Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Inside an 18th Century Apothecary

My birthday happened this past Friday, and we did a lot to celebrate -- a visit to the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, cupcakes from Lavender Moon Cupcakery (try the Boston Cream!), and a quick trip to Sacred Circle metaphysical shop to re-stock on some herbs. It was a ton of fun, and I highly recommend taking the Apothecary Museum tour if you're ever in the area. It's about $5, only a half hour long, and very informative, and the building itself is really neat and strikingly well-preserved! A word of caution, though: there are some steep stairs. I managed them alright, but be careful if you have balance or mobility issues.

[caption id="attachment_3777" align="aligncenter" width="513"] The gold labels have held up so well because they're actually reverse-painted on glass. Bottles and jars with paper labels don't look nearly as good after decades upon decades of use.[/caption]

My favorite part was the production room upstairs. The herb cabinets were to die for (and I think I just about have my S.O. convinced that investing in an apothecary chest is a sound decision), and the old implements were fascinating to see. It seems like a bit of a no-brainer in retrospect, but I honestly didn't know that things like pill cutters or pill tumblers existed. I usually get my herbs in salve, tea, or tincture form, so I never really put much thought into how you'd make them into a pill!

Back before the days of easy-to-swallow gelatin capsules, the apothecary would roll a paste made of herbs and binding agents into a sort of clay snake, then roll a pill cutter over it to form evenly-sized slices. These would then be put into a pill tumbler to be coated in sugar or other agents to make them easier to take. The implements were really ingenious, from a quality-assuring and labor-saving perspective.

[caption id="attachment_3778" align="aligncenter" width="514"] In the rear and to the right, just above the yellowish bottle, you can see the pill tumbler. In the back, you can see the apothecary's herb cabinets. There were enough to line all of the walls of the production room, it was a pretty awe-inspiring collection![/caption]

I also blame my lack of actual apothecary knowledge on watching The Princess Bride too often during my formative years.

[caption id="attachment_3779" align="aligncenter" width="513"] "The chocolate coating makes it go down easier."[/caption]

I picked up a copy of Medicinal Plants of North America, which I'm really looking forward to reading. I'll probably do a quick review of it when I'm done, so keep your eyes peeled if you're interested in medicinal foraging field guides!

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