Maltese folklore 2
The practice of using sharks' teeth for medical purposes was once widespread. Indeed, in 1768 they are listed among the medicines available from the pharmacy of Santo Spirito Hospital in Rabat, Malta. Their most common medicinal use was as a cure for - or a safeguard against - poison (Zammit-Maempel 1989).
Tongue stones were also formerly placed by the bedside to help Maltese women during childbirth (Zammit-Maempel 1989).
George Zammit-Maempel (1966) relates the story of a mother who came to a doctor's surgery in Malta. Seeing a shark's tooth on the doctor's desk, she told him that her son spoke his first words at the age of four after she had held a tongue stone against his tongue, closed his mouth and prayed to St Paul.
Using tongue stones against poison was practiced as recently as 1940. Zammit-Maempel (1990) tells how members of the Maltese community living in North Africa asked their relatives to send tongue stones to be hung on the back of their doors to protect the occupants against vipers and scorpions.
Tongue stones were also employed in rural Britain to counter cramp and rheumatism, and in Italy to ward off the evil eye.