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Small mill consisting of pestle with cutting edge and mortar, possibly Syrian, 1601-1700

Mortars (bowls) and pestles (grinding tools) are used in every medical tradition to prepare and grind herbs and plants for treatments. The pestle and mortar have now largely been replaced by modern machinery. This example would have ground tiny quantities of ingredients. The pestle is ridged for more effective grinding.

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Glossary: apothecary

A term used until about 1800 to describe someone who prepares and sells drugs or compounds for medicinal purposes. Today the term ‘pharmacist’ or ‘pharmaceutical chemist’ is used instead.

Glossary: mortar

Cup-shaped vessel in which drugs or herbal mixtures are pounded with a pestle.

Glossary: pestle

An elongated piece of hard material usually made of stone. A pestle is used for grinding pigments, herbs, spices or other materials in a mortar.