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This drug jar is labelled “DIASCORD”, an abbreviation of the full Latin name Diascodrium. This translates as “water germander”, which was a thick liquid medical preparation (known as an electuary) that had a similar consistency to honey. It contained a range of ingredients and existed in a variety of different recipes – some including opium. Among the conditions it was at times used to treat were diarrhoea, dysentery, plague, colic and fevers. It could induce sleep and was recommended for women during childbirth. Drug jars have a number of different shapes, design motifs and decorative styles which can help date the objects. Although quite crude in design, the face of the winged cherub – a feature of numerous drug jars – is quite realistic. Elsewhere a songbird motif and peacock feathers can be seen.

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Glossary: drug jar

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

Glossary: diarrhoea

Frequent movement of the bowels, commonly in liquid form.

Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: dysentery

Infectious disease with symptoms including diarrhoea, bleeding, and abdominal cramps. It spreads in contaminated food and water, especially in the tropics.

Glossary: colic

Severe abdominal pain caused by obstruction of the intestine or by constipation.

Glossary: fever

A rise in body temperature above normal. Fever usually occurs as a natural response to infection.