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Earthworm Syrup Jars

Oils obtained from animals like whales and sharks are usually marketed as healing products or remedies for an assortment of conditions. But during the 16th to 19th centuries, there was another popular oil treatment which was extracted from earthworms.

This foul-sounding tonic was brewed up by apothecaries across Europe, who would store it in these fancy syrup jars. Each jar has a shortened version of the words OLEUM LUMBRICORUM — Latin for ‘oil of earthworms’ — painted boldly on the front.
This labeling was important so the apothecary didn’t mix up your treatment with, say, the oil of puppy dogs or the oil of sperm whale heads (both real things!).

(Image credit: Collection of the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford)


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