Health Care

Pages from the Prescription Book of W W Johnson, Llandrindod Wells

As with the home remedies, we cannot take any responsibility if you decide to try these yourself!

First, a brief explanation of the symbols and abbreviations found in these prescriptions:

Symbol Meaning   Apothecaries' Weights   Apothecaries' Measures
Scruple scruple 20 grains 1 scruple 20 minims 1 fluid scruple
Drachm drachm
or dram
3 scruples 1 drachm 3 fl. scruples 1 fl. drachm
Ounce ounce 8 drachms 1 ounce
(480 grains)
8 fl. drachms 1 fl. ounce
Tr. Tincture 12 ounces 1 pound
(5760 grains)
20 fl. ounces 1 pint

The ingredients, 'translated' into a more readable form, are alongside the image. What they are and their uses are listed below the image. Many thanks to the staff at Boots, Llandrindod Wells, for supplying the translation from pharmaceutical abbreviations into English. The reference works used, A Compend of Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Prescription Writing, Sam'l O. L. Potter, M.D., M.R.C.P.L., 1902 (Potter), the British Pharmaceutical Codex, Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, 1911 (BPC), and The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmocognosy, Finley Ellingwood, MD, 1919 (Ellingwood), are all available online at Hearty thanks to Henriette for making these texts so readily available and searchable. Also of great use was

Prescription for Mr Wilde
Powys County Archives
Mr Wilde, Newmead
Rx Belladonna liniment
Opium liniment
Chloroform liniment
Aconite liniment.
½ oz. of each
  Mix and make an embrocation. To be rubbed on the seat of pain night and morning.
Rx Potassium bicarbonate 3 drachms
Tr. of Actaea Racemosa 6 drachms
Tincture of Hops 6 drachms
Potassium bromide
  2 drachms
Water to 6 oz.
  1/2 ounce three times a day in water
The liniments of Belladonna (deadly nightshade), Chloroform, Opium and Aconite (monkshood) were all used to treat the pain of chronic rheumatism. An embrocation is a lotion or liniment.
Potassium bicarbonate
was used for gout and rheumatism. Potassium bromide, used a sedative or depressant, is a potentially damaging chemical. It was also used for spasms and rheumatism. Tincture of Actaea racemosa was used as a mild expectorant and for rheumatism or neuralgia. Also known as Cimifuga racemosa (black snakeroot or black cohosh), the plant is a native of the US. Tincture of Humulus lupulus, or hops, was used to increase appetite and aid digestion; in this case it was used to help the drugs get into the bloodstream via the stomach.
Prescription for Graham Hogg Esq.
Powys County Archives

Graham Hogg Esqr.

Rx. Iodine sulphate 1 oz.
Potassium bicarbonate 3 drachms
Nox vomica tincture 2 drachms
Fowlers solution (arsenic) ½ drachm
Glycerin 6 drachms
Peppermint water to 6 oz.
½ oz. 2 hours after meals 3 times a day
The ingredients in this prescription were all used to treat dyspepsia, also known as indigestion or heartburn. Sodii sulphas, Glauber's Salt, was used as a purgative. Nux vomica was made from seeds of a tree native to India, Strychnos nux-vomica, one of the main constituents of which is strychnine. Fowler's Solution was a solution of potassium arsenite. Peppermint water was used to soothe gut wall and expel gas.
Prescription for Miss Mills
Powys County Archives

Miss Mills

Rx Cantharides plaster 2 x 3 inches
send 3.
One to be applied every fourth or fifth night to the affected side as directed.
Rx Boric acid ointment 2 oz
To be applied on lint to the blistered surface.

Rx Potassium iodide 3 grains
Iron and ammonium citrate 5 grains
Nux vomica tincture 10 minims
Digitalis tincture 10 minims
Water to ½ oz. Send 8 oz.
One tablespoonful three times a day

Cantharides, or spanish fly, was made from dried beetle Cantharis vesicatoria. According to the British Pharmaceutical Codex of 1911, "Cantharides plaster is usually spread on calico adhesive plaster with a half-inch margin, for blistering purposes. Blisters are used principally to relieve deep-seated inflammation and to promote the absorption of effusions."
Boric acid is an antiseptic used on burns & scalds.
Potassium iodide -
acute catarrh, asthma, hayfever, tonsillitis, sore throat, mercury poisoning
Iron & Amm.
Citrate - ferric ammonium citrate - iron deficiency
Nux vomica -
stimulant of gastrointestinal tract, increase appetite.
Digitalis -
action on the heart & circulation (raises blood pressure)

Prescription for Major Jones
Powys County Archives

Major Jones

Rx Lanoline 2 drachms
Lead acetate solution 1 drachm
Rectified spirit 2 drachms
Cocaine ½ grain
Vaseline to 1 oz.

Lead acetate - Plumbi acetas, also known as sugar of lead - "Inflammations of external parts are constantly treated by the lotion of "Leadwater and Laudanum;"—though the constituents are chemically incompatible, it is a valuable sedative and astringent. " (Potter)
Rectified spirit - 85% alcohol
Cocaine - probably Cocainae oleas - was used as a local anaesthetic.

Prescription for Revd J Thomas
Powys County Archives

Revd J Thomas

Rx Mercuric subchloride 1 scruple
Colchicum extract ½ scruple
Colocynth extract ½ drachm
Ant. Tart. ½ grain

Mix and make into a mass and distribute into 12 equal pills. Take one each night.

Mercuric subchloride: Hydrargyri chloridum corrosivum (corrosive mercuric chloride, bichloride, also known as corrosive sublimate) was used internally for gastric ulcers, dysentery, and hepatic cirrhosis
Colchicum extract: Extractum colchici came from Colchicum autumnale (meadow saffron). It relieves pain and inflammation of gout but may cause considerable gastro-intestinal irritation. "Extract of colchicum is prescribed in pills to relieve the pain and inflammation of acute gout. It is frequently combined with blue pill or compound colocynth pill, or with Dover's powder. " (BPC)
Colocynth extract: Colocynth pulp was from fruit of Citrullus colocynthis, a native of N Africa, Middle East & north-west India, and is a powerful hydragogue [causing a discharge of water] cathartic
Ant. Tar.: possibly Antimonii et potassii tartras, also known as Tartar emetic - is gastrointestinal irritant, and a systemic & local emetic

Prescription Book: Page Two - Page Three
Chemists' shops in Powys