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Alembic (Latin: alembicum) is a part of the apparatus required for distillation (distillation from Latin: distillare—drip, fall by drops). It consists of three separate parts: a boiler in which substances for distillation are placed, a helmet covering the boiler, and a cooler that connects the boiler to the receiver; namely, the place where the liquefied (distilled) liquid flows down.

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Alembic (Latin: alembicum) is a part of the apparatus required for distillation (distillation from Latin: distillare—drip, fall by drops). It consists of three separate parts: a boiler in which substances for distillation are placed, a helmet covering the boiler, and a cooler that connects the boiler to the receiver; namely, the place where the liquefied (distilled) liquid flows down. This device was used in the former pharmacy industry to distill essential oils, aromatic waters, alcohol, and other products from medicinal plants. Fragmented raw material was put into a boiler with water and heated. The steam generated covered the volatile components contained in the raw material and was then condensed in the cooler, from where it flowed down to the receiver. A number of therapeutic agents were produced in this device including: alcoholic root water, bitter almond water, aromatic waters (chamomile, rose, mint), royal water “for wind“, water for “pulling bile from the eyes”, the following oils (juniper, lemon, orange, peppermint, rosemary).
Jan Bogumił Freyerr, in Materia Medica (1817), delivers the recipe for Aqua aromatica, made of various root herbs. It was used to “activate and maintain wind, not only inside but also outside by rubbing it into one’s belly, especially for children and pregnant women, for dislocation and bruises on one’s body as well as a compress for the areas drenched with blood”.

Elaborated by the Museum of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, © all rights reserved

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