Apothecary bottles found in a collectibles shop

Written by: Captain Skellett // August 21st, 2010 // Drugs

About a week ago I was in Gulgong, a small town in New South Wales near the wine region of Mudgee. The main road was spelled Mayne Road, and was brown stone rather than tarmac. Along the footpaths were old stone troughs for watering horses. Key landmarks included the Ten Dollar Motel and the Gulgong Butchers Cafe. It was an old gold mining town which had lost its gold but kept its rural charm.

Wandering the streets I came across a collectibles shop filled with coloured glass jugs and gold rimmed plates. Amongst the copper kettles I found these old bottles from an apothecary, dated around the 1800’s I believe.

Old Apothecary Bottles

The craftsmanship is stunning, and they teased my imagination. What were these drugs used for? What did they look like, when those bottles were filled, and who was the chemist who filled them?

I have since looked into some of the medicines written on the bottles.

Iodoformum is now called tri-iodomethane (CHI3). The crystals are lemon yellow and have a disagreeable odour and taste. I think it was used to treat tuberculosis, and is still used in homeopathy for a range of ailments. Hexamine may have been mixed with hippuric acid to make methenamine hippurate, which was used to treat lower urinary tract infections. Salol was a white powder derived from salicylic acid, the active ingredient in willow bark, which we take as acetylsalicylic acid in asprin. It was used to reduce pain and fever. Menthol you probably recognise from chest rubs. It comes from mint oil, though it can be made synthetically. As well as clearing sinuses it can ease sore throats and muscle pains, and is one of the ingredients in tiger balm.

While researching I found an issue of the British Medical Journal from September 5, 1885 which is an interesting read.

Captain Skellett

I be Captain Skellett. Me blog started in April 2009 when I was working full time and didn’t get a chance to talk science. Now I have changed jobs and talk science all the time, but that doesn’t stop me blogging. More About Captain Skellett   Google

   

2 Responses to “Apothecary bottles found in a collectibles shop”

  1. Nick says:

    please email me if you’re interested in selling these. Thanks

    Sorry, I don’t have them. They are for sale, but in the collectible store I mentioned in the post. Contact them, maybe they’ll send them out.






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