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Albarello drug jar for the Universal Electuary, Italy, 1601-1800

The Gothic lettering on the jar says Diacatholicon – Latin for “the Universal Electuary”. An electuary is a thick sticky liquid medicine and this treatment was so called because it was supposed to purge all the humours equally. Purging was believed to be one way to equalise the balance of the humours in patients and so restore them to health. Made from a blend of boiled ingredients, including rhubarb, violets, gourds, melons with liquorice, and sugar with crushed powder of cassia (similar to cinnamon), the treatment was also used for gout and arthritis.

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Glossary: humours

The fluids of the body whose balance is essential to well-being. They are blood, choler (yellow bile), phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). The system of the humours was closely related to the theory of the elements by the Ancient Greeks (especially Hippocrates), who were the first society to widely embrace the theory and apply it to medical practice. In Ancient Roman culture, the theory of the humours was embraced by Galen. During the neo-classical revival in western culture, the theory of the humours was a dominant form of medical practice. Its legacy in the form of activities such as blood-letting continued in England into the eighteenth century.

Glossary: electuary

No description.

Glossary: gourd

The ornamental, hard-shelled fruit of a vine.Hollowed gourds can be used as a number of things, including bowls or bottles.

Glossary: drug jar

A (usually earthenware) container designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: arthritis

Inflammation of joints; swelling, pain and decreased mobility are typical symptoms.

Glossary: gout

A disease with painful inflammation of the joints caused by deposits of uric acid salts. It results in acute arthritis and chronic destruction of the joints.