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White wart-like stone, South Devon, England, 1801-1900

The growing influence of biomedicine in the 1800s did not necessarily replace established forms of treatment based on belief and superstition. What could be referred to as folk medicine – customs that often went back generations – continued to be practised. For example, this stone was rubbed over warts in the belief that the skin would be cured. (The pitted white stone looks like wart-covered skin.) There are probably more folk cures for warts than any other ailment. We now know that warts are caused by a skin infection and can be treated with ‘over the counter’ remedies or left to disappear naturally. The stone was bought in 1930 from Edward Lovett’s (1852-1933) collection of British amulets and charms and is pictured with another folk cure for warts (A79894).

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    Glossary: amulet

    Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.

    Glossary: warts

    Small lumps that appear on the skin. Warts are very common, and can sometimes be caused by a virus.

    Glossary: biomedicine

    The name given to the medical practice that is based on the sciences of the body, such as physiology (the functioning of the body).