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This is a faience pharmacy vessel with two handles in the shape of mutton heads. On the shard, there is a black italic shelf mark – Syrupus opiatus – water with a sugary, poppy syrup. The preparation was obtained by dissolving poppy extract – opium (Extractum Opii) – in an appropriate amount of concentrated sugar solution.

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This is a faience pharmacy vessel with two handles in the shape of mutton heads. On the shard, there is a black italic shelf mark – Syrupus opiatus – water with a sugary, poppy syrup. The preparation was obtained by dissolving poppy extract – opium (Extractum Opii) – in an appropriate amount of concentrated sugar solution.

Opium is a substance prepared by drying latex, obtained by an incision into immature seed bags, the so-called poppy heads of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The product prepared in this way is a medicament known and used for centuries, as well as a drug having a narcotic effect. Once, various galenic preparations were obtained from it and used in therapeutic drugs such as opium tincture (Tinctura Opii), an extract (Exstractum Opii), and a powder (Opium pulveratum). The so-called Dover’s powder, containing 10% morphine, was a popular drug in the nineteenth century. The effect of opium is the result of the activity of its particular components, mainly morphine, papaverine, and codeine. It was used as an analgesic, spasmolytic, antitussive, and antidiarrheal drug.

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

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Miss Pharmacist and pharmacy rooms at manor courts

All the medications that nowadays fill the surface of the drawer, formerly occupied an entire room. At the manors, these “first aid kits” contained natural ingredients, spices, liqueurs, vodkas, home-made brews and preserves.

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All the medications that nowadays fill the surface of the drawer, formerly occupied an entire room. At the manors, these “first aid kits” contained natural ingredients, spices, liqueurs, vodkas, home-made brews and preserves. Zygmunt Gloger, analysing the contents of the pharmacy rooms in the Old Polish Encyclopaedia , wrote:
“What – there was no rural pharmacy: the fat of various animals as medicines, dry reptiles, several dozen species of dried herbs, starting from linden flower, chamomile and mint, and ending with various dried fruits and rootlets. We did not forget about the March water from melted snow, which was thought to maintain a beautiful complexion for the fairer sex, and about rose water, which was sprinkled on the floor to lend rooms a pleasant aroma. Water for washing the face was also prepared from cucumbers. Only homemade vinegars were used: raspberry, relish, spinach, currant, barberry etc.”.
A well-stocked first-aid kit was particularly important in places far from the town, where the medic could not reach quickly enough.
Completing and supplementing its content was the housekeeper’s duty. Often, in the manors, the first aid kit was prepared by Mrs. Pharmacist – a poor relative who had no family of her own (this term even became a synonym for an old maid). As Glogger wrote:
“She had everything under her key, she kept everything and watched over the supply with everything, sometimes walking alone with the village girls to collect herbs”.
She was the one who gave first aid in emergency situations not only to the residents of the manor, but also to the surrounding villages.
The atmosphere of an old pharmacy, not only domestic ones, can be enjoyed while visiting the Museum of Pharmacy in Krakow, where an old herb dryer was restored in the attic.

We can find out how varied first-aid kits once were by browsing “the Tibetan Pharmacy” – a manuscript and a set of medicines.

Elaborated by: 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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Faience apothecary vessel

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