Fasting spittle – saliva produced first thing in the morning, before breakfast – has been used to treat a wide variety of diseases for many hundreds of years. Spittle cures are usually considered to be more effective if fasting spittle is used.[1] Spittle was considered to be particularly effective in the treatment of eye and skin problems, and was considered a standard treatment for warts. The folklorist Steve Roud has suggested that it may have stemmed from the observation that animals often lick their wounds.[2]

An early recorded use of spittle as a cure comes from the Gospel of St Mark, believed to have been written in about 70 AD:

Then they brought to him [Jesus] one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech … And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat, and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened”. Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Mark 7:32–5

Writing at about the same time as Mark, the Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny claimed in his Natural History that a woman’s fasting spittle is generally considered to be highly efficacious for bloodshot eyes.[1]