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Glass ampoule of 'Ernutin', England, 1900-1930

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‘Ernutin’ is the brand name for a drug created by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. that was derived from ergot – a potentially poisonous fungus. When drunk or injected, it causes the muscles of the uterus to contract, speeding up delivery of a baby. Ergot can grow on rye and other cereals and eating too much can result in long term poisoning, known as ergotism – a condition sometimes referred to as St Anthony’s fire. In the past, local outbreaks of ergotism affected towns and villages across Europe. Symptoms include convulsions and hallucinations and the effects of this poison have been historically linked to accusations of witchcraft in communities that were affected.

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Glossary: ampoule

A sealed glass or plastic capsule containing one dose of a drug in the form of a sterile solution for injection.

Glossary: childbirth

No description.

Glossary: ergotism

Poisoning induced from too much medicinal ergot or eating grain infected by ergot (fungus). Symptoms include spasms, cramp and gangrene. Historically known as St Anthony’s fire because a pilgrimage to his tomb was said to cure the symptoms.