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Tin of 'Tabloid' caster oil, England, 1900-1930

Castor oil is an unpleasant tasting yellow oil used as a laxative to purge the intestines. It was a standard family medicine for many generations. The oil is prepared from the seeds of a plant called Ricinus communis – the Castor Oil plant. Inside this metal box are glass vials filled with five minims (approximately 2 ml) of oil. One or more capsules of liquid were swallowed with water as ordered by a physician. ‘Tabloid’ is a brand name of Burroughs, Wellcome & Co., who made this item. It refers to the compressed nature of the product and was coined by Henry Wellcome in 1884. The term remains in common use today within the newspaper industry.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: laxative

An agent that acts to encourage evacuation of the bowels

Glossary: castor oil

A pale yellow vegetable oil used in medicine as a laxative. Castor oil is also used in some parts of the world for burning in lamps.