A Superb Trio of c.1870s Glass Apothecary Bottles for Senega, Rhubarb & Thorn Apple


Origin: English
Period: Mid/Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Wilfred Harris M.P.S. Dispensing Chemist, Bournemouth
Date: c.1870
Base Diameter: 3 inches
Height: 8 inches

The large clear glass bottles having the original square cut stoppers with shield shaped painted banner labels in black lettering on a burnished gold leaf ground, the Latin reading INF: SENEG: CON, INF: RHEI CON and TINCT: STRAMON with frosted necks, surviving from the third quarter of the nineteenth century.

There is varying wear to the shields from minor to considerable, whilst structurally the pieces are sound with no cracks or chips. The stoppers are sound and free.

These bottles were part of Wilfred Harris’ inventory at his dispensing chemist’s at 6 Albert Road, Bournemouth, UK, well into the early twentieth century.

The first would have bore a concentration of Senega root. The odour of senega recalls that of wintergreen; the taste is it first sweetish, but afterwards acrid. The powdered drug is very irritating when inhaled, and imparts to water the property of frothing. It is employed as a stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis but is not absorbed into the system.

The second vessel would have held concentration of Rhein Concentrate, which is essentially a concentrated Infusion of Rhubarb. It can be used for a number of ailments with Chinese medicine using it as a laxative and also more recent studies showing it is effective in helping to treat diabetes, particularly kidney failure. It even shows anti-tumor activity.

The third would have contained tincture of stramonium, or thorn apple, a large and coarse narcotic herb which is so similar to belladonna in the symptoms produced by it in small or large doses, in its toxicity and its general physiological and therapeutic action in dilating the pupil of the eyes in like manner. It is considered slightly more sedative to the central nervous system than belladonna. Applied locally, in ointment, plasters or fomentation, Stramonium will palliate the pain of muscular rheumatism, neuralgia, and also pain due to haemorrhoids, fistula, abscesses and similar inflammation. In early times, the Thornapple was considered an aid to the incantation of witches, and during the time of the witch and wizard mania in England, it was unlucky for anyone to grow it in his garden.

Painted labels such as these were eventually phased out and replaced with labels under glass (LUG) later in the century so as to stop the abrasion of the labels themselves so these are nice early examples and their stoppers are ornate.

Simply line up and admire.