Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Pharmaceutical bottles

Pharmaceutical bottles

From: Cynthia Cripps <ccripps>
Date: Monday, August 28, 2000
Jerry Shiner <keepsafe [at] interlog__com> writes

>Heather Place <heatherplace [at] hotmail__com> writes
>>I recently found some bottles in our drugstore display containing
>>Tr. Arnica. Tr.Nuc.Vom.  Tr. Iodi and Pv. Jalapa. All look as though
>>the contents inside have created such a pressure that the glass
>bottles have cracked...

>If I'm not mistaken, these labels sound like Homeopathic remedies,
>not modern pharmaceutical chemicals. This is especially likely if
>the bottles are over 70 years old. You'd best contact a book on
>Homeopathy, but the active compound in a homeopathic remedy is
>diluted (succussated?) in minute concentrations in water (or in
>sugar pills treated with this water). Perhaps the bottles in
>question cracked from freezing, rather than from a chemical
>reaction. (Gets mighty cold up there in Winnipeg, we hear.)  I don't
>know about whether you want to save the contents, or if they are
>under pressure now, but if they are homeopathic remedies, you
>probably have little to fear from poisons, etc.

In February of this year, I completed an extensive survey and
research project into a small museum collection of homeopathic and
non-homeopathic medicines. It is true that many homeopathic
medicines are diluted with water and it may be possible that at some
point the contents of the bottles were subjected to freezing
temperatures that lead to cracking of the glass. However, many such
mixtures also contained high quantities of alcohol as well, which
would inhibit freezing if the seals were intact and the alcohol
hadn't evaporated.

But the main point I want to make concerns the contents of the
medicines. Natural does not mean safe! Many homeopathic medicines
were, and are, made from poisonous plants materials and extracts.
While this does not mean that one needs to panic, caution is
strongly suggested. Especially, as it is not possible to know what
chemical reactions have occurred as the materials have aged and what
the end products of these reactions may be. Aging may have
neutralised the active ingredients, but that cannot be safety
assumed without chemical testing. Nitrile or latex gloves should
always be worn while handling any pharmaceutical, homeopathic or
not. Masks should also be worn when handling powders or tablets
(which are usually brittle and disintegrate into a powder easily).
Even at diluted concentrations homeopathic compounds can be skin and
respiratory irritants and anecdotal evidence abounds of people
developing strange rashes and terrible bronchial infections after
dealing with old homeopathic collections without using proper

Cynthia Cripps
Objects Conservator
The Canterbury Museum
Rolleston Avenue
Christchurch, New Zealand
+64 3 366 9429, ext. 864

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:16
                 Distributed: Sunday, September 3, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-14-16-004
Received on Monday, 28 August, 2000

[Search all CoOL documents]