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Cantharis Caeruleus, c1745-1807

© 2021 Royal Pharmaceutical Society


Glass jar containing three specimens of blue-coloured blistering beetles. From the Burges Collection.

Text on paper labels reads ‘Catal. Mat. Med. p. 124, no. 29’ and ‘CANTHARIS CAERULEUS’.

It is possible that these were used in a similar way to the green-coloured ‘Spanish fly’ type of blistering beetle, of which Pomet says ‘They are of very great Service to the Apothecary, not only for the Blistering Plaister, that is always ready compounded by them,’ but they are also ‘specifical in a Gonnorhoea, Suppression of Urine, Ulcers of the Bladder, Stone, Gravel, etc. They are most frequently administer’d in a Tincture mix’d with Spirit of wine, Camphire, etc. but to promote the Expulsion of Urine, nothing can be more safe than the anointing the Perinaeum, or lower Part of the Belly, and the Region of the Navel, with the Oil, wherein Cantharides have been boiled’.