Station: [14] Materia Medica: Animal, Vegetable & Mineral Drugs

As you already know, pharmacists are associated with drugs. This showcase contains some of the raw materials that were processed in the past. Many are no longer in use nowadays – and you may even find them rather grossThe term "materia medica" refers to the stock of raw materials used for medicinal purposes, which traditionally come from the "tria regna naturae", the "three kingdoms of nature". So we’re talking about animal, vegetable (or plant) and mineral substances. Our museum has a large selection of raw materials from the 18th century, when the pharmacy was first set up.

First of all, take a look at our little cabinet of horrors – the showcase with the animal drugs. One unsavoury specimine, for example, is album graecum – white dog poo. It was used to treat inflammations in the mouth. We have a little pile of it here. But there are also teeth from wild boars and foxes, which were supposed to help against stab wounds, or a stitch in your side. They reflect what’s known as the “Doctrine of Signatures”, which held that you could deduce a possible medicinal effect from the shape of, for example, a tooth. But human body parts were also used medicinally. Grated brain pan, for example, was a specific remedy used to treat epilepsy. Hard to believe it could possibly have been effective…

In the display case to the right of the door, you’ll find many examples of vegetable, or plant-based, drugs. We’ve already talked about a tisane as a drug. This is about more than that. For example, from the early 19th century onwards, medically active ingredients were isolated from such extremely toxic medicinal drugs as thorn apple (datura stramonium), belladonna, china bark and opium. The pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner played a pioneering role in this context. In 1805, he isolated morphine from opium while serving as an apprentice at the Court Pharmacy in Paderborn. These days, morphine is a key analgesic used for the severest of pain.

Mineral drugs comprise earths, ores, minerals and salts. They included metallic mercury and mercury salts, which were processed into effective, but also highly toxic ointments for infectious diseases. Mercury has almost completely fallen out of use today.

Your next two stops are in the Emergency Room, beyond the door between the two display cases.

All depictions: © Trüpschuch