Delftware drug jar labelled ‘E MITHRIDATIVM’, circa 1720

This delftware jar would have been used to store a popular eighteenth-century treatment, Mithridates’ electuary.

Delftware Drug Jar labelled 'E MITHRIDATIVM', circa 1720

Mithridates’ electuary was a treatment with semi-mythical origins. It was named after Mithridates VI, king of Pontus, who lived in the second century BC. The king is said to have created so many antidotes that it was impossible to poison him.

The drug had a complex formula, featuring more than 50 different ingredients including saffron, cardamom and rhubarb. The ingredients would have been mixed into a powder and stored in drug jars such as this one. Before being given to a patient, honey would be added to bind and sweeten the mixture. In the Middle Ages it was used to ward off bubonic plague, but the treatment fell out of fashion by the end of the eighteenth century.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, August 2020;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208237