Apothecary uses of cuttlefish bone (OSSAE SEPIAE)

This is the internal shell of the mollusk of the Sepiidae family, a hard but brittle structure that helps the cuttlefish navigate (used for buoyancy control). Over time, cuttlefish bones had several uses: goldsmiths used them to cast items made of precious metal (as the bone is temperature resistant but can be carved easily) or in the making of polishing powder. It was also an old pharmaceutical ingredient, employed both in the Mediterranean and in Asia, in Chinese medicine. The Romans also used cuttlefish bones for cosmetic treatments, believing that the ashes obtained from burning the bone removed freckles and other skin imperfections.

Powdered cuttlefish bone was a common ingredient of tooth powders and cleaning solutions, employed as an abrasive, mechanical agent. Most modern dentifrices contained cuttlefish bone powder. It was sometimes used as calcium supplement, as absorbent and coagulant (to stop bleeding), or as antacid.

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca includes two pharmaceutical jars, both dated to the nineteenth century, for cuttlefish bone powder. The first is a wooden jar with the painted signature PULV. OSSIUM SEPIAE, once used in a pharmacy from Baia Mare, while the second is a glass vial with polished stopper, from the old St. George’s Pharmacy in Cluj – where the museum is now hosted – with the signature PULV. OSSAE SEPIAE.

See the Romanian version HERE.

No comments: