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Dispensing pot for laudanum, Italy, 1771-1830

Some of the ingredients used in medical treatments seem to belong to the world of fantasy rather than pharmacy. On the far left is a dispensing pot labelled “LAUD:NEP:QUERC”. This is laudanum, a treatment made from opium, gold and pearls. Mixed with a powdered bezoar stone from the stomach of an animal and shavings of mythical unicorn horn, the medicine was given to aid sleep and ease pain. The jar, one of four shown here, was presented as a gift to the Wellcome collection on the previous owner’s death in 1932.

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Glossary: dispensing pot

pot used to contain ointments, medications, perfumes

Glossary: bezoar

No description.

Glossary: opium

A drug derived from the opium poppy. It has been used to cause sleep and provide pain relief for many centuries.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: controlled drug

Substances that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (UK). These drugs are classified according to the amount of harm they cause when misused.

Glossary: laudanum

A herbal preparation of opium. It is made by mixing ethanol with opium. In the 1800s, laudanum was prescribed by many doctors to reduce pain and aid sleep.