Smelling Salts and Vinaigrettes (no, not the dressing)
Published on January 15, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 7076

Smelling salts are chemical compounds used to arouse consciousness.  Smelling salts have been used since Roman times.  They were widely used in the late 18th to the mid-19th century in Britain to revive a fainting lady.  Smelling salts annoy through ammonium carbonate and when mixed with water, this solid compound releases ammonia gas.  If a person is feeling faint, the gas irritates them enough that they come to.  If a person is unconscious the lungs will automatically try to clear the breathing passages, thus creating an increase in the flow of oxygen to the brain and waking the person up.


To keep aromatic substances easily at hand one would use a trinket called the vinaigrette.  Vinaigrettes were containers used to hold aromatic substances, usually dissolved with vinegar.  The most common form in Regency England was the hinged silver box.  The vinaigrette was different from smelling salts in that they held a sponge that was saturated with a mixture of perfume and ammonia.


Vinaigrettes were used by both men and women and came in many shapes and designs.  They could be quite decorative and were often given as tokens of affection.  Sometimes spices and floral extracts were added to sweeten the smell.  Aromatic vinegar was believed to have many medicinal purposes for fighting infection, headaches, and fainting.  It was also used in as an inhalant to mask foul odors, which was necessary considering the sanitation on London’s streets at the time.