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Albarello drug jar for bread crust poultice, Italy, 1662

The inscription on the dumbbell-shaped albarello jar translates from Latin as “Bread Crust Plaster/Poultice”. As the name suggests, bread crusts are the main ingredient. Toasted crusts were soaked in vinegar for half an hour then added to mint, sandalwood, mastic and red coral with oil and barley and made into a soft pliable mass. The poultice was applied hot to the body and was thought to calm vomiting within half an hour and help keep food down. Today poultices, although not made of bread crusts, are used for pain relief, improving the circulation and to counter inflammation. The earthenware jar is decorated with foliage and an unidentified mark, probably from a monastery.

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Related Themes and Topics



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: earthenware

Pottery made of clay which is fired at a relatively low temperature. Earthenware is often semi-porous, meaning some liquid or air can pass through it. This can be altered by treating the pottery with a glaze.

Glossary: inflammation

The body’s response to injury. An inflammation is marked by redness, heat, pain, swelling, and often loss of function. The process leads to the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue.

Glossary: poultice

A soft moist mass that is spread on cloth and applied over the skin to treat an aching or inflamed part of the body.