Pharmacy leech jar, English, 19th century.

Image number: 10284156

Pharmacy leech jar, English, 19th century.

Fine grained earthenware jar with perforated lid, possibly manufactured in Staffordshire, inscribed 'leeches' and decorated with blue marbling and gilding. The practice of bleeding, or bloodletting, was intended to drain 'poisons' or excess blood from the body in order to restore the balance of the humours of the body. It was believed that If these humours lost their natural balance, illness would result. It was a popular therapy in the Middle Ages, and continued to be practised as late as the 19th century. Placed on the skin, leeches can drink five times their own weight in blood, chemicals in their mucus stopping the blood from clotting. In 1833, France imported over 40 million medicinal leeches.

Image number:
Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Date taken:
20 October 2003 12:29
Image rights:
Science Museum

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