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Glossary of treatments

The treatment notes written by Forman, Napier, and their associates were formulaic and often heavily abbreviated. As a result, they can be tricky to interpret but become much easier with a key. Below are listed a few of the symbols, shortened forms, unfamiliar spellings, and typical terms encountered in these notes. It should be emphasised that this is by no means a comprehensive list; nor are the substances and treatments below necessarily those most commonly recorded. They should, however, provide a useful guide to some of the frequently occurring treatments encountered in the casebooks, and illustrate the sorts of medicaments that can be found in the entries. For a discussion of the sorts of treatment found in the casebooks see What treatments did they prescribe?, and for a few examples of treatments drawn from cases and from the notes in the casebooks see Selected treatments.

copper (when used in conjunction with a quantity, such as ‘j’, one ounce)
vitæ mercury vitæ; mercury of life, also known as powder of algaroth (a purgative)
ʒ drachms, or drams
alhand alhandal; a purgative extract from colocynth
an., ana of each (i.e. the same quantity of each ingredient)
aq calcis aqua calcis; lime water
aqua celestis heavenly water
aqua fumar aqua fumariæ; fumitory water
aqua hyp aqua hypericum; water of St John’s wort
Auru[m] potab Aurum potabile; potable gold
bened benedicta laxativa; blessed laxative (according to Robert Hooper’s Lexicon Medicum, 1829, this is a ‘compound of turbeth, scammony, and spurges, with some warm aromatics’)
cardus water a medicinal water made from Carduus Benedictus (now Cnicus Benedictus), blessed thistle
cephalic a vein (a bloodletting instruction)
clyster enema
cocl. coclear; spoonful (a quantity)
confect Alkermes confectio alchermes (a tonic)
cowslops cowslips
crocus metall crocus metallorum; yellow powder derived from antimony
decoct. decoction
decoc St Iohnworte decoction of St John’s wort
diacarth. diacarthamum
diaphaenic diaphoenicum; confection of dates
diaturb diaturbith
dieta purgativa purgative diet
dietar. phisick dietary physic
elect ros. electuarium rosarum; electuary of roses
elect rosar[um] electuarium rosarum; electuary of roses
empl. emplastrum; plaster
emplastrum Apostolicum Apostolic plaster (a compound medicine)
flos vng flos unguentorum; the flower of ointments
glister clyster (enema)
gr: 3. grains 3; a quantity
gut. 3 guttae 3; 3 drops (a quantity)
hamec confection of Hamech
hepatica a vein (a bloodletting instruction)
Iecoraria, iecoraria a vein (a bloodletting instruction)
Ieralog Ieralogadii; Hiera Logadii, Hiera of Logadius (a medicine compounded of aloes and spices)
Isop hyssop
Iunip[er] juniper (note that this is often written by Napier so as to look like ‘Imp[er]’)
laudan laudanum
lenitive potions softening or soothing potions, possibly laxative
litle tabul. a little tabulat; a little tablet
london triacle London treacle, i.e. theriac
losenges a pill for dissolving in the mouth
mediana a vein (a bloodletting instruction)
mine ceph. mine cephalicam; let blood from the cephalic vein
mine hepaticam let blood from the hepatic vein
mine sang. mine sanguinem; let blood
mitte sanguine[m] let blood
oleu[m] spicæ oil of aspic
oyle of spike oil of aspic
oximell oximel; a medicinal preparation
p pulvis; powder
p holland pulvis hollandi; pulvis Radulphi Hollandi; Holland Powder
p sctus pulvis sanctus; Brasavola
pil. pillula(e/s); pill(s)
pill lucis pillulae lucis; pills of light (for eyesight)
piony peony
poud of holl pouder of holland; Holland Powder
preservative a medicine intended to prevent something
pul holland pulvis hollandi; Holland Powder
pul sanctus pulvis sanctus; Brasavola
pultish poultice
Recipe; take (this usually, but does not always, indicate a recipe; some scribes habitually use this when writing out any medicine to be taken, whether or not they are providing a detailed recipe for it. Note also that in some contexts refers to the angel Raphael, including in some entries in which it appears that Napier was citing Raphael as the source of a suggested treatment. It also occasionally occurs in financial notes, meaning ‘received’)
R Regulus of iron
Regulus of iron
Reg Regulus of iron
Regulus Regulus of antimony
repercussive a medicine intended to force humours away from a part of the body
rosa solis sundew (a plant)
S sigil; sometimes with the symbol of a planet or metal, as in ‘S ’, meaning a sigil made from tin and/or bearing an image associated with Jupiter, or ‘S ’, a sigil made from gold and/or bearing an image associated with the sun
saph. saphena; a vein (a bloodletting instruction)
sarsap. sarsaparilla
sc. scammony
scam. scammony
sirup syrup
snesing pouder sneezing powder
st. stibium; antimony
stib. stibium; antimony
sub lingua below the tongue (a bloodletting instruction)
suppositor. suppository
syr. syrupus; syrup
syr. absynth. syrupus absynthii; syrup of wormwood
tab. 4d tabulatum 4d; a tablet of the weight of 4d (the amount varies; ‘ob’ is short for ‘obolus’, halfpenny; sometimes given in full as e.g. ‘the weight of 2d’)
tab mag weighing 6d tabulatum magnum weighing 6d
tabulatum stibiatum tablet of antimony
teriac theriac (a complex medicine)
terra sigil[lata] clay tablet bearing little images
theriac a complex medicine
vena epatica the hepatic vein (a bloodletting instruction)
venice turpent venice turpentine; turpentine from the larch tree
vinu[m] stib. vinum stibiatum; wine of antimony
vng. unguentum; ointment
vng. albu[m] unguentum album; white ointment
vng. hyru[n]d unguentum hyrundineum; ointment of swallows
vnguentu[m] Tobacco unguent of tobacco

Cite this as: Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, Robert Ralley, and John Young, ‘Glossary of treatments’, A Critical Introduction to the Casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634,, accessed 4 October 2023.