HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE INTERNAL USE OF UNPROCESSED AMBER
The organic mineraloid gemstone, amber, a fossilized resin collected from Eocene deposits laid down around 44 million years old on the Baltic coast, has been an important geopharmaceutical in the western materia medica since classical times. Once rendered into powdered form, it could be delivered into the body using a wide range of vehicles including lozenges, pills, tablets, troches, electuaries, solutions and lohochs (lick-pots), and with toast and poached eggs. Acting either alone or in combination with a wide range of botanical, zoological and other geological ingredients, it was employed in the treatment of a huge range of diseases. Most prominent among these were various vascular disorders (e.g. haemoptysis, haemorrhage, excessive menstrual bleeding), problems with the urogenital system (e.g. tendency towards miscarriage, impotence, venereal diseases, strangury, dysuria and bladder stones) and alimentary conditions, particularly dysentery. A variety of infectious diseases, including plague, gonorrhoea, measles and fevers could be targeted with amber-containing preparations, as could epilepsy, melancholy and the ravages of old age. Rather more unusual applications included its use in the treatment of impotence, halitosis, drunkenness and a weak back.
Key words: amber; materia medica; history of pharmacy; geopharmaceutical