Saccharum - sugar as an apothecary ingredient

FOCUS group at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca: Saccharum

Pharmacists were also the first confectioners. In order to preserve the properties of fruits, plants, and organic medicines they used honey and, from the Middle Ages, also cane sugar. The sugar cane plant (Saccharum officinarum) is native from Asia and the curative use of its juice, as such or crystallized, spread from India to the Middle East and then to Europe and America. The product was called “Indian salt”, “honey not made by bees”, or “cane honey” and was used as a luxury tonic, antiseptic, medicine for the purification of blood, powder against cataract, and as a conservative. It was part of several types of medicines for internal use: syrups, electuaries, aromatic powders, conserves. The latter term, conserva, indicates precisely candied ingredients, i.e. preserved by boiling in sugar. From the 11th until the 16th century, sugar was considered first of all a drug, then a spice, but also had curious uses such as depilatory substance.
Brown sugar-loaves and pincers
 The collection of the History of Pharmacy Museum in Cluj-Napoca includes a number of jars especially made for sugars, dated to the 18th and 19th centuries, besides the numerous jars for conserves or products which included sugar among the ingredients. One 18th-century wooden jar has the signature SACH. THOM. – Saccharum Thomaeum or Thomasinum – red sugar from the isle of São Tomé. Jars inscribed SACHAR SATURN – Saccharum Saturnii contained in fact sweet lead acetate (which is toxic and was probably used only externally), not sugar. SPIRIT SACHAR is distilled sugar, PULV. SACHAR. ALB. is white sugar powder (a rarity, as sugar was foremost sold in cones), while CONS. FUMAR., Conserva Fumaria, is a type of vegetal preserve (to illustrate but one of the candied products). SACHAR. LACTIS is lactose, sugar obtained from milk.
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