Prescription from 11th September 1897

By January 28, 2019 April 17th, 2019 Articles

This prescription is from a script book donated to the S.A.Pharmacy Museum by Mr. Maurice Gavshon. It is from the Phillips and Company Pharmacy, Pretoria.

The prescription is for 6 Belladonna Plasters for Kruger, Mrs. President–obviously the wife of President Kruger. The book also has a script for President Paul Kruger.

How did the pharmacist prepare the Belladonna Plaster in the dispensary in 1897?

The New Century Dictionary published in 1927 defines a plaster as a solid or semi-solid preparation for spreading upon cloth or the like and applying to the body for some remedial or other purpose.

The Extra Pharmacopoeia, Martindale and Westcott, 7th Edition, 1892, states:


Alcoholic extract of Belladonna 1

Resin Plaster 2

Soap Plaster 2

Melt the plasters in a water bath, add the extract and mix well.

Instructions are given on the method of melting the resin and soap plaster on a water bath to a temperature which just renders the plaster spreadable.

The base was usually made of leather and would be cut in various shapes to suit the area of the body to which it was to be applied. The leather was placed on a plaster board and the plaster applied with a plaster iron at strength of 15 grains per square inch. This required a special technique and a practiced skill.

The Art of Dispensing in a 1908 copy in the museum states” It is seldom nowadays that the dispenser is called upon to spread other than a cantharides plaster, and consequently few of the rising generation can handle the plaster spatula (or plaster iron) with dexterity.”

The Pretoria pharmacist must have developed this skill as his 1897 script book contains a number of scripts for Belladonna plasters.

Belladonna Plasters are still available and are advertised on the internet as Belladonna Plasters BP at £1.89 per box.

The description states that it is a Self-adhesive plaster containing Belladonna alkaloids (hyoscyamine) 0.25%. A remedy traditionally used for the relief of aches and pains such as stiffness, strains, lumbago, rheumatism and sciatica.

The plaster board can be turned over and used to roll a base for lozenges. The reverse side and the roller are also illustrated.

by Ray Pogir