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A pill maker is a device used to make pills (pilulae from Latin pila — ball, pellet), one of the oldest kinds of medicine. The presented exhibit of Eugen Dieterich’s construction (2nd half of the 19th century) consists of a wooden base and a movable slat. On both elements...

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A pill maker is a device used to make pills (pilulae from Latin pila — ball, pellet), one of the oldest kinds of medicine. The presented exhibit of Eugen Dieterich’s construction (2nd half of the 19th century) consists of a wooden base and a movable slat. On both elements, there is a row of a dozen or so ruts for knives. The pill mass, formed in the appropriate diameter of the roller, was placed between the two parts of the pellet. Then, by shifting the movable board several times forwards and backwards, round balls were formed. The pills were then sprinkled, most often with ground pine powder, coated with sugar or honey with gum arabic, chocolate, keratin, cocoa oil, collodion, as well as with gold and silver.

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

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Chocolate for a sore throat

Although today chocolate is associated mainly with pleasure, a pleasure that can be denied to oneself while watching one’s weight or Lent fasting, it used to be recommended by priests during fast days. In the 18th century, together with coffee, chocolate was quite present in pharmacies, used in medicinal mixtures and was approved as a cure for rheumatism and even as a treatment for sore throats. 

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Although today chocolate is associated mainly with pleasure, a pleasure that can be denied to oneself while watching one’s weight or Lent fasting, it used to be recommended by priests during fast days. In the 18th century, together with coffee, chocolate was quite present in pharmacies, used in medicinal mixtures and was approved as a cure for rheumatism and even as a treatment for sore throats. Even in the 19th century bitter pills were covered with, among other things, chocolate. When it became popular, three types were available  — ordinary, Viennese and exquisite.
During times of crisis and poor availability of the product, just as during times of coffee deficiency, chocolate was replaced by a substitute made from milk, sugar, egg yolk, cinnamon and wheat flour. After mixing the ingredients… farm chocolate was the result.

Elaborated by Anna Berestecka (Editorial team of Małopolska's Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Bibliography:
L. Korczak, Trunki, [in:] Obyczaje w Polsce od Średniowiecza do czasów współczesnych,  A. Chwalba (ed.), Warszawa 2005, p. 157.

See also:
Pharmaceutical pill maker

 

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On bizarre therapies, dangerous medications and opium-laced baby dummies

Medicine and pharmacy have not always been what they are today. The history of pharmacy and medicine is not only the history of the progress of science, marked by subsequent great discoveries but also a fascinating story about therapies and medications from the past that nobody would dare to try today...

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Wooden apothecary boxes from 18th century, The Museum of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, public domain.

On the 26th of September, it’s Pharmacist’s Day in Poland. On this day, we wish all pharmacists and chemists all the very best! We would also like to remind you that at the Malopolska’s Virtual Museums we present 24 exceptionally interesting objects from the collection of Muzeum Farmacji Collegium Medicum UJ w Krakowie (the Pharmacy Museum of the Jagiellonian University Medical College).

For those who, after they have seen the MVM’s (Małopolska’s Virtual Museums) collections, want to learn even more about the history of medicine, we are eager to assure you that as part of the currently implemented project Wirtualna Małopolska (2016-2020) (Virtual Lesser Poland (2016–2020)) our website will obtain a much larger collection of exhibits from the Pharmacy Museum of the JUMC. We encourage those who cannot wait to visit the Museum at 25 Floriańska Street – the interiors and atmosphere of an 18th-century pharmacy recreated there serve to leave an enduring impression.

Medicine and pharmacy have not always been what they are today. The history of pharmacy and medicine is not only the history of the progress of science, marked by subsequent great discoveries but also a fascinating story about therapies and medications from the past that nobody would dare to try today – either out of common sense or because some the substances used in the past are now illegal (even if the effects of their use may seem quite pleasant to some). The history of healing is also a story about the long duration of astonishing superstitions, whose popularity resulted from trusting in the authority of past scholars. It is enough to mention such miraculous medical preparations as a potion from a beaver’s testicles or powdered deer horn. Similar miraculous medicines are still popular in traditional Chinese medicine, which sometimes leads to the extinction of rare animal species.

Baby Jesus' dummie, Albrecht Dürer, Madonna with the Siskin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, public domain.

Anyone who has read any of the novels on Sherlock Holmes knows that taking cocaine or morphine was not anything surprising in the 19th century. Indeed, many substances which nowadays are considered to be drugs were previously used as a remedy for everything. It is worth mentioning the King of England, George IV, who used to start the day with a dose of a laudanum tincture, which was made on the basis of opium oil. Back when he was still the Prince of Wales and a regent exercising power on behalf of the mentally ill George III, had health problems due to his excessive love of food, alcohol and opium. Back then, he was already sometimes called the Prince of the Whales, which was a witty reference to his corpulent figure and a verbal game based on the identical sound of the nickname Prince of Whales, and the title born by the English heirs to the throne – Prince of Wales. Once he became the king, he contracted gout, cataract and atherosclerosis.

The therapies used by Adolf Hitler were a combination of superstitions and drug addiction. The creator of the drugs taken by the hypochondriac tyrant was the famous slob and boor – Dr Theodor Morell, who was also commonly regarded as a mountebank. The most famous of his medicines taken by the Führer was Vitamultin. Despite its name, it did not contain vitamins at all – among others, it included methamphetamine. Drugs, used as medicines, were still widely available in the 20th century. During World War I, heroin and cocaine could be purchased as medicines. In Great Britain, they could be purchased in pharmacies, at the Harrods department store and in military stores. Some British soldiers staying at the front regularly asked their families to send parcels with these medicines. Over time, the UK government banned the sale of cocaine. Strangely, the use of heroin was not prohibited.

But back to the subject of opiates... The high-morphine variety of bread-seed poppy was used in the past not only for the production of opiates but also to help put children to sleep. Poppy mixed with honey was wrapped in a linen handkerchief and rolled into a ball, and a dummy formed in this way was given to children to suck on. There are known representations of the Mother of God with the Baby Jesus holding such a “cumel” (a Cracovian regionalism for “a dummy”).

Elaborated by: Adam Spodaryk (Editorial Team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Pharmaceutical pill maker

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