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Albarello drug jar for Soap Plaster, Italy, 1701-1800

The abbreviated inscription on the jar describes its original contents. The full Latin name Empiastro Diasapone translates into English as “Soap Plaster” or “Soap Poultice”. This refers to a hot poultice which was used to counter pain caused by gout. It was made from 2 lb (0.9 kg) of olive oil, 1 lb (0.45 kg) of red lead (now known to be highly toxic) and 1/2 lb (0.2 kg) of soap boiled into a soft mass. The soap was then applied externally to the body.

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Glossary: drug jar

A (usually earthenware) container designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: gout

A disease with painful inflammation of the joints caused by deposits of uric acid salts. It results in acute arthritis and chronic destruction of the joints.

Glossary: poultice

A soft moist mass that is spread on cloth and applied over the skin to treat an aching or inflamed part of the body.