotula texts. Oiling oneself before and sometimes after the bath was a standard practice in Roman times, and there is evidence the practice persisted into the middle ages and Renaissance).

Also on display:

– Rosewater

– Rose petals

– Cloves

– Cinnamon sticks

– Lavender

*Brazilwood is also known as Sappanwood (Caesalpinia echinata).

This demonstration on 14th-century Hygiene and Beauty was assembled for the event at Terra Del Sole (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) this month. In order to prepare for the mostly Italian-speaking audience I wrote down everything in English first and began to practice saying the terms in Italian. The group that hosted me, Gli Sparvieri, has several members that speak English and they also offered their translation assistance for the demo. Feel free to correct me on any of the written Italian grammar above.

I worked with Lady Gwlados to have the products made since all my ingredients were 3,000 mikes away. She mailed them to me just in time!

Here is a bit more information on the “Trotula”.

Trotula Texts 12C Salerno: De Ornatu Mulierum (on women’s cosmetics)

“Trota” of Salerno, for whom no substantive historical evidence has ever been brought forth, is said to have lived in the eleventh or twelfth century and to have written the most important book on women’s medicine in medieval Europe, On the Diseases of Women (De passionibus mulierum). She is also allegedly the first female professor of medicine, teaching in the southern Italian town of Salerno, the most important center of medical learning in Europe at that time.

Why Salerno?

  • Medical school located there
  • Women had more rights
  • More Opulent than Rome in 11C
  • Mixing pot: Arab Sicily, Norman, Byzantine, Port City
  • Written evidence that catholic women would mimic the dress, perfume, and cosmetics of Muslim women

The Trotula (for the word was originally a title, not an author’s name) texts were the most popular collection of information on women’s medicine from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries. Originally composed in Latin and circulated throughout western Europe where Latin was spoken by the educated elite, by the fifteenth century been translated into most of the Western European languages, and reached an even wider audience.

More info is available in the other volumes of Trotula texts; Treatise on the Diseases of Women, Book on the Conditions of Women, and De Curis Mulierum/ On Treatments for Women.

For the Latin edition by Monica H Green, nine manuscripts from the second half of the thirteenth century or the early fourteenth century were collated. The base text was a manuscript from the mid- or late thirteenth century composed in Italy and now owned by the Universitatsbibliothek in Basel SWZ.

Our focus is the De Ornatu Mulierum which describes in head-to-toe order how to beautify women’s skin, face, lips, teeth, and body including the genitals. Offering no commentary on dermatological conditions or causes, it lists and describes how cosmetic preparations can be made and applied. However, when studying the ingredients you learn they not only beautify the body but also heal and condition it.

Recipes From Other Texts

Laying herbs with your clothes would scent them; the Menagier de Paris (14th C) includes directions for drying roses to put among clothes: “Roses from Provence are the best to put in clothing, but they should be dried, and in mid-August sift them over a screen so that the worms fall through the screen, and then spread them in your clothes.”

They even scented their gloves. Gloves (guanti) as we know them date from the 11th century. In the 13th century they became a definite part of fashionable dress for wealthy Europeans. Scented gloves came into vogue at the same time.

Scent continued to be a theme of wealth and decadence during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. In the 14th century Decameron of Boccaccio a couple is treated to scent before bed:

  • “… the lady herself washed Salabaetto all over with soap scented with musk and cloves. She then had herself washed and rubbed down by the slaves. This done, the slaves brought two fine and very white sheets, so scented with roses that they seemed like roses; the slaves wrapped Salabaetto in one and the lady in the other and then carried them both on their shoulders to the bed… then took cruets of silver, some filled with rose water, some filled with orange water, and some with lemon water, which they sprinkled upon them.”
  • The next morning they washed their faces and hands with the flower waters.

Le Menagier de Paris’ (14th C) water for washing hands at table: Boil sage, then strain the water and cool it until it is a little more than lukewarm. Or use chamomile, marjoram, or rosemary boiled with orange peel. Bay leaves are also good.

Late Medieval Body and Facial Powder: clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, lavender, orris root, Add this mixture to cup riso (pulverized) and shake.

A rosewater recipe from the Manager de Paris: “Take a glass flask and half fill it with good rosewater then fill it up with red roses, that is petals of young roses from which the white bit at the end has been cut away, and leave nine days in the sun and at night too, and then strain it.”

From the 13th C poem Roman de la Rose: “If her complexion loses color and her heart is tormented as a result, she should arrange always to have aqueous ointments hidden in boxes in her chamber, for the purpose of painting her face. But she must take care that none of her guests can smell or see them: otherwise she could be in great trouble… If her hands are not fair and unblemished but marred by spots and pimples, she ought not to leave these alone but use a needle to remove them; or else she should hide her hand in her gloves so that the spots and scabs are not visible.”

Herbs Used

– Lavender contains a high content of linalool. Linalool is a terpene alcohol which calms the nerves and lessens pain

– Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a tonic and stimulant. It is valued as a mouth treatment because of its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.

– Myrrh is antimicrobial.

– Olive oil is rich in vitamin E & polyphenols which protect again free radicals.

– Beeswax is essential to provide a moisture barrier and pseudo-emulsifier in creams.

– Clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, musk are aromatic herbs with great medicinal properties when ingested or applied to the skin. They are uplifting and sensual fragrances.

– Cerussa is a poisonous lead based whitener for the face. Titanium dioxide is a food safe white pigment and good substitute in cosmetic recipes.

– Alkanet root, Brasilwood (Sappanwood), and red sandalwood are plants that calm skin inflammation and are also used for rouge.

– Rose possesses mood-elevating properties, heals acne scars, and provides nourishment for mature or sun damaged skin.

– Rice powder contains para aminobenzoic acid which protects the skin from UV rays, ferric acid which is an antioxidant that provides protection especially when added to vitamin E, allantoin which is an anti-inflammatory agent, and tyrosinase which is an oxidase that limits the production of melanin.

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