Ambergris (Lat. ambra grisea) or grey amber, is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color, produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Like other secretions and ingredients of animal origin, it was mostly used in the perfume industry, but also had medicinal applications.
|vintage engraving of a sperm whale or cachalot|
In the European Materia Medica, thus including Transylvania, ambergris was mostly used as cure for vertigo and fainting, presumably also due to its strong odor.
The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca displays, part of the "Animals that heal" temporary exhibition, a small glass with paper lid and the signature AMBRA GRISEA. The apothecary jar, still containing pieces of ambergris, is dated to the end of the 19th century and was once used in a pharmacy in Turda, not far from Cluj, the greatest city of Transylvania.
|19th-c. apothecary jar with paper label inscribed AMBRA GRISEA from the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca|